Pennsylvania, gassing homeless pets since 1872
Since writing about gas chambers in Pennsylvania last week, I had a nagging thought at the back of my mind that there was a particular connection between the use of gas chambers to kill shelter pets and the state of Pennsylvania, something that went beyond their simply continuing to use this cruel and outmoded method of killing. What was it?
I grabbed my dog-earerd copy of Redemption off the shelf and consulted the index, which led me to this:
While by far the largest, the ASPCA was not the first SPCA to make the transition from prosecuting animal cruelty to running the dog pound. In 1872, in an effort to reduce the public exhibition of cruelty favored at the time by Philadelphians in ridding the city of stray dogs, the Women’s Pennsylvania SPCA* accepted the first pound contract in the United States by a private humane society and established a three-pronged approach to stray animals. First, it began a humane education program promoting lifetime commitments and the importance of keeping animals in the home. Second, it offered homeless animals for adoption. Third, it introduced the use of the gas chamber to replace old, slow and more painful practices of killing stray animals, primarily in the form of drowning, beating and shooting. [emphasis added]
So, we are living with, and animals are suffering and dying in the gas chamber because an organization took the more ‘ladylike’ route of taking up and promoting ‘kinder’ killing rather than sticking to principles, and the state of Pennsylvania has the longest history of gassing shelter pets. It’s time to finally do something unladylike and ban the gas chamber in the state that gave it its start.
It is worth noting that while “shelters” have killed homeless pets in the gas chamber for 140 years, the excuses killing apologists give for doing so have changed. In 1872 it was because it wasn’t as bad as drowning, beating and shooting. In 2011, the excuse that it is humane looks utterly ridiculous to normal people, and apologists are relying more on false economic arguments to preserve the status quo.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Time marches on.
We know that the gas chamber is far from humane, that it is itself old, slow and painful. A handful of “shelters” in Pennsylvania continue to use this cruel method of killing, hiding the shameful practice from taxpayers and donors. It seems highly unlikely that they will stop doing so until they are forced to by the passage of PA S.B. 969.
Pennsylvania residents should call or write their Representatives and Senators in support of S.B. 969. Politely let them know that you want them to do the right thing and move the bill along as is and vote to end the use of the gas chamber in your state, and that their vote will influence yours.
One obstacle to banning gassing in PA is the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association. They are actively blocking the bill. Why? Apparently because they can. Some have cited economics as the reason, but that begs the questions of how is the PAVMA benefiting financially from the continued use of a handful of gas chambers, and is this ‘benefit’ really greater than the cost to the PAVMA’s reputation. Other organizations, notably the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, recognize the cruelty inherent in gas chambers and have stated unequivocally that they have no place in animal shelters.
You can (politely) ask the PAVMA why they are supporting continued cruelty to shelter pets and placing their own organization’s reputation in self-destruct mode here:
Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association
8574 Paxton Street
Hummelstown, PA 17036
They can still turn things around. I’m willing to bet that most veterinarians in Pennsylvania are not happy about what the PAVMA is doing in and to their names. If and when I get a response, I’ll publish it, and I’d like to see any responses you get as well, so feel free to post them in the comments below.
The gas chamber may have seemed expedient almost 140 years ago, but ‘expedient’ and ‘right’ are two completely different things. We are still having to contend with the cruel legacy of that expediency. Let’s set things right.
Ban the gas chamber in the state where it has been used the longest.
The Women’s Humane Society is an open admissions or unlimited access shelter. We do request that people live within 50 miles of our facility as we are confident that there are other facilities with similar practices, policies, and successes between us and someone living 50 miles from our location. If you have several adult cats to trap on your property, we request that you limit your use of the humane trap to two surrenders a week in an effort to avoid the euthanasia of adoptable cats when cages and rescue spots fill during kitten season. We will euthanize when space becomes an issue. We have not had to euthanize dogs because of space issues since 1999, when the internet became a popular tool in pet adoption. There continue to be many more cats and kittens that will need homes than there are shelter, rescue, foster care space and adopters during the busy kitten season of summer and early fall.
We are a humane shelter, meaning we will end suffering or the high risk of suffering in the future for that animal or others at the shelter, in an adopter’s home, or their community. While we respect the work of our limited access or no kill counterparts in the animal rescue and adoption field, we stand by our position to turn no one away and keep adoption affordable. You may learn more about how we determine suffering and risks by reading the section on ‘Giving Up an Animal’ and the two adoption pages on the menu to the left. We invite you to sign our guest book and review the many topics covered on this site.