At the Tuesday, Sept. 18 Altus City Council meeting, Cynthia Armstrong, the Oklahoma State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, presented information to the Council on animal euthanasia. Euthanasia comes from a term meaning “mercy killing”. Armstrong and others told how the method currently being used on animals at the Altus Animal Control/Shelter, carbon monoxide, is not merciful. It is more expensive than painless injection of sodium pentobarbital. The injection does not pose health threats to shelter employees, like using a carbon monoxide gas chamber does. Armstrong said that a shelter employee in Tenn. recently died from CO exposure performing euthanasia.
Though Council members did not have an item on the agenda to vote on the type of substance to euthanize animals, Bill Reed had asked the Council members to consider switching from carbon monoxide to sodium pentobarbital injection for the Altus Animal Shelter.
Two veterinarians spoke on the subject: Dr. Kenneth O’Hanlon and Dr. John Thomas. Dr. O’Hanlon stated that the injection method is more humane and effective for euthanasia. Dr. Thomas supported the use of carbon monoxide, stating it’s safer for the employees. Armstrong said that both OKC and Tulsa euthanize thousands of animals by injection each year. They have found it’s much safer and less stressful on employees, and animals, to use the injection method.
Armstrong told the Council that the Humane Society would be willing to scholarship Altus Animal Shelter employees for their training to administer the injections, and would pay start up fees with grant monies for using the drug, including a table to administer the drug which puts the animal into a deep sleep, followed by a painless death. Armstrong said she will send letters to all Council members stating exactly what the Humane Society would be willing to do to help Altus stop using carbon monoxide.
A member from the audience pointed out that carbon monoxide chambers are only effective for 10 years. The one at Altus Animal Control is estimated to be far older than that. Purchasing a new one was estimated at $30,000. One audience member said that if the injection method is more cost effective per animal, and certainly more humane, and the Humane Society, which is national organization, is willing to help Altus switch, with the current financial state of the City, “why in the world would we not want to do this?”
Council member Jack Smiley said he has been informed by a reliable source that carbon monoxide poisoning will soon be outlawed. He said this is a chance for Altus to be ahead of that curve by not using the substance. Council member Scot Simco asked this issue be put on the agenda for the next Council meeting, Oct. 2.
For more information on the subject of carbon monoxide versus sodium pentobarbital, see the following web sites: “http:www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/euthanasia.pdf” and “http:sheltervet.org.associations/4853/files/ASV%20CO%20Position%20Statement.pdf”.