During the 2010 Georgia legislative session, I wrote over a dozen articles chronicling the successful campaign to pass Grace’s Law, banning the use of gas chambers to kill homeless dogs and cats in Georgia’s shelters. Those of us who worked on that campaign learned a lot–mostly about how the public, often maligned in animal welfare circles, was, in fact very compassionate, was horrified to learn about what went on in places that were supposed to provide a safe haven for the most vulnerable of companion animals, and was moved to act to bring our state that much closer to what it should be. Ordinary people called and wrote to their Senators and Representatives in droves.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that “Southerners don’t care about animals, but up North, everything is just peachy,” I could open a well-funded low-cost spay-neuter clinic tomorrow. I also know that that’s not true. More than enough Southerners do care about animals, and there is no shortage of corruption, cruelty and abuse up North–just look at the morass that is NYC Animal Care and Control.
Despite the overwhelming voter support, the campaign had it’s nerve-wracking moments. There was a sneak attack of misinformation the morning of a vote which was handily repelled. There were amendments which delayed implementation which had to be mitigated, and who could forget that speech by Senator Heath in which he reminisced fondly about the euphoria-inducing properties of carbon monoxide? The bill sponsors did what elected officials should do, and in the last hours of the last day of the legislative session, right ultimately prevailed, and the gassing of dogs and cats is now illegal in Georgia.
Which is more than I can say for Pennsylvania.
Anti-gassing advocate Steven Hoover, who used to live in GA and was a member of the Georgia Voters for Animal Welfare’s Grace’s Law team, sent the following letter via snail mail to all Board members of the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania:
To: The board and members of the PA Federated Humane Societies
From: Steven Hoover, St. Marks Episcopal Animal Welfare Director
Subject: Your continued use of savage gas chambers
Despite the efforts of many PA citizens who TRULY care about animal welfare, especially our loving and innocent companion animals, you still engage in the barbaric practice of gas chamber use, in the full knowledge of how cruel and antiquated these chambers are. Many COMPETENT agencies involved with animals have adamantly spoken out against chamber use – The Association of Shelter Veterinarians, National Animal Control Association, and American Humane, just to name a few.
Tragically, your callous indifference extends to your workers in the shelters who use these chambers as well. It is well documented that there have been many serious injuries to workers in shelters that used chambers. One shelter worker in Tennessee even died from carbon monoxide exposure. If this happens here in PA, what will be your excuse and justification for this taking place?
In the past few years, eighteen states have outlawed chamber use and reverted to the only kind and merciful means of euthanasia [sic–unless they are irremediably suffering, it’s killing] – EBI. What is that word in your association’s title again? Oh yeah – humane. Your ghastly and ghoulish use of the chambers is the very antithesis of the word humane. I seriously doubt any of you have witnessed a chamber execution. Well I have. I have seen the terror in the animals eyes. I have seen them attack each other in panic. I have seen them defecate and urinate on one another. To keep using these chambers and call yourselves humane is absolute hypocrisy in the extreme.
Those states who now only use EBI faced the same challenges and problems that you face to make the switch and yet made the change you claim is impossible for you to make – eighteen times over. If this board and members do not have the competence, intelligence, and capability to do what eighteen other states have recently done, then it is time for you to step down and let others who have these qualities take over to insure the trust of PA citizens you have abused.
With disgust and revulsion,
OK. He’s upset and frustrated, but he’s also absolutely right about gassing being cruel and antiquated and something that a growing number of animal groups (even ones not usually considered progressive, such as NACA) have come out against. Georgia, on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line, where people aren’t supposed to care, has banned gassing. He’s absolutely right that no one who supports or is indifferent to continued gassing, has any business usurping a position that rightfully belongs to a real animal advocate, someone who would put an immediate stop to this gratuitous cruelty.
How do you think members of the Board would react to this letter?
I received your kind letter. Until I received it, I had no idea that I was using a carbon monoxide chamber but apparently I am and was simply completely unaware of it. Of course, I am obviously being as broadly sarcastic and you were being broadly and inaccurately accusatory. The fact that some member of Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania uses- legally uses, I should add- a carbon monoxide chamber no more brands the rest of its members “ghastly and ghoulish” than the obstructionist and hypocritical actions of PVMA make my staff veterinarians obstructionist hypocrites. Or the cynical blocking of a bill to ban chambers by some members of the legislature brands the members who have sponsored chamber ban legislation cynics. Or for that matter, those in your neighborhood aren’t boorish Johnny Letters just because you opt to be.
Allow me to clarify reality for you. PA Federated has publically [sic] endorsed chamber ban legislation. We have actively lobbied the legislature to bring a bill up for a vote. We have worked hard to find language which would not be blocked by the parochial interests of the PVMA leadership (which as we know is not an animal welfare group intended to protect animals but a professional affiliation group intended to protect their “industry”). Where I say, “we”, I also mean “I” because I have personally spent a great deal of time on all these things. To my knowledge a single non-profit shelter uses a chamber and have expressed their desire to no longer do so. However, without the DEA license of a veterinarian or legislation allowing direct shelter licensing, their alternative is not EBI, it is closing their door to animals completely and in their determination, that would result in further suffering. You are probably not aware that I attempted to arrange to have my staff veterinary licenses extended to that organization but I was prevented from doing so at risk of losing my organization’s insurance and being forced to close my doors.
You have the luxury of not facing what that shelter faces. You have the luxury of tarring all with the same brush from your mount on your high horse because you don’t have to make real world decisions. Just because you don’t see us wandering around Harrisburg wearing a gas mask and scaring off legislators doesn’t mean we have not been working hard on this issue and that we don’t care about it. Further, the fact that someone even uses these devices does not even necessarily mean they are happy about. So as neighborly as you are with your offer of advice for all of us, I’ll politely decline the ever so useful guidance you offered in your recent missive.
I want to draw attention that I am replying on a non-HSBC email account [firstname.lastname@example.org]. I’m doing so because I am taking a rare and uncharacteristic step. That is to provide you with the response that you deserve in the strict clarity with which it should be delivered. That sort of directness is not acceptable via a professional email, so I am sending it to you, person to person. I want you to know I have given a great deal of thought to the best and most concise reply which best addresses your uncharitable, mean spirited, vitriolic, and petty attack on a group of people of whom you no little or nothing.
That response is this: Mr. Hoover, please go fuck yourself. [emphasis added]
OK. He did say please, but it’s the other stuff he said that I’m concerned about.
- If he and his organization have campaigned against gassing, why did he take this so personally? The level of vitriol has me concerned. Mr. Hoover obviously struck a nerve. His reaction leads me to believe that his conscience is other than clean about this. If he truly believed that there was a misunderstanding, why not just calmly present the facts and clear the air so that everyone could work together to ban gassing in Pennsylvania? Why the vitriol, or the misreading of Mr. Hoover’s original letter?
- He emphasizes that the use of the gas chamber is legal. The issue here is that it is wrong. Not cool.
- “To my knowledge a single non-profit shelter uses a chamber and have [sic] expressed their desire to no longer do so.” He should be able to state this information definitively and completely. The phrase “to my knowledge” indicates that he is not sure. Why is he not sure? According to this article, there are may be three. How many are there?
- The statement “…their alternative is not EBI, it is closing their door to animals completely and in their determination, that would result in further suffering.” In my opinion, this is far worse than Mr. Minor’s invitation to masturbate. No, those are not the two alternatives. A professional should keep track of trends in their ‘business’. The biggest trend in animal welfare in the past hundred years is the No Kill movement. The No Kill Equation is the only viable alternative (pun intended). The 90% Club is hardly a secret society.
- He seems to be arguing that since their jobs are so hard, they should get a pass for committing cruelty. Call yourself a “Humane Society” and cruelty becomes legal, your job is so incredibly hard, unlike everyone else’s jobs, and you are free to wallow in self-pity over your acts of cruelty, and everyone else should feel sorry for you too. Shades of “blame the public”. Cry me a damn river.
- His attitude is one of a member of a private club, and he is acting as if his organization is operating in a vacuum. The reality is that to ban gassing, or to accomplish anything on behalf of shelter animals, you have to muster the support of the animal-loving public. You do not accomplish that, if I may be so “direct”, by writing responses such as the one above.
Mr. Hoover is not alone in seeing Karel
Minor’s organization as part of the problem. According to the article
We don’t know how many animals die this way or who is doing the gassing because the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania – the umbrella group representing the three remaining shelters in the western part of the state that use carbon monoxide to euthanize animals – won’t reveal the names of the shelters fearing retribution by activists.
Retribution? Just what are they thinking? How about some facts instead of vague accusations? During the campaign for Grace’s Law, I published the list of all known gas chambers in GA repeatedly. At the start of the campaign, the GVAW knew of 11, but because of the publicity, we were informed of two more, bringing the total to 13. If there was any “retribution”, those lonely few who defended gassing would have shouted it from the rooftops. There was none.
Banning gassing in PA should be a slam-dunk, being North of the Mason-Dixon line and all, and likely having fewer chambers, and therefore less “investment” in their continued use than GA or WV or AL. Gassing continues because the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, for reasons I can’t fathom, is blocking it, and because the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania is “protecting” “shelters” who still gas from the very people who could take them from gassing to No Kill if only they knew and had the right leadership–the animal-loving
The fact that the exact number of chambers is a secret tells me that they are being operated by nonprofits–that donors are unwittingly funding animal abuse. Pennsylvania has an Open Records
law, so municipal, taxpayer-funded pounds would be required to disclose if they gassed. This whole situation is as disgusting as it is tragic, and it’s pretty damned tragic.
- Do things for animals.
- Tell people about it.
- Ask for help.
Which in no way resembles:
- Kill animals in the gas chamber.
- Try to keep it a secret.
- Tell people to go frack themselves.
This isn’t rocket science.
Mr. Minor, pretty please with sugar on top, implement the No Kill Equation. [emphasis mine]