Thursday, 30 May 2013

Did You Know that Some Shelters in Canada ‘Euthanize’ Dogs and Cats in a Gas Chamber? Ban the Use of Gas Chambers in Canada!


On Saturday June 1st 2013 there was a peaceful protest held  across the street from the SPCA Outaouais located at 132 rue De Varennes, Gatineau Quebec. It was my hope that this protest event would help bring light to the fact that Gas Chambers are still legal and used in some Canadian shelters on a regular basis to remove dogs and cats from the world of the living...
  • Would help to bring the issue to the attention of the community at large;
    • Like other communities where gas chambers are used - the majority of the residents of this area have no idea that gas chambers to kill animals exist, let alone that there is one in this area being used on a regular basis;
    • The problem of gas chamber use is not just a problem for the shelters like the SPCA Outaouais that use a Gas Chamber - it is, in my opinion a problem that involves the entire community and, therefore the entire community must be part of the solution;
      • It is a problem that must be brought to light;
      • It is a problem that must be dealt with;
      • It is a problem in which people must engage themselves;
      • However engagement in the issue and its resolution must be a partnership between members of the community and the shelter = for in the lack of co-operation between those involved the issue may only become more exacerbated rather than solved...
I do not think it possible for the Outaouis SPCA to shut-down their gas chamber today, tomorrow, next week...
  • I am a very committed animal advocate but I do believe that making a difference in this world often requires patience, compassion and understanding of all that may be involved to action real and permanent change; 
  • I believe that it is very important to lead by example of what it is that one desires to achieve...
    • I believe that in order to move the agenda forward to cessation of the gas chamber located at the SPCA Outaouais requires compassion for all involved and working within the system currently in-place in order to effect change.
    • I hope the future, the members of that protest group will come to the conclusion that in order to effect change in a way that will best protect the well being and best interests of cats and dogs in the community now and in the future - that they (the protest group) will seek to work with the Outaouais SPCA rather than in conflict with them - which is unfortunately what I see currently developing;
    • For the reason I have left the protest group - but this article is my plea to the community at large to:
      • Step-up and assist the Outaouais SPCA in developing a viable plan to shut down the gas chamber;
      • To strengthen the laws in Quebec and in Canada to better protect our companion animals, and;
      • To make illegal the use of gas chambers in Canada...
A Complicated Issue - Who Should Take Responsibility for Ending the Use Of Gas Chambers?

The short answer is that every one should take responsibility for what is happening in the community.

#1 - We should not be euthanizing (killing) dogs and cats and that is the root of the issue.

#2 - Puppy Mills should be banned outright, outlawed and made illegal.

#3 - Animal Welfare laws in Quebec and in the balance of Canada must be strengthened.

#4 - Gas Chambers should be made illegal in all of Canada.

While the use of gas chambers is still legal in Quebec most shelter facilities do not use such methods to euthanize the animals in their care.  

Responsibility to Speak Out Against The Use of Gas Chambers Belongs to Everyone, Including...
  • The shelters who are currently using gas chambers - for if they do not inform the public the community cannot help partner with the shelter to create an environment where the gas chamber can be shut-down;
  • Upon being informed of the gas chamber the individuals that make up the immediate community should get involved in a plan to support the shelter in ending the use of the gas chamber;
  • The support of local, private veterinary clinics;
  • Professional and regulatory bodies such as the various Veterinary Associations should step-up to the plate and unequivocally reject the use of gas chambers as a method to euthanize animals;
  • Municipal, provincial and the federal government should make it illegal to sue gas chambers to kill animals in Gas Chambers...
  • All of the above make up the 'Community' that must participate to effect change in how our companion animals are cared for in the shelter setting.  
When we do not speak out - we are all implicated in the brutality that occurs as an end result of our silence. 

Quebec is undeniably the province with the highest number of abandoned cats and dogs. The average time a family in Quebec keeps a dog is about 19 months. All shelters and rescues in Quebec and the bordering provinces know that summer time is particularly bad, as residents of Quebec go on holiday, and on the most popular weekend to move in the summer -  the rate of dog and cat abandonment escalates. 
The SPCA Outaouais is a perfect example of a shelter that desperately needs the support of the 'Community'.

To fund the facility and its operations (including maintenance of the gas chamber and supply of gas for its deathly use) the SPCA Outaouais relies heavily on donations from the community. Yet the community for the most part is unaware that the SPAC runs a gas chamber. The volume of animal intake at the shelter is very high and the number of animals adopted out has great room for improvement, subsequently the rate of euthanasia is high. Annual intake sits between 9200 to 8500 animals per year of which about one third are euthanized.
This is a shelter that needs the help of the 'Community' in order to make the future more humane for those animals that come in to the shelter. They also need the community to be more responsible so that the shelter is not inundated due to lack of responsibility by pet owners.


Euthanasia, by definition, is the act of inducing a painless death (from ancient Greek eu-thanos, meaning good death).

Meriam-Webster Dictionary - the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.

Gas Chamber


The Gas Chamber was first developed in 1921 by the lawmakers in the State of Nevada. The Gas Chamber was later embraced for use by the Nazi’s as their primary means of mass murder. The use of the Gas Chamber for killing humans and animals has since been made illegal in many places around the world, including in its place of origin. When employed to kill humans, death in a gas chamber can be extremely slow and painful, as demonstrated in several high-profile executions from the 1980s and 1990s. One of the more infamous was that of Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983. Mr Gray frantically gasped, moaned, and slammed his head into a steel pipe for ten minutes as the cyanide slowly took effect. In 1996, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that execution by poison gas constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The fact is – death by gas chamber is no less cruel for a non-human animal.


Twenty-two (22) States in the U.S.A have made it illegal to use a gas chamber to kill dogs and cats with the latest being the State of Texas. This past week of May 20th, 2013, Governor Rick Perry enacted a law to prohibit the cruel practice of ‘euthanizing’ animals in a Gas Chamber. Texas State Senators voted unanimously to ban animal shelter Gas Chambers.  Now, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is proposing a bill to have gas chambers banned in all 50 States. Sadly, when it comes to animal rights, Canada may not be quite as civilized a place as you might have thought. And that is where protests like the one to be held this Saturday are so important.

Gas Chamber Use - Why We Must NOT Remain Silent on This Issue…

Martin Luther King Jr.

Gas chamber euthanasia is IMO undeniably cruel...

During the gassing process carbon monoxide is pumped into the gas chamber. The carbon monoxide slowly suffocates the animals to death.  Dogs and cats that are gassed in the chamber suffer indeterminate minutes before dying. The time spent suffering varies:
  • For some it may take 10 or 15 minutes;
  • For others the time of suffering can last a long time – 30 minutes, and hour;
  • Some animals do not die during the first gassing and must endure a second round of gassing.
  • In Alabama, on October 3rd 2011 Daniel the beagle made headlines in the dog advocacy world. Daniel was ‘put’ into a gas chamber along with 17 other shelter dogs, all the other dogs died except for Daniel.
    • Daniel’s case is pretty unique – because he was not tossed back into the chamber for a second round of gassing.
    • You can read more about Daniel here on Daniel the Dog’s Blog Site.
  • There are very few happy stories when it comes to animals and gas chambers.
  • You can read eye-witness accounts here.

It is well past time that Canadian’s stand-up, take notice and tell those having jurisdiction that enough is enough!

Some shelters gas one dog at a time rather than multiple dogs - however this does not make the use of the gas chamber a peaceful way to die. 

Some shelters put multiple animals into the chamber to be gassed together. The stress and panic causes them to fight. The fights result in physical injury – one more brutality in the face of all that they (the dogs and cats ‘put’ into the gas chamber) must suffer from the gassing The struggle to breath as they are slowly suffocated by the carbon monoxide;
  • The pain of organs slowly shutting down;
  • Disorientation as their brain struggles to function as it is slowly starved of oxygen;
  • And the panic of the other dogs or cats in the chamber – distress feeds distress just as it does in humans.
In my opinion, it is a truly horrible way to die.

Many shelters - when gassing just one dog at a time ‘tether’ the dog in the gas chamber so that the dog will not thrash about too much and leave a bloody mess. After all the real reason behind gassing animals (rather than using EBI) is convenience…so you can be sure that last thing the shelter staff wants to be is inconvenienced by having to clean up a bloody mess.  

Many shelters stop feeding the dog two days prior to gassing. This is not done for the dogs well being, it is instead done to stop the dog from vomiting once it is in the gas chamber and the gas is turned on. Not for the sake of the dog's well being but instead so that there is less of a mess for the shelter worker to clean-up afterwards.

Many shelters take the dog or cat right from the gas chamber to the incinerator or freezer without checking for vital signs, or without checking accurately for vital signs - the end result, the animal that has already suffered in the gas chamber is then burned alive, or frozen while still alive, or stuffed into a plastic bag while still alive.

Dogs and cats that end up in shelters are there because a human has let them down - sometimes intentionally and many times unintentionally. Sometimes the dogs human passes away and no family member is willing to take the once beloved dog or cat. Should that animal then die a painful death? 

Regardless of the reason why a dog or cats ends up in a high-kill gas chamber using shelter - the outcome is injury upon injury to that animal - that they should be made to suffer an agonizing death is unacceptable to me and I would hope it would be unacceptable to you as well. 

As a cross-poster (facebook and twitter) of dogs in high-kill shelters, as a human that lives her daily life with ten dogs – eight of whom are rescues, I know from very personal experience that dogs deserve better from human beings. About 50% of the dogs that I work with (my client’s dogs) are rescues from shelters and rescue groups.  There are so many amazing dogs that end-up in high-kill shelters including those that use gas chambers.

Some of my clients have adopted a dog(s) from the SPCA Outaouais - it is important to keep in mind that just because a shelter uses a gas chamber does not mean that they do not contribute good to the community, but it does mean that there is room for improvement within that shelter and most certainly within the community that the shelter resides in.

The American Humane Society Speaks Out on the Use of Gas Chambers for Euthanasia…

“EBI is the most humane method of euthanizing shelter animals.  IF successful, the gas chamber can take up to 25 to 30 minutes to end an animal’s life, whereas EBI causes loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds and clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes.  EBI causes animals to lose consciousness and brain function before their vital organs shut down.   In a chamber, however, animals lose consciousness and brain function only after their vital organs shut down, causing prolonged suffering and distress.  EBI is the method preferred by the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and The Humane Society of the United States.  Old, neonatal, and injured animals are often biologically unable to absorb the gas as readily as larger or healthier animals, which prolongs trauma and stress. “

And From the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) on the use of Gas Chambers…
“The HSUS considers use of the gas chamber in a shelter setting to be unacceptable under any circumstances. “Euthanasia of dogs and cats in shelters is a tragedy that must come to an end through spaying and neutering of pets, increased adoption of pets from shelters and other approaches, but when an animal must be euthanized, it’s critical that it be done in the most compassionate way possible. Direct injection of approved euthanasia drugs, by which the animal quickly loses consciousness without experiencing pain or distress, is the most humane method currently available,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for The HSUS. “Lesser alternatives like carbon monoxide gas chambers should never be used in shelter settings.”

The reasons the HSUS considers gas chambers inappropriate in shelter settings include…

  • Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations: 
  • The animals euthanized in shelters are often old, young, ill or injured; none of these animals can be humanely euthanized in a gas chamber. 
  • Even healthy adult dogs and cats will suffer stress just by being placed in a gas chamber, making their death inhumane.
  • Gas chambers pose grave dangers to staff: 
  • Gas chambers pose great physical and psychological harm to staff. 
  • Staff must handle, transport and place animals into the chamber, putting them at risk of bites and scratches. 
  • Animal care workers have also been injured and killed by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odourless and tasteless toxic gas.
  • Euthanasia by injection is less expensive: 
  • Studies have proven that it is more expensive to operate a gas chamber than it is to purchase and use euthanasia drugs. “

Am I Promoting a Campaign of Hate Against Shelters That Choose to Use Gas Chambers?

No. And in regards to the SPCA Outaouais - no I am not.

Nor am I saying that the SPCA Outaouais does zero good in the community.

I met with Francine Dubois (the shelter Director) as well as one of her staff and some of the volunteers...

I believe that Francine and her staff do care very much for the animals in their care but due to a confluence of circumstances they currently find themselves in a place and time where the use of the gas chamber is the norm in the shelter as is EBI (euthanasia by injection).

With additional and much needed support from the 'Community' the SPCA Outaouais could conceivably cease the use of the gas chamber. Without the support of the 'Community' this goal may still be possible but the time to implement would be much expanded, leaving many dog and cats to die via the gas chamber in the interim.

Economics of The Situation – Is Lack of Funding a Valid Excuse to Choose Using a Gas Chamber?
One of the participants in the protest discussion brought this very excellent example to light…
Sampson County Shelter's Journey to Change...
Sampson County in North Caroline made the choice to dismantle their gas chamber May15th, 2013. This shelter is much poorer than the SPCA Outaouais, yet Sampson County had the integrity, ethics and morals to move forward with shutting down their Gas Chamber. You can read the story here. In addition it is important to note that although Sampson County is a small and poorly funded shelter they work very hard to keep their rate of adoptions high and euthanasia low – currently their rate of euthanasia sits at 30%, with the rate of adoptions steadily on the rise.  A small shelter moving in the right direction, having left excuses for making the wrong choice far behind – it is a great story; you can read about it here
Is it Possible for the SPCA Outaouais to do the Same as the Sampson County Shelter?
Yes - but they need the community to support the effort...

Outaouais stated in their interview with the protest organizers that they (the SPCA Outaouais) are currently operating on an annual budget of $2.6 million.  The Sampson County shelter’s budget was and is considerably less than that of the SPCA Outaouais, but in order to shut the Gas Chamber down the County did get grants from the government. The SPCA Outaouais may not be able to access the volume of grants that Sampson County received. Should that indeed be the case, the support of the local community increases in importance.
“SPCA Outaouais stated 1.6 million goes to salaries for the 50 employees and another big chunk goes for medicine. Royal Canine donates their food (from what I am told) to SPCA Gatineau so there is 1 million left over and a 2009 study by the American Humane Association studies the costs between the use of gas and EBI by sodium pentobarbital, and found the cost to euthanize an animal with CO gas is $4.98 an animal if using sedation. If no sedation it is $4.66 per animal. The cost for EBI was $2.29 an animal. 

While these numbers support the fact that the gas chamber is not more economical (than EBI) there are a few more factors that need resolution in order to allow the SPCA Outaouais to move forward with elimination of the gas chamber...
  • At least one more full time veterinarian would need to be hired and retained;
  • Retention can be a problem if the salary offered is not somewhat equitable to that paid by a private veterinary office;
  • If the number of adoptions is not raised than it can be difficult to find a veterinarian who is willing to spend the majority of their time euthanizing animals as opposed to helping animals (i.e. doing spay/neuter, treating illness etc.);
  • The community needs to step-up and help increase the number of permanent adoptions and decrease the number of animals being abandoned and dropped-off at the shelter...if you get a pet, commit to keeping it!
    • The local veterinarian community should play a role in helping support the SPCA in increasing the adoption rates at the SPCA;
  • Spay and neuter you pet, and;
  • Speak out about back-yard breeders and puppy mills, and do not purchase dogs or cats from them;
  • Adopt from the shelter instead;
  • And donate to the shelter;
  • In addition, the province of Quebec must change the law which dictates that only a certified Veterinarian may perform an EBI;
    • The law should be expanded to allow certified veterinary technicians to perform EBI's.  
In my opinion, In return the SPCA should...
  • Speak openly to the community about the use of the Gas Chamber and the SPCA's desire to abolish the use of the gas chamber complete with a:
    • Plan to shut down the gas chamber that incorporates tasks, budget, deliverables and timelines outlined;
    • Clear statment of what the SPCA would need from the community to assist  in accomplishing the plan; 
    • Provision of a breakdown within that plan that provides clear information/direction regarding:
      • What and how much monetary and other support the SPCA would requrie from individuals in the community;
      • What type of support the SPCA would require from the community to push change at a municipal and provincial level;
      • Host petitions for those in the community, and groups to sign to trigger required changes in the laws that regulate the rights, care and ownership of animals, and;
      • Otherwise support the SPCA in pushing for the change plan/initiative.

So Why Do Shelters Still Insist on Using a Gas Chamber to Kill Dogs and Cats?
  • Because not enough people speak out to stop the use of gas chambers;
  • Becase it is not just enough to speak out; 
  • You must follow-through, help and collaborate in the process of attaining a culture where gas chamber use is:
    • not required, and; 
    • not acceptable. 
If you are not part of the solution YOU are part of the problem.

Should Gas Chambers be used to kill shelter dogs and cats? 

My answer is No, Not Ever...

What will your answer be and what will you do to contribute to the cessation of gas chamber use?

Canada – Stop the Silence...
  • Speak out, speak to and work with shelter authorities having jurisdiction...
  • Tell your municipal, provincial and federal representatives that the use of gas chambers to kill shelter animals IS NOT acceptable;
  • Sign petitions;
  • Promote spay, neuter;
  • Don't buy puppies from backyard breeders and puppy mills;
  • If you bring an animal into your life make that relationship a life-long commitment,and; 
  • If something gets in the way of that commitment find a good home for your pet - don't just drop it off at a shelter and make your pet someone else's responsibility.

I find it absolutely shameful that a so called civilized society (North America - with exceptions to those areas that have banned gas chamber use) turns their collective head and allows the continued use of gas chambers.

And in my opinion - shame on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the  Canadian Medical Veterinary Association (CMVA), for not taking action to outright condemn the use of Gas Chambers on companion (i.e. dogs and cats) and other animals (domestic and non-domestic).

Until the AVMA takes a committed ban on the use of gas chambers it is highly unlikely that the CMVA will take action to condemn the use of gas chambers.

Shelter dogs and cats need people to LOOK, need people to KNOW, need people to SPEAK OUT, need people to SHARE, TWEET and STOP this travesty.

This is my Pack of ten dogs, eight of whom are rescues...they are lucky, so many wonderful dogs are not so lucky - so please SPEAK OUT for those who cannot!

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  1. A well researched humane appeal to the better natures of all of us. We must speak for those you cannot speak for themselves and who invest so much value to the world in their presence.

  2. Allowing, watching and or doing nothing to stop the EVIL act of euthenization which is killing of life, gas chambers which is killing of life and injections which is the killing of life means only one thing. The one who does nothing or says nothing is also EVIL THEMSELVES.





  3. Karen,

    I've been looking for a post about spay/neuter
    I'm curious what your stance is on the subject of getting dogs fixed.

    -Thank you

    1. Hi Rabb,

      In a bigger social sense the subject of spay/neuter is a complicated subject due to the lack of responsibility/commitment of many people in their human-dog relationships.

      I do not believe - in general, that spaying or neutering provides direct health benefits for the individual dog. In-fact I think it represents more health deficits for the individual. Operations that alter the natural physical make-up and function of a healthy dog, are in my opinion done to deal with our own human short comings - as individuals and as a collective society/culture.

      If instead we look at spaying and neutering in the larger context of the current societal conditions (specifically in North America) - the benefit is we have less unwanted puppies that are born to a sentence of death. In this society spaying and neutering becomes a matter of convenience to the human who may not be particularly responsible about keeping their dog from straying. The end result of which is an over population of unwanted puppies.

      But I think you are asking in relationship to your own individual dog's physical health? So I will answer assuming that is your questions :>) ...

      I would recommend that you read two very good articles by Dr. Karen Becker in which she does an excellent job of de-bunking the myth that spaying and neutering, for the individual dog has more health benefits than deficits...

      Article #1 'We’ll Call This Neutering Myth Busted'

      Article #2 'Illegal in Scandinavia, Surgical Sterilization Is Still Routine in America'

      Hope this helps you in decision making,

      Cheers, Karen

  4. Just wanted to let you know, there is a petition on re: banning the gas chamber at the Northumberland Ontario Shelter of Hope, amongst other requests they are submitting for Feb 18. Please sign and share the petition.


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

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Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats