A better solution needed

Published 6:21 am Friday, February 15, 2008

By Staff
The debate this week over how unwanted animals should be destroyed seemed to eclipse the bigger picture.
On Wednesday, a state board ruled that gas chambers may continue to be used to euthanize animals in North Carolina. Some had argued that only lethal injections should be allowed, and there was a provision to outlaw gas chambers by 2012. After much debate, the state board agreed to continue to allow the use of gas chambers.
Neither method of death seems like a winning solution from where we sit.
By some estimates, 6 million to 7 million animals are destroyed every year at animal shelters in the U.S. Their only crime was they were born and nobody wanted them.
The Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility in Washington is by all accounts an outstanding example of how unwanted animals can be housed until they find homes. But the shelter isn’t designed, nor should it be designed, to be the long-term fix to warehouse animals. Beaufort County could build a shelter five times as large, and within a matter of months, it too, would be full.
One cat and her kittens can produce over 420,000 cats in about seven years, according to published sources. In the U.S., 70,000 puppies and kittens are born each day. A female dog that is not spayed can produce 16 dogs in one year and 128 dogs in two years, according to statistics from the North Shore Animal League America.
The solution, the only solution, is for responsible pet owners to have their pets fixed. This month, local veterinarians are offering to do just that at reduced rates. As of Thursday, one local veterinarian said she’d had 50 people take advantage of that offer.
For those who can’t afford even that, there are other options. The Humane Society is offering assistance. Those who can’t afford even that shouldn’t have a pet in the first place, pure and simple.
But the debate this week didn’t center around spay-and-neuter programs, but around the method of how we, as a society, get rid of the animals that nobody wants.
About 25 shelters in the state use carbon monoxide to kill unwanted animals, including the shelter in Washington and the Craven-Pamlico Animal Services in New Bern.
Advocates contend that gas chambers are too traumatic for animals and too risky for the people who put them down. Marty Poffenberger, a local veterinarian and a member of the local Humane Society, has seen both systems used. She doesn’t like to see any animal destroyed, but she believes that in many cases the gas chamber is the most humane way.
Poffenberger has also heard the stories about hoses hooked to a car exhaust pipe and then piped to a chamber to kill animals.
Instead of fighting over how the flood of unwanted animals should be killed, wouldn’t it be nice if we could work together on the root of the problem?