A bill headed to the governor’s desk would ban animal shelters in South Carolina from using carbon monoxide or other gas to euthanize their animals.
The Humane Society of the US (HSUS) led the push for the legislation. The group refers to the metal enclosures used to euthanize the animals as “gas chambers.” It passed the state Senate unanimously last week, little more than a year after clearing the House in a 100-3 vote.
“It’s a really terrible way for animals to die,” HSUS state director Kim Kelly. “While we don’t want to see any animals die in animal shelters, it’s a reality. So when death is required, we want to see it done in the most humane way possible.”
Instead the bill would steer the shelters towards euthanasia through injections of sodium pentobarbital, similar to the primary drug used for inmate executions. Animals could only be injected with the drug in their veins, except for rare exceptions when injections into body cavities would be needed as a last resort. The drugs could only be administered by a veterinarian or another individual approved by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners.
The legislation still authorizes a shelter to shoot an animal for euthanasia in extreme circumstances (such as if the animal threatens safety, or to prevent “extreme suffering,”) but it must happen in a location off-site. The bill’s opponents say euthanasia decisions should be up to the individual shelters.
Gas euthanasia is already being phased out of operation nationwide. The last shelter in South Carolina to use so-called “gas chambers” in Bennettsville ended the practice three years ago.
“Shelters don’t want to use (chambers) for the most part. The public certainly doesn’t condone them,” Kelly said. “It creates a really negative perception for that community shelter.”
Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign the measure.