The Ashe County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of phasing out the carbon monoxide gas chamber at county animal control and instead use injection as the method of euthanasia.
Commissioners Gary Roark, William Sands and Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe voted for the motion, with Comissioner Gerald Price and Chairman Larry Rhodes voting no. The vote drew the applause of an audience consisting of numerous animal rights activists.
The county will receive a $7,000 grant from the Humane Society of the United States for changing the procedure. Sands proposed those funds be used to cover any extra costs incurred by the injections.
Using the gas chamber for pets is still legal in North Carolina, but is illegal in 22 states including Tennessee and Virginia.
Prior to the voting, many citizens in attendance spoke in support of the measure.
Mike D’Angiolillo of Lansing was the first to speak out about the issue.
“Shelter animals are scared, they’re abused for some reason, they’re neglected and they’re confused,” he said. “But they do deserve a measure of dignity and comfort in their final moments on this Earth.”
Jeff Jones, a former animal control director for Ashe County also spoke about the issue of animal euthanasia.
“I’m not an advocate of injection, and I’m not an advocate of carbon monoxide,” he said. “Because I’m not an advocate of euthanizing or putting to death healthy, happy adoptable animals.”
Jones said that the county needed to attack the root of the problem.
“We’ve created in our society an overpopulation of animals,” he said. “That’s our responsibility and that’s the fault of us… and we have to deal with that problem.”
Jones said the county should implement a preferred policy of injection if it is safe, but to not take away the discretion of the animal control staff in other situations.
Following a recess, the board returned to vote on the animal euthanasia measure.
Sands, who made the motion to phase out the gas chambers, first talked about his love of animals.
“The real answer is adoption, neutering… and saving animals,” he said. “I have four rescue animals, two dogs and two cats. It’s a very hard decision and I have heard both sides.”
Roark seconded the motion and said he strongly supported the motion.
During discussion of the measure, Price gave an explanation as to why he was voting no, citing the safety of animal control employees dealing with feral animals.
“I know there’s going to be times that it needs to be discretionary upon the animal control department and we entrusted that department with some good people, and knowledgeable people,” he said. “I feel like there’s going to be times they will have some really, really bad feral animals and they are going to be at risk trying to inject those animals.”
After the vote, Vice Chairman Poe also made a statement on her decision.
“I don’t want to see any animal suffer and that’s the reason I voted for this,” she said. “I know they are some people’s baby.”
In other action taken by the board:
• The board approved the nonvehicle and vehicle releases from July 1 through July 31 unanimously.
• The board approved a grant to spend up to $4,200 which will be refunded for S.W.A.T team equipment. The final vote was 4-1 with Price voting no.
• In attendance were: commissioners Roark, Sands, Price, Vice Chair Poe and Chairman Rhodes.