Protestors Call for End to Gas Chamber at Green River Animal Control

Protestors Call for End to Gas Chamber at Green River Animal Control

Members of Wyoming Against Gas Chambers protest against the use of the gas chamber at Green River Animal Control on March 7. SweetwaterNOW photo by Olivia Kennah

GREEN RIVER — Local group Wyoming Against Gas Chambers has been peacefully protesting outside of Green River Animal Control against continued use of the gas chamber as a method of animal euthanasia.

Green River Animal Control currently maintains a “no kill” status, which means at least 90% of the animals that come into the shelter are adopted or transferred to other agencies where they will have a better chance of adoption. The no kill status provides a 10% margin for animals that are euthanized for medical or aggression issues.

While it is understood that some animals are put down, there are differing opinions on how the animals should be euthanized. Madhu Anderson, of Wyoming Against Gas Chambers, is protesting the gas chamber due to her belief that it is inhumane and cruel. She said that in 2022, the city announced plans to move away from the gas chamber, however, it has continued to be used since then.

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“We have tried for the last two years, since 2022, since Mayor Pete Rust announced that he directed the staff to move forward with removing the gas chamber, and nothing has been done,” Anderson said.

Anderson also noted that the city was offered a $3,000 grant from the Humane Society of the United States to help with the removal of the gas chamber, but the city has not accepted the grant. Additionally, Wyoming and Missouri are the only two states that still utilize gas chambers in the country, and only Green River and Evanston continue to use the chambers in Wyoming.

She also said the gas chamber was purchased in 1985, which she believes would require frequent calibration and regular maintenance. With animal control agencies being underfunded and understaffed across the nation, Anderson believes these factors could impact the working condition of the chamber. Therefore, she claims it could be dangerous to staff, and if the gas is not pumped on the right concentration, it could also cause for stress on the animal and take longer for the euthanasia to occur.

Additionally, Anderson said gas is more cost-ineffective, referencing an email she received a few years ago from a veterinarian in Cheyenne that stated it would cost around $1.60 to euthanize a 50-pound dog by injection, but would cost more for gas.

“Even if it’s rarely used, which we found out it’s over half the animals that are euthanized here, it should not exist. It should be removed,” Anderson said.

Linda Burt of the Humane Society of the United States forwarded Anderson records that were gathered from animal control by Mayor Rust, which show that of the animals that were euthanized at the shelter, 52.9% were euthanized via carbon monoxide gas. Of the animals that were put down, 41.1% were euthanized by injection, and 6% were wild animals euthanized by Wyoming Game and Fish.

“We are here to ask them to remove this inhumane and outdated method of euthanasia. We believe it is dangerous and physically and psychologically harmful to the staff, visitors, volunteers and animals,” Anderson said. “Most animals that enter the shelter are already nervous and stressed because they are brought into a strange environment and most of them have already experienced neglect and abuse in their lives.”

In Defense of Current Methods

Green River Animal Control Supervisor Tracy Wyant states that euthanasia is a matter of opinion, and for their staff and facility, it is sometimes necessary to use the gas chamber.

“With regard to euthanasia, there are strong opinions on both sides,” Wyant said. “Green River Animal Control has taken numerous steps to avoid euthanizing animals entirely. We have been recognized as a no kill shelter by Best Friends Animal Society with an over 90% save rate.”

Wyant said that while the shelter has transitioned to an injection method of euthanasia, the gas chamber remains an option for fractious, or aggressive, animals. She believes this is sometimes the safest method for her staff, and may also be the most humane method for animals who are already stressed due to being in a new environment.

“There are a few occasions where the preferred method is the chamber due to the situation with that individual animal. Generally, this is because the animal is too dangerous to use the injection method on, and the only safe option for the animal and the staff is to use the chamber,” Wyant said.

Futhermore, Wyant said, “We strictly follow AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) guidelines for euthanasia.”

According to the 2020 edition of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, carbon monoxide is an acceptable method of euthanasia for small mammals, however, intravenous injection of a barbituric acid derivative is the preferred method for animals such as cats and dogs. The AVMA guidelines list fractious animals as a special consideration, and states that animals that are unable to be safely and humanely restrained should be sedated by means of drugs delivered orally or remotely. This will assist in relieving anxiety and pain for the animal while also reducing safety risks for personnel.

The AVMA guidelines also note that in animal control shelters, the staff are often performing the euthanasia and therefore stresses the importance of training staff members.

“We also act morally and ethically, and within department policy, and will continue to do so,” Wyant said.

Wyoming Against Gas Chambers will be continuing their protests of the gas chamber, with another peaceful protest happening today from 2-3 p.m. outside animal control.

“The goal of this peaceful protest is to bring awareness in the community about the current cruel method of euthanasia of shelter pets via gas chamber at Green River Animal Control, and to urge the GRAC and the city of Green River to stop the use of the gas chamber immediately,” Anderson said.