Category Archives: Vance County

Demolish the gas chambers!

Iredell County gas chamber

Iredell County, NC, gas chamber. Photo by Flickr member NCCHE.

A “relatively painless” death can only occur in an environment where sensitivity, compassion and skill combine with efforts to minimize distress and anxiety. By contrast, gas systems take time to kill— during which animals experience distress and anxiety, and can struggle to survive. They can result in animals surviving the gassing, only to suffer even more. And they take longer to kill if animals are young, old, or have respiratory infections, which is common in some shelters. They are designed for the ease of shelter workers, not care and compassion for the animals.–A Call To Ban The Gas Chamber

The good news: Several NC counties, including Person, Johnston and Sampson, have recently announced plans to discontinue or restrict the use  of gas chambers and/or remove them completely. Other NC counties that recently joined the march toward civilized treatment of shelter pets include Brunswick County, where the CO chamber was last used in November 2011, according to inspection reports, and Craven-Pamlico, which ended the use of its chamber on Feb.1, 2012.

But bad news remains: There are still far too many North Carolina counties killing shelter pets in the barbaric contraptions. Fourteen counties still use gas chambers as their primary means of killing shelter pets. Several others have switched primarily to lethal injection but retain the CO chambers for use with wildlife and “dangerous” animals. (Often, feral cats are considered to be in the “dangerous” category, which means the gas chamber still gets used quite a lot in those places.)

The gas chamber has been banned in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

As long as the inhumane contraptions, throwbacks to our less-civilized past, remain in use in North Carolina, we will never be able to move forward to a humane future in which shelters will be places where animals’ lives are protected. The gas chambers in NC must be demolished. Even in counties where gas chamber use has ended, having a working chamber onsite means that it can be put back into full-time use again at any time, as it was in Sampson County.

Below is a county-by-county listing of the the places that still use gas chambers and links to contact information for county officials who can change that. I have written a sample letter that can be used as a template for your own letters to these officials. More points to use in a letter can be found in the American Humane Association gas chamber fact sheet.

Ashe County: If there were a “Worst Place in NC for Animals” award, Ashe County would be a nominee. Not only does their pound gas an incredibly high number of animals each year, but their pound director doesn’t care for adoptions, shooting is a standard animal control technique and animal cruelty is considered just one of those thingsAsk Ashe County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county! Contact information for Ashe County Officials is here. The Ashe County CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in May 2012.

Alamance County/City of Burlington: Lethal injection is the primary means of killing pets at Burlington Animal Services, but the gas chamber is still used for wildlife and “dangerous” animals. Ask Alamance County/City of Burlington officials to completely end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber! Find contact information here. It appears that the BAS gas chamber has not been inspected by the NCDA&CS Animal Welfare Service since 2009.

Beaufort County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Beaufort County. Ask Beaufort County officials to end the use of  and demolish the barbaric gas chamber.  Find contact information here. The Beaufort County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in March 2012.

Cabarrus County: UPDATE: In July 2013, Cabarrus County accepted a $10,000 grant from HSUS to end its use of the gas chamber. The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Cabarrus County. Ask Cabarrus County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Cabarrus County does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Cleveland County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Cleveland County. Ask Cleveland County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Cleveland County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in January 2012.

Davidson County: Davidson County’s gas chamber is one of the most infamous in North Carolina. In 2011, a shelter volunteer told the Davidson County commissioners that he saw “Davidson County Animal Shelter employees laugh as they put a mother cat, her kitten and a raccoon into the same compartment of the shelter’s gas chamber in 2009 and let them fight before they were euthanized.” Then over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011, two Thomasville police officers who were not trained or certified took a dog they had shot and wounded to the closed Davidson pound and killed it in the gas chamber. Despite massive opposition to the gas chamber by Davidson County residents, most county commissioners voted to continue using the barbaric contraption in August 2011. Ask Davidson County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Davidson County pound CO chamber does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Gaston County: According to a June 2012 AWS inspection report,  the gas chamber is only used for about 1 percent of the animals killed in the Gaston County pound. Nonetheless, as long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put into more frequent use at any time. Ask Gaston County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Gaston County pound CO chamber  was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since in June 2012.

Granville County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing pets in the Granville County pound. Ask Granville County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Granville County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in  2011.

Iredell County: Iredell County is famous for being the site of one of several gas chamber explosions in North Carolina. In 2008, Iredell’s almost-brand-new gas chamber exploded with 10 dogs inside as a result of an electrical malfunction. Nonetheless, the county repaired the unit and had it back in service a year later. Ask Iredell County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Iredell County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in  May 2012.

Johnston County: UPDATE: Reportedly, the Johnston gas chamber is now NOT in use, all gas canisters have been disposed of and the chamber is to be dismantled and removed in the near future. In response to years of pressure by animal advocates, Johnston County pound manager Ed Wilkinson announced in December 2012 that he planned to decrease the use of the gas chamber to only “vicious” animals. Wilkinson gave no definition of what constitutes a “vicious” animal, so it’s possible that category could include feral cats, which are killed by the tens of thousands every year in NC pounds. Gas chamber use needs to end completely in Johnston County. As long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put into more frequent use at any time. Please tell Johnston County officials and pound director Ernie Wilkinson that ending the use of the gas chamber represents progress, and ask them to begin implementing the programs proven to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets in their facility. Find contact information here. The Johnston County pound CO chamber does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Martin County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Martin County. Ask Martin County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Martin County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in 2011.

Nash County: The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Nash County. Ask Nash County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Nash  County does not appear to have been inspected by NCDA&CS AWS since 2009.

Randolph County:  The gas chamber is the primary means of killing animals in Randolph County. Ask Randolph County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The CO chamber in Randolph County does not appear to have ever been inspected by  NCDA&CS AWS.

Rowan County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Rowan County. Ask Rowan County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Rowan County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in January 2012.

Union County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Union County. Ask Union County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Union County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in September 2012.

Vance County: Vance County is reportedly eliminating or reducing use of its gas chamber. According to a Facebook post by the Vance County SPCA, the county has already ended the gas chamber use. But as long as the chamber remains operable and in the facility, it can be put back into frequent use at any time. Ask Vance County officials to demolish the gas chamber and remove it completely. Find contact information here. The Vance County pound CO chamber was last  inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in July 2011.

Wilkes County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Wilkes County. Ask Wilkes County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Wilkes  County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in May 2012.

Wilson County: The gas chamber is currently the primary means of killing pets in Wilson County. Ask Wilson County officials to end the use of and demolish the barbaric gas chamber in their county. Find contact information here. The Wilson County pound CO chamber was last inspected by NCDA&CS AWS in 2011.

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Filed under Alamance County, Ashe County, Beaufort County, Cabarrus County, Cleveland County, Davidson County, gas chamber, Gaston County, Granville County, Iredell County, Johnston County, Martin County, Nash County, Randolph County, Rowan County, Union County, Vance County, Wilkes County, Wilson County

Sampson pound gets grant to stop using gas chamber

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 HesterSampson 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.

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January 10, 2013 · 10:22 pm

Open letter to Vance County commissioners about their pound’s asinine pit bull policy

smiley

Because her head is a little blocky, “sweet, loving” Smiley, who may be pregnant, is not allowed to be pulled for rescue or adopted out of the Vance County pound by anyone from North Carolina. But it’s perfectly OK for her to go to Virginia. (UPDATE: Smiley got her rescue!)

If you’re a pit bull, pit bull mix, or maybe just a mutt who bears a passing resemblance to a pit bull, and you end up in the Vance County pound, count your blessings that it’s a short trip to the Virginia state line. Because if you’re lucky, some rescuer from Virginia or points north will think you’re cute and come get you. If not, it’s the gas chamber for you.

Believe it or not, this is an improvement over the old policy, which was to gas all alleged pit bulls and mixes as soon as their holds were up. One rescuer said it broke her heart to see all the beautiful dogs grouped together on one side of the shelter with signs that said “Dangerous-Do Not Touch” on their cages, because she knew they had no chance to get out of the shelter alive.

But if these dogs are so dangerous, what is it about the state line that suddenly renders them harmless? Nothing, of course, it’s all hysteria The mandate comes from the Vance County Board of Commissioners, who must feel that there is some political capital to be gained from the policy. Obviously, the best way to change such a policy is to publicly make them aware that there is more capital in saving animals’ lives. So even though I’m not a Vance County Resident, I decided to write them a letter.

The hard part was figuring out where to send it. Apparently, Vance County commissioners are allowed to be unreachable by constituents (and non-constituents, in my case), because two of them have no contact info listed at all on the county’s official site. Only two have email addresses listed, and the others have work or home addresses and phone numbers. I was able to find a few on Freedomspeaks.com. I made do. At any rate, here is the letter I sent:

Dear Commissioner,

I am writing in regard to the anti-pit bull adoption policy at the Vance County animal shelter, under which North Carolina adopters and rescue groups are not allowed to save the lives of presumed pit bull-type dogs at your shelter.

It’s possible that you and your fellow Commissioners believe this policy is in the interest of public safety. If so, this is based on a misguided belief that certain breeds of dogs bite more frequently than others. The public perception of “pit bulls” as being any more likely to bite than any other breed or mix has no basis in fact.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “Breed-based dog bite statistics are not really statistics in that they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite… [T]he breed of the biting dog may not be accurately recorded and mixed-breed dogs are commonly described as if they are purebred.” This is because most breed identification is done by visual identification by the victim or responding officer.

A study by the AVMA in 2009 showed 87.5% of the dogs were identified incorrectly by vets and shelter professionals in comparison to DNA analysis. In fact, visual breed identification has proven so unreliable that the Center for Disease Control stopped using breed designation in data collection in 1998.

In addition, the primary indicator of risk regarding dog-human bite incidents is whether the dog is a “resident dog” or a “family dog”. Resident dogs are dogs maintained outside the home or obtained for negative functions like guarding, fighting, protection, breeding for financial gain. According to the Center for Disease Control, resident dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite.  Family dogs live inside the home and are afforded opportunity to learn appropriate behaviors through daily positive interaction with people.  Breed is not a factor when it comes to public safety.

In light of this, the adoption of presumed “pit bull” types and mixes into caring North Carolina families would be a POSITIVE step for the Vance County animal shelter.

Commissioners may also believe this policy protects the dogs from unscrupulous people and dogfighters in the area. If that were the case, then releasing the dogs to reputable in-state rescues and qualified adopters would serve that purpose. Individuals and groups are begging to help protect these dogs at no cost to the county, yet their help is being turned away. Meanwhile, the dogs continue to meet their gruesome end in the notorious Vance County gas chamber.

In light of these considerations, I urge you to immediately rescind the anti-pit bull adoption policy at the Vance County shelter and allow these dogs to be released to qualified adopters and rescue groups in North Carolina.

Sincerely, etc.

Feel free to adapt this letter and send your own message to the Vance Commissioners. Here’s a hint: I found the bits for this letter by googling various permutations of “sample letter,” “bsl,” “pit bulls,” “protest” and a few other terms, and copying bits I liked, adjusting and rewriting where necessary. You can do it, too!

And if you’re a rescuer from somewhere besides NC, please come get Smiley: 165 Vance Academy Road, Henderson, NC 27537; (252) 492-3136 -phone; (252) 492-0104 -fax; vancepets@vancecounty.org.

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Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, Vance County