The Sampson County commission voted to accept $16,000 in grant money for its animal shelter this week , including $7,000 from the Humane Society of the United States to “phase out” the use of its gas chamber. The rest of the grant money is from the Petfinder Foundation to fund kennel cough and FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) vaccine programs.
The terms of the HSUS grant stipulate that the county must “phase out the use of the gas chamber in six months from receipt of the $7,000.” Any surplus funds are to be used for shelter repair or upgrades or “animal enrichment.” Previous Interim Director Lori Baxter had announced last June on the pound’s Facebook page that she was applying for a grant to “bury” the gas chamber, but there doesn’t appear to be any stipulation in the HSUS grant about dismantling or removing the gas chamber so that it can’t be used again at some future time.
This is an important step because the Sampson gas chamber had been taken out of service previously after many problems with faulty seals and leakage. The issues became widely known in 2004 following an incident in which four puppies who did not die after being put into the leaky gas chamber were adopted by Teresa Stewart of Roseboro, who had no idea they had been gassed. All four puppies subsequently died, and the truth came out after Stewart complained publicly.
The gas chamber was taken out of service, but after a new pound was built, the gas chamber was moved there and put back into service by Assistant County Manager Susan Holder, who was then serving as interim shelter director.
There have been several recent announcements regarding county pound gas chambers in NC. The Johnston County pound announced in December that they will reduce gas chamber use, reserving it for “vicious” animals.
The Vance County pound is reportedly eliminating the use of their gas chamber. According to an email newsletter sent to certain rescue groups by HSUS NC director Kim Alboum, Vance County “made the commitment to eliminate the use of the gas chamber as a form of euthanasia.” She doesn’t mention that they received a grant, but a Facebook post by the Vance County SPCA reports that they did. (Commenters on that post claim that the chamber will be retained for use on wildlife.)
The Person County pound, which had stopped most use of its gas chamber in October, removed it from the premises last week, according to a news article cited by the NC Shelter Rescue Blog. Person County Manager Heidi York said the unit was removed “to assure the public that it is no longer in use.”
The demise of the Person County Gas chamber came about partly because of public pressure. Person pound director Ron Shaw was quoted on CNN as saying “The gas chamber’s not cruel, but animal activists don’t agree with it. And I’m fed up with dealing with it.”
The pressure needs to continue until the other gas chambers are dismantled and removed. Advocates can email Johnston County Manager Rick Hester, Sampson County Manager Ed Causey and Vance County Manager Jerry L. Ayscue and ask them to completely remove the gas chambers from their pounds.
Advocates can also email Person County Manager Heidi York to thank her for getting rid of the gas chamber and ask her to continue the path toward progress and civilized treatment of animals by encouraging shelter staff to implement the lifesaving programs of the No Kill Equation.
In other Sampson County news, new pound director Alan Canady started work this week. One change he may consider is actually opening the facility during hours that are favorable to increasing adoptions. ”There are certain processes that we can do where we can possibly open earlier and maybe stay open a little bit later,” he said. The shelter’s current hours, established by Canady’s predecessor Lori Baxter, are 1-4 pm weekdays.