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Fighting for animal rights

For the last 20 years, Peter MacQueen, the president of the Eastern North Carolina Humane Society, has been fighting for the health and well being of animals. One of his major concerns is the use of gas chambers to euthanize animals. Peter MacQueen says around 60,000 animals are killed in gas chambers each year in North Carolina. It is something he is working to change. "In the panic of when they're in that dark box waiting for the box to come on and while it's coming on they can end up and have and will scratch each other and fight and scratch and try to get out," said MacQueen. A state law passed in 2005, mandating all gas chambers be commercial grade and requiring animals be separated from one another in the chamber. MacQueen said that rule is not being followed in many counties, and even where the law is being followed, the carbon monoxide chambers are still inhumane. "The animals have bad reaction to the gas; vomiting, urinating and fighting you never know what's going to happen in there," said MacQueen. He is also concerned about the safety of the humans operating the carbon monoxide chambers. MacQueen said, "The problem in the long term is that they don't know they're getting exposed and just opening and closing the door they get exposed and this can lead to cancer and heart disease." Thursday, MacQueen is going to Raleigh to address these concerns with the two main candidates for governor. He believes lethal injection is the only humane form of euthanasia, but not all animal lovers agree. New Hanover County's Jean McNeil said commercial grade gas chambers are no more of an issue than their lethal injections. "I've seen bad situations with the chamber and I've seen bad situations with injections, so I don't think you can just categorize it and say it's good either way," said McNeil. McNeil said the way the animals are put down is not the biggest problem. "You still have a dead animal at the end of the process. The result is still an animal that has not found its way into a loving home because some irresponsible pet owner failed to get their pet neutered," said McNeil. McNeil said the state needs to mandate enough trained employees to do lethal injections, before considering banning gas chambers all together. She also said the pet population could be controlled with low cost surgical facilities, and low cost spay and neuter vouchers. MacQueen said they are all good ideas that he will present to lawmakers in the near future.

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This needs a follow-up.

Please do a follow-up story on McQueen's visit to Raleigh to address the candidates. If anyone is interested in trying to bring an end to gassing in NC, please take a moment to join this Facebook group: Help Stop High-Kill Shelters using Animal Gas Chambers in North Carolina.



gas chamber

would love to take the very ones that gas these animals and put them in the same situation. if they can do this without any remorse then they themselves do not deserve the right to breath another breath. and trust me....when they meet their maker he will have a plan in store....and it will be a hot one.

Re: gas chamber (hadn)

It's not always the fault of the euthanasia technicians who have the unfortunate sad responsibility of keeping a shelter from overflowing. Of course there may be some employees suffering from compassion fatigue who desperately need a break; or socially maladjusted and/or poorly trained individuals who shouldn't be working in animal welfare to begin with -- and unfortunately from some of what I read on this site, sadly they may be more prevalent in southeastern NC than one might think. ~>:( But on the whole, shelter workers are caring, giving people who chose their career field to try and make a positive difference for the lives of the abandoned animals. Even if we never work or volunteer in a shelter ourselves, we can help them firstly by spaying and/or neutering our pets, fostering or adopting a pet (instead of patronizing pet shops or breeders); and helping communicate these lifesaving options to our friends, relatives and anyone else with whom we might have influence. Donating to or volunteering with a no-kill pet sanctuary or breed rescue also helps; and there are many other practical ways to get involved that don't require getting anywhere near a euthanasia room. Don't just curse the darkness -- light a candle! You may want to check out the book, "One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter" for more information and ideas.


like a true PETA freak...animal lives are equal to that of humans...GOOD GRIEF! FIRST, these are...ANIMALS...not your child, sister, brother, etc... I can agree that MASS gassing animals might not be the best way to go about euthanizing these animals...but gassing IS a humane way to do this...what would you prefer, to be led out to the back and shot in the head?

"Irresponsible pet owners"

We hear a lot about "irresponsible pet owners" when it comes to the issue of pet overpopulation; and granted there are a lot of them who think (and propagate) shallow, misguided ideas like: * "Spaying and neutering are cruel and unnatural" * "I want my children to witness the miracle of birth" * "Every female dog or cat should have at least one litter" * "I want MY dog to be protective!" * "Neutering or spaying will make my pet fat and lazy" And so on and so on. However, Ms. McNeil hit the nail on the head when she stated pet overpopulation "could be controlled with low cost surgical facilities, and low cost spay and neuter vouchers." The key word is "COULD". I recently had to transport a litter of rescued foster kittens to a neighboring county (approximately 30+ miles each way) to get affordable altering services for them all. Not everyone in this day of rising gas prices and mortgage foreclosures, especially older senior citizens on fixed incomes are able to do that. Other pet owners may be similarly hampered by lack of transporation, health issues or (like in the case of single parents working multiple jobs) scheduling conflicts. Veterinary medicine is considered a lucrative "cash" career, and very few veterinarians, at least in southeastern NC are willing to help out with this problem. The thing about the voucher programs, although well-meaning they are often too few and far between (like once a year) to catch all the puppies and kittens at a time before they become fertile. In addition the veterinarians sometimes try to push other unnecessary, expensive services (like EKG testing for young kittens) just prior to or at the time of the surgery to try and pad the bill; so that what is initially promoted as an affordable low-cost spay/neuter becomes prohibitive and burdensome for the financially-challenged pet owner. Of course there are many reasons other than lack of spaying and neutering for pets being surrendered to animal control facilities. One that tops the list is affordable rental housing that allows dogs or cats. The landlords and apartment complex managers reading this know who they are. Maybe they had a bad experience in the past -- perhaps an irresponsible marginal pet owner took advantage of their generosity. But regarding the "FOR RENT" ads that without exception state "no pets," totally unwilling to consider valid references from past rentals, veterinarians and professional pet caregivers, the responsibility for these animals' deaths in the "shelter" are also a good deal on their shoulders. Last but not least, the euthanasia rates in shelters are sent soaring by overly restrictive, draconian so-called "pet ordinances" like the one adopted about a month ago by the Southport city aldermen. Pressured by materialistic business owners with eyes only toward tourism profits, and little or no compassion towards the living creatures with whom we all share this planet, they have created an oppressive, hostile environment not only for feral cats in established managed colonies; but for any hapless pampered pet kitty who might just happen to chase a bird or butterfly past the boundaries of his or her front yard without a collar and tag. Considering the massive pet overpopulation (and hence euthanasia) rates nationwide, why are ANY municipal (read: high-kill) shelters today in southeastern North Carolina still continuing to adopt out animals that are unspayed and unneutered?? Sadly a low-cost voucher or coupon isn't enough, due to noncompliance rates and the overall superstition and ignorance still prevailing when it comes to having pets altered. Surely pet owner education and pre-adoption counseling is part of the remedy; but it seems we have too many shelters in our area of the "catch-and-kill" philosophy that cannot envision the feasibility and invaluable long-term benefits of TNR (trap/neuter/return) for feral cats and the provision of true, accessible low-cost spay and neuter services. Instead of kindness towards companion animals and education of pet owners, the controlling local municipal government's focus seems to be on how *cheaply* they can get the job done. This attitude invariably equals killing -- not "euthanasia," not "putting to sleep" -- let's call it like it is. Only then will we seek a true, lasting humane solution.

"Financially challenged pet owners"

Let me first say that I agree with much of what you are saying, and if you are familiar with any of my posts on this board, you know that I care more for animals than I do most people. That said, regarding the costs of spaying and neutering, there is no inherent "right" to have a pet that you can't afford. In that light, I submit that if a person can't afford to have a cat or dog fixed, they should perhaps consider a bird or fish. I'm sure you saw the article from about two weeks ago, regarding people abandoning pets or turning them into shelters during these supposedly hard economic times. The person who can't afford to spay and neuter, or who can't afford high adoption fees that included one of those services is exactly the person most likely to neglect the animal's heathcare during its life, or dump it as soon as the money gets a little tight. I have a dog that was (thankfully)dumped in my lap by an ex-girlfriend. I have three cats, two of which were strays. The other was adopted from one of the local cat agencies. Each of these animals costs me well over $100 a year in vet bills. Add in food and you soon realize that a cat or dog is going to cost you about $20 a month MINIMUM. When the animal gets older, you can double or triple that. My dog is fifteen and is probably reaching $50 a month average cost. I'm all in favor of spaying and neutering, but I'm NOT in favor of low-cost subsidies that place dogs and cats in homes that cannot adequately provide for them. Just as no one should have a child that they, themselves, cannot provide for, the same common sense approach should be applied to pets.

Re: Commonsense

>"regarding the costs of spaying and neutering, there is no inherent "right" to have a pet that you can't afford. In that light, I submit that if a person can't afford to have a cat or dog fixed, they should perhaps consider a bird or fish." I find it interesting whenever I hear that rationale from people who are genuinely sympathetic to pet overpopulation and WANT to do something to alleviate the suffering: "People shouldn't have pets if they can't afford them..." Not only is it discriminatory; but that does nothing to help find homes for the surplus of pets who are already here, right NOW. To the contrary, it just eliminates one major group of potential adopters who could otherwise be conscientious, caring pet owners, especially if encouraged and given a chance to prove themselves via proper, adequate adoption education and counseling. So they need a little help getting started off on the right foot with initial vaccinations and spay/neutering... What's the big deal? Would a pet genuinely be better off *dead* -- euthanized from the get-go during puppy or kittenhood, just because his or her guardian *Might* (say five or eight or ten years down the road) be faced with a serious medical condition (for which they can't afford veterinary treatment) and may have to make a similar difficult choice later at that time? I'm not so sure about that one. Think of the quality time this could be buying, not only for the helpless innocent homeless pets but all the way around. >"I'm sure you saw the article from about two weeks ago, regarding people abandoning pets or turning them into shelters during these supposedly hard economic times. The person who can't afford to spay and neuter, or who can't afford high adoption fees that included one of those services is exactly the person most likely to neglect the animal's heathcare during its life, or dump it as soon as the money gets a little tight." No, I missed that particular article. Since you mentioned it, though, I went back and caught up on it. Interestingly the emphasis (from both the shelter interviewee and the reader comments) seemed to be on setting priorities, making wise spending decisions and readjusting budgets in order to give our pets what they truly do need (as compared to what we might *want* to give them, or meaningless frills we might want to buy/give ourselves). If the pets are adopted out ALREADY spayed or neutered, that's one MAJOR avenue of irresponsibility which is no longer an option. Whether or not they're kept "responsibly" with secondary-level ongoing vet care or whatever, that's still going to pay off BIG benefits for the corresponding geographical areas starting in the immediate near future and down the road. With significantly fewer animals left banished to the outdoors, roaming, fighting, spraying and breeding, etc. (due to being left intact), we're going to have significantly fewer NEW animals coming through the doors during puppy and kitten seasons; also reduced pet behavior problems (which often lead to owner surrender), fewer injured and diseased pets needing extensive emergency and rehabilitative treatment; and so on. I'm sure everyone's familiar with the adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." In reality it's a win/win/win situation; but we have to stop naysaying in our respective communities as to why it won't or can't happen *here*, and just allocate the emphasis on GETTING IT DONE. We have to start somewhere, or our financial resources and available manpower will remain misdirected while the influx of abandoned and surrendered pets will never become manageable. Instead of chastising or penalizing irresponsible pet owners, the decision just needs to (initially, at least) be taken out of their hands. Even for the pets that might still fall through the cracks, overall they will be healthier, create fewer public disturbances (as in the case of abandoned stray/feral cats), have better temperaments and thus be easier for shelters to accommodate on many levels, the greatest advantage being not adding to the already staggering pet overpopulation problem. To imply that lower and fixed-income people do not care about their animals, or are somehow less worthy of the physical and emotional health benefits pet ownership can bring, I believe is sadly misguided. Instead of punitive fines and penalties for non-compliance (with things such as leash laws, licensing, etc.), we should be taking a cue from our pets and be offering more positive incentives to encourage ALL pet owners (regardless of socioeconomic status) in the right direction.

I'm all in favor of spaying and neutering all adoptees

You cannot, however, expect the taxpayers or local vets to absorb that cost. It should be included in the adoption fees. I'm sure there are many poor people who love their pets as much as I love mine. Poor people love their children, too. The simple fact is that we ARE seeing a nation-wide increase in pets dropped off at shelters, abandoned, or given away as the economy slows down. The reason given is the same - "We can't afford her any more." So I leave it to you to answer how much better it is for a dog to suddenly be turned out from the home he has known for years, or a cat to wither away to FIV because the owner couldn't afford the vaccine.

The ¢ost$ of compassion (re: Commonsense)

>"You cannot, however, expect the taxpayers or local vets to absorb that cost. It should be included in the adoption fees." The thing is, the taxpayers are currently having to absorb other costs incurred in cleaning up the current rampant situations which are to a significant degree caused by lack of altering -- the costs of wasteful, repeated (and ineffective) "catch-and-kill" round-up campaigns against defenseless feral cats; mitigating complaints regarding nuisance (unaltered) animals roaming neighborhoods, and costs of administering widespread euthanasia. Wouldn't a positive, life-affirming emphasis on spay and neuter programs (as opposed to bandaid treatments followed by euthanasia in high-kill shelters) be received more readily by the public, attract more potential adopters to the shelters, along with more volunteers and donations to supplement tax funding? >"The simple fact is that we ARE seeing a nation-wide increase in pets dropped off at shelters, abandoned, or given away as the economy slows down. The reason given is the same - 'We can't afford her any more.' " What makes you so sure that lower and fixed-income people are overwhelmingly responsible for this? As one poster remarked in the related thread, his/her/their animals would get fed first and they would take a second part-time job if necessary before abandoning their pets to a risky, uncertain fate. Also financially-challenged people tend to be more resourceful as they're already more accustomed to doing without and "making do" in hard times than those of the upper middle and wealthier population groups. Among those whose opportunities for extensive travel and vacationing, hobbies and other time-consuming and expensive entertainment options are more limited due to financial circumstances, pets are sometimes more valued as they represent a greater, sacrificial percentage invested of the available time and financial resources they do have. In addition, for those who are homebound (like the elderly and those limited by physical handicaps or other chronic medical conditions), pets are often a valued source of companionship, comfort and unconditional love. By comparison, more well-to-do families and individuals are more likely to have transient lifestyles, activities and involvements outside the home which can detract from the strength and importance of the pet-guardian emotional bond, as well as conflictiing schedule-wise with pet care needs. For an example, my husband and I had temporarily taken in two cats which (due to high regard given to their owners' expensive home furnishings) had both been declawed -- a relatively expensive and less commonly-performed veterinary surgical procedure -- but only one of the animals was altered. The family was persistently unwilling, however, to subsequently cover the cost of spaying the female at the local veterinarian's, even though at that time (this was well over ten years ago) there were no established specialty clinics in the area where we could afford to have had it done for them. This was a wealthy family who, although at the time were experiencing a major medical situation with one member (which had necessitated their surrendering their pet cats) otherwise lived in a large, newly-built home, owned and managed an established, profitable business; drove late-model vehicles, owned boats, went on frequent vacations, etc. They were not exactly hurting for money despite their circumstances (they had adequate if not ideal medical insurance coverage); but yet for some unknown reason saw fit to neglect providing basic preventative veterinary care to their non-pedigree pet earlier when it should have been done. So this just goes to show that not all well-to-do pet owners with financial means do right by their pets. Sometimes it's more a matter of how they see their own relationship to those animals (i.e., the strength of the emotional pet-caregiver bond) -- whether the pet is truly considered a valued member of the family, or a mere possession or status symbol. >"So I leave it to you to answer how much better it is for a dog to suddenly be turned out from the home he has known for years, or a cat to wither away to FIV because the owner couldn't afford the vaccine." I never suggested allowing the animal to physically suffer with a terminal or debilitating illness or injury. Rather the potential proposed choice was between a traumatic, violent death in a gas chamber at 10 or 12 weeks (or even earlier), as often happens under our present setup (before the animal has even had a chance to know what a loving family is like) due to more restrictive income requirements for adoptive homes; or a peaceful release during its (most likely) late middle or senior/geriatric adult years, *if and when* a more serious illness or injury occurs which, although technically treatable might be prohibitively costly. This could include (for example) something like heart ailments, kidney disease, hyperactive thyroid, cancerous tumors, etc. for which sometimes even wealthier pet owners voluntarily opt for having an animal mercifully put to sleep (rather than subject him or her to aggressive, stressful and sometimes painful treatments) -- without any legal sanctions or (for the most part) social stigma, I might add. Either way, at least the pet would have a chance to experience the love and care of a family for a reasonable length of time -- and perhaps their entire natural lifespan. I predict that the euthanasia rates would be significantly reduced and less traumatic within that type of paradigm, compared to what we are experiencing now. Regarding FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and FELV (feline leukemia virus), a couple observations... When a cat is kept exclusively indoors (as is feasibly possible only for those whose natural procreative-related behaviors have been modified by spaying and neutering), and not routinely exposed to other animals of unknown health status, the risk of contracting these diseases is extremely low. In addition, the FIV/FELV vaccine is only 80% efficacious; and in some cases where a stray animal has already been exposed (or more likely to have been exposed), they're not always recommended anyway. I had an indoor cat whom, after the age of two or so seldom if ever received any but rabies vaccination boosters, and happily lived into her late teens. Not only has overvaccination been linked to serious side effects in some cases (like malignant tumors at or near injection sites); but alternative veterinary medicine (in particular) is beginning to take a second look at the way some of these vaccines are being promoted and utilized -- the types, frequency of administration, etc. It is not all cut and dried. We know more (for example) about feline and canine nutrition and keeping our pets healthy than we did 25, 15 or even ten years ago; and we're still learning -- all to the benefit of man's best friend. :) It is currently suspected that vaccine immunity (for some diseases) may be effective longer than previously thought, even up to the animal's entire natural lifetime. Keep in mind, too, that spaying and neutering brings valuable health benefits along with the positive behavioral changes for pets. Regardless of whether they are kept indoors or indoor/outdoors, diseases such as ovarian and cervical cancer, pyometra (uterine infection due to repetitive breeding), and mammary tumors are eliminated or reduced for spayed females; while the risk of testicular cancer is negated for neutered males. The result is a healthier, less stressed, happier, better behaved pet that the owner (regardless of income) is more likely to want to keep around. I have personally saved considerable money on both routine and emergency veterinary care costs -- including things like expensive (for multiple pets) flea and tick preventatives and spot-on treatments, etc. simply by keeping my cats indoors. If they were outside and at risk for injuries, highway accidents, wild animal predators, repeated infestations of internal and external parasites, vindictive cat-hating neighbors, feline transmissible diseases, etc. -- no, I probably couldn't afford to keep as many pets happy and healthy as I do. There are certain non-negotiables for me, as when despite these preventative measures a pet still gets sick; but by making wise choices one can better manage their available pet care resources.

Let's just disagree on this...

You lean toward idealism, I am too firmly anchored in cold, hard reality, and too quickly dismiss the ideal. (Plus, I freely admit that I can't match you for sheer volume.) While I feel that every animal being placed for adoption should be altered, I don't envision a doubling of adoptions if we make it more affordable. Indeed, it would simply bring us back to my original point - we don't want to make "pet getting" a rock-bottom, cheap endeavor, only to find the animal neglected or turned out when the financial realities of "pet owning" come home to roost. You have lots of wonderful suggestions on how to make ends meet, but you and I know that most people won't bother to explore the options, and the pet will suffer. (To put it bluntly, you cannot dismiss the link between poverty and education.) We ALL have to pay our way through life, not depending upon the government or playing Blanche DuBois by depending upon the kindness of strangers. It's bad enough that people shirk their financial responsibilities by having children they can't afford, let alone pets. (I'd rather see my tax money go toward spaying or neutering those irresponsible people.)

When will people learn that

When will people learn that birds are not cheap, disposable pets? The cost of properly caring for birds included visits to vets who specialize in a avian medicine. The cost of a decent sized cage for any bird is well over what it costs to spay or neuter a dog or cat. I just spent nearly $700 at the vet when my cockatiel got sick, and have spent as much as $1500 per vet visit when my cockatoos needed medical attention. Birds are not cheap, easy pets. Accredited bird sanctuaries are filled to capacity and have waiting lists, while birds are being euthanized by animal shelters and in vet offices because people just don't want them anymore, whether it's the noise (cockatoos scream at a db level close to that of aircraft), the mess, the biting, the expense, allergies to the dust healthy birds such as cockatiels, cockatoos, and african greys naturally produce, overbonding issues, or whatever. People need to stop spreading misinformation about birds. They are one of the most difficult animals to properly care for in captivity, and definitely one of the most expensive, as the "cost" of a bird goes beyond the price of adoption (if you do the right thing) or purchase (if you want to encourage overproduction and bird mills to continue). Do your research before you tell people to get a bird because it's cheap!

Please apologize to your birds for me

I was referring to the majority of bird owners who buy a parakeet or canary and enjoy its company until that morning when he doesn't answer reveille, and you have to perform the ol' burial at sea. I fully realize that large birds like cockatoos, parrots, and maccaws, are quite expensive to both purchase and care for. I'd love to get an African Gray, but they're a little expensive for what would likely turn out to be a cat treat...

Early and off topic:)

Cats and parrots can co-exist! Hey,I have 2 cats and an African Grey,they do just fine. Ofcourse,you never leave any bird unattended when it's out of it's cage. One of my cats has HIGH prey drive and I still don't have a problem:)

Other states do without gassing, why can't we?

Gas chambers are dangerous to employees because they leak and explode plus they make the animal suffer longer than they would with injection. I know we have a serious problem with pet overpopulation here but other states with the same problems have managed to do fine without gas chambers so why can't we?

animal rights

Its not fair to the animals that they cant find homes. Thats why people really need to have their pets spayed and neutered. People dont realize that it is a big problem. Its also adding to the problem of shelters being overcrowded. As pet owners you need to take responsibility and have your pets spayed and neutered. I also have a problem with pet owners letting their animals run around loose in neighborhoods. Your neighbors dont want other peoples pets running loose on their property. Pet owners be more AWARE.