Senate bans gas chambers for animal euthanasia; sparks Holocaust, suicide debate

If there was any way that the euthanasia of dogs and cats can be related to the Holocaust, the Georgia Senate found a way. On Wednesday, the Senate approved a bill that would force the last counties in the state to switch from gas to injection to kill dogs and cats that have ended up in a pound.`

“It does away with the gas chamber,” said Renee Unterman (R-Buford). “Gassing is cruelty.”

HB 788 passed 38-9 and will give counties three years to switch from gas to injection.

But in voting against the bill, Sen. Bill Heath, a Republican from Bremen, championed the merits of gas as the most humane way for animals – and humans – to die.

From the well, Heath recounted a story in which he was working on his car and got overcome by carbon monoxide gas. He said he experienced a “drowsy, euphoric” feeling. No pain at all.

“I wasn’t worried about anything. There was nothing adverse about the feeling and I knew that this feeling good was a bad sign,” Heath said. “I can understand why people use it to commit suicide.”

To his credit, Heath never advocated suicide, nor did he ever mention the Holocaust, but his implication that dying in a gas chamber is not a bad thing for animals or humans stunned some of his Senate colleagues.

“Between 1941 and 1945 there were about 6 million people who would disagree with you about that gas,” said Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). “I can’t think of anyone who would support that method when you have another.”

During World War II millions of Jews were killed in gas chambers by Nazis who used hydrogen cyanide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide for mass exterminations.

Added Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain): “For a senator to come to well and say [Carbon Monoxide gas] makes you feel good is inconceivable.”

Since World War II carbon monoxide gas chambers were commonly used at animal shelters throughout the country to destroy stray animals.

The American Veterinary Medical Association considers carbon monoxide gassing an acceptable method of euthanasia when done properly because, “it induces loss of consciousness without pain and with minimal discernible discomfort.”

In a sit down interview later, Heath stressed that there is nothing inhumane about carbon monoxide gas and added that he was not trying to draw correlations to the Holocaust.

“I don’t know what kind of gas they used,” said Heath, adding that gas is safer for the handlers to use on the animals and offers a painless death for the animals. “I do know that gas is a lot less traumatic than a needle. I know that first hand. When I get a shot, I jump even now. And I don’t think there is a soul in this building that would want to hurt an animal.”

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April 21st, 2010
9:49 pm

Heath was obviously brain damaged by his exposure to carbon monoxide. Idiot.

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April 21st, 2010
11:08 pm

It’s astonishing that a conversation like this would even go on in an actual so-called “governing body”. I’m almost totally speechless!


April 22nd, 2010
12:03 pm

It would be helpful for this article to make clear that it’s the hydrogen cyanide that made gassing during the holocaust so unbelievably painful, not the carbon monoxide (as far as we know). Sen. Heath’s statement about people choosing carbon monoxide poisoning as suicide method was perfectly accurate. Also, carbon monoxide is part of cigarette smoke.

The only embarassing thing about this conversation is that elected Senators who don’t know the difference between car exhaust and agonizing gas-chamber poisons would choose to conflate them in public discourse.


April 22nd, 2010
4:08 pm

I have mixed emotions. The problem with injections is the amount of medicine needed to euthanize an animals depends on its weight and size. Sometimes vets (or whomever is administering the dose) don’t use enough to kill the animal necessitating a second shot. I don’t know enough about gassing animals to know how effective it is or whether they are less painful than using needles to euthanize pets.

I rarely agree with a Republican on anything but I’m not so sure Senator Heath is not correct on this one. People that die by carbon monoxide do not suffer any pain in the process. Most of the time they aren’t even aware of what is happening, which is why carbon monoxide poisoning is so dangerous.

If I had an option of dying by lethal injection or gas I’m not sure I wouldn’t take the gas.


April 22nd, 2010
5:03 pm

If gas chambers are less painful and less traumatic than lethal injection, why don’t veterinarians use them in their private practices? Think about it, folks. There are volumes of eye-witness accounts of shelters putting 5-20 animals (cats and dogs) together in one cage into a gas chamber at the same time. The animals scream, struggle and defecate and vomit on each other for as long as 45 minutes in some cases. Occassionally an animal survives at the bottom of the pile of deceased. Shelter workers have died of carbon monoxide poisoning from operating these machines. A person died in a shelter in Tennessee which is why that state outlawed gas chambers several years ago. A gas chamber exploded in a North Carolina shelter last year. Only 1% of shelters in the U.S. still use gas chambers. There’s a logical and humane reason why. Gas chambers are cruel and unnecessary. Let’s step into the 21st century rather than discussing the best way to kill an innocent, healthy animal. Lethal injection is the undisputed preferred method of euthanasia by veterinarians and people who are letting go of their beloved pets.

Michael Franks / Birmingham, AL

April 22nd, 2010
5:14 pm

Would someone who actually is involved in the process, perhaps a Certifiec Euthansia Tech (CET) please update everyone on what gases are actually used? …isoflurane / sevoflurane / nitrous oxide / desflurane ? Any or all? Other gas or mixture? I won’t argue that death by CARBON MONOXIED is reportedly a painless process; however, when several animals are placed in a chamber together, could someone please describe some of the negative effects of this process on the animals,irrespective of the type gas used? Clarification about the actual gases most typically used (and their side effects) would be appreciated for the sake of ongoing comments.

Pat Thomas

April 22nd, 2010
10:18 pm

It is beyond my comprehension how some people become politicians. Is it that you have to be completely CLUELESS to be elected? I am seriously embarrassed by the leaders in this state. Unbelievable. Here’s a quote for this Senator Heath: “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” – Amos Bronson Alcott I will pray for animal welfare in this state, and that people start electing people who are educated.

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April 23rd, 2010
12:02 pm

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[...] The American Veterinary Medical Assn. considers gassing to be an acceptable means of euthanasia on the grounds that "it induces loss of consciousness without pain and with minimal discernible discomfort," the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. [...]

[...] gas chamber in the state yesterday and sent it to the Governor for signing.  The approval was not unanimous however: But in voting against the bill, Sen. Bill Heath, a Republican from Bremen, championed the [...]

[...] Bill Heath (R-Bremen) opposed a statewide ban on gas chambers in animal shelters, saying that it’s not such a bad way to die. He makes this claim based on the time he became overcome by carbon monoxide while working on his [...]


August 24th, 2010
5:42 pm

i wish all these idiots that gas the animals are put into their own gas chamber to die and instead of killing poor defenseless animals we should kill the freaking people that kill/murder and do crimes and deserve to die a horrible death instead of living in a cell and having tax payers pay for their life to be spared…. this makes me hate people!!!!!! i don’t understand why they are so stupid!