A bill banning the use of gas chambers to kill pets is making its way through a state House committee.
House Bill 2030 would amend the Kansas Pet Animal Act to prohibit animal control officers and shelters from using carbon monoxide gas chambers to euthanize pets that can’t be adopted out.
“To me it’s self-explanatory,” said Maureen Cummins, who testified this week at a hearing by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “Kansas is one of 10 states that still allows this cruel practice.”
Asked if the alternative, lethal injection by a veterinarian, is more humane, Cummins testified that she had seen more than 100 pets peacefully euthanized by lethal injections.
That painless process involves administering a strong sedative and then the fatal drug while the animal is unconscious.
“You do not want to see the pictures of carbon monoxide chambers,” she said.
Cummins represented both her own Second Chance Animal Rescue Society, a free-roam, no-kill dog shelter in Auburn, and the Department of Agriculture’s Pet Animal Advisory Board.
William Brown, animal health commissioner for the Department of Agriculture, said evolving standards of decency have already been shutting down gas chambers for animals. He said his department is aware of only four in the state and none is being used.
Supporters of the bill want to put the ban in state law to ensure no one ever uses them again.
Jennifer Stone, a veterinarian and medical director at the Lawrence Humane Society, said gas chambers are a horrifying way to euthanize pets. The chambers are often tainted with urine and feces from earlier use and animals often become frightened when forced into them, Stone said.
The animals may not die for a matter of minutes and can panic or fight each other before the gas takes effect, she said.
“Almost every animal welfare organization I can think of condemns the use of these chambers,” she said.
The bill would also make several other changes to state law, including:
▪ Allow for off-site adoption of pets. Under current law, shelters or other organizations that hold public adoption events have to have people go back to the office to fill out paperwork.
▪ Require that pets be supplied with adequate drinking water.
▪ Require regular inspection of animal operations by authorities, who currently “may” inspect under state law.
▪ Allow veterinary medicine students from other states to perform spaying and neutering internships at Kansas facilities. Current law allowing that applies only to students from Kansas State University.
▪ Restructure licensing categories and allow the state to raise license fees for breeding, shelter and rescue operations.
The only opposition raised at the hearing came from Steve Hitchcock, a lobbyist for the Kansas Federation of Animal Owners, an organization representing breeders and kennel operators.
He said the organization supports the animal-welfare provisions in the bill, but opposes increased fees and a requirement that state inspectors have access to veterinary records collected by facilities that are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Hitchcock said his group is not convinced of the need for increasing fees, given a shrinking number of breeding and kennel operators.
And, he said, state access to the records prepared for the USDA would be double regulation and “is opening these small-business owners to conflicting interpretations and turf wars” between agencies.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.