HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A bill has been introduced in Columbia related to the method and manner in which animals can be euthanized.
Putting down a pet can be a very difficult, emotional thing to do. But the safety and ethics of how we euthanize animals in the state of South Carolina is now in question. Sandy Brown with the Grand Strand Humane Society says one of the most critical responsibilities of anyone who works with animals is to provide the most humane death possible.
That's why they are supporting the proposed H3343 bill to prohibit the use of gas chambers in South Carolina. Local shelter leaders say gas chambers are not recommended by any reputable, national veterinary association or any local animal care organization. Shelters frequently house the weakest animals that must be euthanized. But that weak state can actually prolong their death in these chambers, causing even more distress and pain before they lose consciousness. Even under the best circumstances, studies show it may take up to 25 minutes for an animal to die in a gas chamber.
Shelter leaders from Horry, to Florence, to Georgetown County agree this method should never be used. "The idea that gas chambers in 2015, the use of gas chambers, is a method of humane euthanasia is in itself inhumane," says Brad Floyd, the director of the St. Frances Animal Center in Georgetown County.
Gas chambers can also pose a danger to shelter staff. Carbon monoxide is a hazardous substance that is highly toxic and has no odor, color, or taste. It is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning in the U.S. Shelter workers have been injured and even killed by malfunctioning gas chambers.
This proposed bill would also make it clear that the only legal way to put an animal down, whether in a shelter or at the vet, would be through an injection. Injections take mere seconds to work.
"Many occasions, we get animals in that area so, um, in so much pain that medical rehabilitation is not an option. And again, it is incumbent upon us as compassionate beings to provide the most humane way of sending that animal on."
To be clear, there are currently no gas chambers in use in South Carolina - that authorities know of. But animal advocates are acting now. Because they worry that North Carolina's recent ban on gas chambers would put them on the market in South Carolina. Shelter leaders say that just because registered shelters and vets say right now that they are not using gas chambers, doesn't mean that someone somewhere in the state of South Carolina hasn't tried or won't try again.
Meanwhile, legislators were afraid that putting a law on the books eliminating gas chambers and switching to lethal injections would cost too much. But shelters in Greenville, Columbia, and Florence responded saying there would be no impact on the general funds, because they were already doing it as the bill requires. Although the legislators have voiced concerns over the cost of implementing the bill, gas chambers are actually more expensive to run. Recent studies have proven that the per-animal cost for euthanasia by injection is less than the cost of property maintaining and using gas chambers.
The bill was going for an up/down vote, but was just recently sent to the agriculture committee for more discussion. It's a move animal advocates don't get. They feel it's a pretty straight-forward issue that doesn't warrant any further questions. It is Floyd's understanding that the reason why it's being debated is because there are some concerns about national organizations that might support this. But according to the ASPCA and other national humane shelter and vet associations, they all condemn the use of gas chambers. This bill is also fully supported by at least a dozen shelters in the state of South Carolina.
If you would like to reach out to legislators to encourage them to pass the bill, here is a list of who to contact:
Rep Mike Ryhal
Rep Jeffrey Johnson
Rep Jackie Hayes
Rep Nelson Hardwick
Rep Kevin Hardee (House Ag Committee member)
Rep J. Wayne George
Rep Greg Duckworth (House Ag Committee member)
Rep Heather Ammons Crawford
Rep Alan Clemmons
Rep Carl Anderson
Sen Ray Cleary
Sen Ronnie Sabb
Sen Luke Rankin
Sen Greg Hembree
Rep Stephen Goldfinch
Rep Carl Anderson
Sen Ronnie Sabb
Sen Ray Cleary
Local shelter leaders encourage you to speak out on behalf of these animals, and this Saturday is a perfect opportunity to do so. Counties across the state are hosting Humane Lobby Days on Saturday. It's an opportunity for those involved in animal welfare and the public to discuss issues, pending legislation, or legislation they might like to see introduced with their lawmakers. Georgetown's will be from 11a.m.-1p.m. at St. Frances Animal Center. Horry County's will be from 1-3p.m. at the Grand Strand Humane Society.
Another bill that is up for discussion would increase the penalties for cockfighting. According the leader for the Grand Strand Humane Society, weak penalties have made South Carolina a magnet for cock fighting. Of 85 people arrested in a cockfighting raid in Greenville County back in 2010, 39 had come from states that punish cockfighting as a felony. Cockfighting is associated with other illegal activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and illegal gambling. Not to mention, it's cruel and inhumane.
A recent federal investigation showed that winners of large cockfighting derbies in South Carolina have been known to walk away with anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 on any given weekend. The maximum fine in South Carolina is only $1,000 and a misdemeanor charge.
Leaders at the Grand Strand Humane Society also hope to come up with a bill to ban puppy mills in the Palmetto State. They want to discuss what defines a puppy mill and what would be considered fair punishment. It's something the shelter leaders plan to discuss Saturday when Senator Luke Rankin is scheduled to stop by. You are more than welcome to join in on the discussion and tell the senator what is important to you when it comes to protecting animals in your area.