A simple directive has accomplished what North Carolina’s legislature, despite repeated efforts, couldn’t — and, as of the middle of February 2015, animal shelters in the state will be all but banned from killing unwanted dogs and cats in gas chambers.
For those who waged battles to do way with gas chambers in their home counties, and those who worked to pass statewide legislation ending their use, it’s a cause for celebration.
But it’s also a little confusing. If all it took to change things was a directive from the state Department of Agriculture — basically, a memo — why all the years of bickering, grandstanding and politics (both clean and dirty)?
If only the stroke of an administrator’s pen was needed to end such a cruel and callous process, why did it take so long?
The memo issued this month by the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s veterinary division gives shelters until Feb. 15 to switch to lethal injections. Gas chambers, which kill animals with carbon monoxide — sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups — will only be permitted for “unusual and rare circumstances, such as natural disasters and large-scale disease outbreaks.”
Patricia Norris, the Agriculture Department’s new animal welfare director, said the directive was based on guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which in 2013 finally recommended against the use of gas chambers for “routine euthanasia.”
(We’d disagree with both of the words in that phrase. Ending the life of a dog simply because he’s unwanted or because a facility is overcrowded isn’t a mercy killing; it’s a money-saving killing. And common as the practice is, we hate seeing it called “routine” — which it certainly isn’t for the dog.)
While animal welfare organizations, including the ASPCA, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, have been saying the practice is inhumane for years, it wasn’t until the AVMA adjusted its stance that the state decided to take action.
The Humane Society of the United States hailed the change. “It’s going to lift that stigma that was associated with North Carolina animal shelters,” said Kim Alboum, the HSUS’s state director is quoted as saying in the Raleigh News & Observer. “The pound is gone, and I think that’s something to celebrate.”
Only four of North Carolina’s 197 approved shelters still use gas chambers.
According to the HSUS, North Carolina becomes the 25th state with a formal ban in place. (Many states yet to ban gas chambers are no longer using them.)
“To put an animal inside a gas chamber, their final moments are alone in a dark box,” Alboum said. “Sometimes they don’t die right away. If we have to euthanize animals, at least the animal is touched, at least the animal has some dignity and some human contact.”
Among those to recently cease the practice are Johnston County, which earlier this turned its gassing equipment into a work of art, designed to look like the tree of life. In Cleveland County, a fundraiser was held that allowed donors to “whack the chamber” with a sledgehammer.
Shutting down the gas chambers is a long overdue step in the right direction. Then again, lethal injection isn’t really something to celebrate. What is? The day we stop killing dogs. Period.
(Photo of the gas chamber in Franklin County, NC, by Takaaki Iwabu, from the Raleigh News & Observer; graphic courtesy of Humane Society of the United States)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal, animal shelters, animals, counties, cruelty, directive, dogs, euthanasia, gas, gas chambers, kill, legislature, lethal injection, memo, no-kill, north carolina, pets, politics, shelters
The Humane Society of the United States may not have Jerry Brown on a leash, but the organization’s state director takes the California governor’s dog out on one — nearly every day.
Jennifer Fearing is a regular dog walker for Sutter, the governor’s corgi, and gun rights groups are saying the free service she provides — on top of giving the lobbyist undue influence — may amount to an illegal contribution.
“Does the hand that holds the leash of California’s ‘first dog,’ cuddly corgi Sutter Brown, also have a hand in guiding policy with the dog’s master, Gov. Jerry Brown?” an article in the San Francisco Chronicle asked.
Gun rights groups point out that all six pieces of animal rights-related legislation Fearing lobbied for in the most recent legislative session were approved and signed by Brown, including Assembly Bill 711, which, over the objection of hunters, banned the use of lead ammunition.
“The question needs to be asked,” said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for Free California, a gun-rights group that opposed the lead ammunition ban. “Is there a conflict of interest with such a close relationship between a lobbyist and a governor.”
Kerns said gun-rights and hunting groups are considering filing a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission
Critics say Fearing may be breaking the rules because she hasn’t reported the dog walking as an in-kind contribution.
“For someone who did not hesitate to take the moral high ground in denigrating the ethical standards of hunters during the campaign to ban lead ammunition, it is disappointing to see that Jennifer Fearing does not hold herself to those same ethical standards in properly disclosing her relationship with the governor,” Chuck Michel, California attorney for the National Rifle Association, said in a statement.
Fearing has been walking Sutter around the Capitol grounds since Brown took office in 2011, and their trysts have never exactly been a secret. The two toured the state together to campaign for the governor’s pet tax increase, which the Humane Society was in favor of. Last year, Sutter and Fearing joined the governor and animal rights activists to push for California’s Pet Lover’s license plate.
While it’s true the way to a governor’s heart is through his dog, Fearing and Brown (and we guess Sutter) are already of pretty like minds when it comes to animal welfare, so walking his dog isn’t likely changing the course of history. And as Fearing points out, the volunteer gig doesn’t give her direct access to the governor’s ears, just Sutter’s.
“I wouldn’t misuse that relationship,” Fearing told the Chronicle. “I deal with staff, and I go through the right channels,” she said.
Still, the arrangement provides gun groups with some ammunition, and their ethical concerns aren’t entirely off target.
Fearing says her love of dogs — not political gain — is what motivates her to walk Sutter.
“I would like to believe that we live in a civilized society where you can do neighborly things like walking people’s dogs.”
(Photo: Jennifer Fearing, senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, with Gov. Brown’s dog, Sutter; by Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 28th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ammunition, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, california, corgi, director, dog, dog walker, dog walking, dogs, free california, governor, guns, humane society, humane society of the united states, jennifer fearing, jennifer kerns, jerry brown, laws, legislature, lobbying, lobbyist, pets, politics, sutter
There’s a rising star in the North Carolina legislature, and she has four legs.
A miniature Pomeranian named Diva comes to work every day at the General Assembly with her owners, Republican representative Nathan Ramsey and his wife, Robin Ramsey, a legislative assistant — and the fuzzy four-pound dog is said to be developing quite a following.
The Ramseys, who live on a farm in Fairview during the off-season, say they started bringing Diva to work in February, because they thought she’d be lonely staying at the condo they reside in while in Raleigh.
Since then, she’s shown herself to be a valuable asset, both a diplomat and a crowd-drawer.
“… In a short time, the taffy-colored rescue pup has arguably become the most chased after creature at the legislative building. Walk in on any given day and you’ll see a steady stream of bipartisan visitors knocking on the Ramseys’ office door,” North Carolina Public Radio station WUNC (91.5 FM) reported.
“It certainly opened the door to more visitors, which is good,” said Robin Ramsey.
On building tours for visiting schoolchildren, Diva’s office has become a regular stop — and, we’d guess, one of the more exciting ones.
“I make it a point to stop by,” said Democrat Rick Glazier of Fayetteville. “You can’t leave after playing with Diva and talking to the Ramseys unhappy or in a bad mood, and that is not always true around here.”
Ramsey, a former county commissioner, says Diva helps breaks the ice and cut through frosty exteriors. And he suspects she has helped him garner support for at least a couple of measures he has introduced.
“A lot of this is about relationships, and really, unless you’re a seat-mate with someone, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to reach across the aisle,” he said. “You don’t develop relationships by sitting in a committee meeting. You have to find out about other people’s lives and families and get to know them in more depth.”
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis recently stopped by Ramsey’s office with his boxer, Ike. A spokesman for the speaker reported the get-together was ”like many meetings in this building — more sniffing around than anything else.”
Back home on the family dairy farm, Diva likes to spend her time circling the baby calf pen.
She likes to round things up, Ramsey says, and those skills seem to have translated from barnyard to state house.
(Photo by Jessica Jones / WUNC)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 26th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, diva, dog, dogs, dogs and politics, fairview, fans, farm, general assembly, ice breaker, legislature, nathan ramsey, north carolina, pets, politics, pomeranian, raleigh, representative, republican, robin ramsey, state house, visitors, workplace
First, voters passed Proposition B — aimed at more closely regulating the sort of big dog breeding operations that had earned Missouri the nickname of the puppy mill state.
Then, the state legislature took steps to gut it, caving in to the concerns of breeders and agricultural interests.
Now, in a move that could put an end to the bitter war that has ensued over Proposition B, Gov. Jay Nixon announced today that he had brokered a compromise solution that will protect dogs as well and business people, according to the the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The agreement incorporates parts of the dog-breeding initiative passed by state voters last November and parts of a bill rewriting Proposition B, passed last week by the legislature, which apparently had no problem ignoring the will of voters.
The new agreement still requires larger cages with outdoor runs for breeding dogs, and annual exams, but it gives breeders additional time to meet new housing standards — and it no longer limits breeders to no more than 50 breeding dogs.
The agreement still needs approval by the Legislature before the mandatory May 13 adjournment of the legislative session.
“People with good minds and good will have come together to develop a Missouri solution to this Missouri issue, and together we have made significant progress,” Nixon said. “I look forward to continuing to work with these leaders as we move this proposal through the legislative process as swiftly and efficiently as possible.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agreement, animal welfare, animals, breeders, breeding, compromise, dogs, governor, industry, initiative, jay nixon, legislature, missouri, pets, proposition b, puppy mills, voters
At the end of the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly, animal welfare advocates are celebrating passage of five major animal protection bills, and the defeat of two that they say would have had an adverse impact on animal welfare.
And to top it all off, as of July, dogs can legally dine in the outside seating areas of restaurants that opt to permit them.
“In the past animal protection laws in Maryland have been weaker than other states. But now we are making huge progress to improve the treatment of Maryland’s animals,” said Carolyn Kilborn, chair of Maryland Votes for Animals.
Kilborn attributes the gains to animal welfare advocates being better organized and more outspoken.
The General Assembly passed the following bills during the 2011 session:
- Senate Bill 839, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore City, which requires commercial dog breeders to be licensed by the county in which they operate, and requires counties to report basic information about these commercial breeders once a year to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. This bill will provide critical information to understand the impact of puppy mills in the state. Companion legislation, HB 990, was sponsored by Del. Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery County.
- Senate Bill 639, sponsored by Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, which will set up a task force to study the need for funding of spay and neuter programs in Maryland. An estimated 48,000 homeless dogs and cats are euthanized in Maryland shelters annually. Affordable, accessible spay/neuter programs can help prevent this tragedy. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have a public funding mechanism to subsidize the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for those who cannot afford it. The task force will be comprised of representatives from animal control, humane societies, non-profit spay/neuter organizations, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Department of Agriculture and others. Companion legislation, HB 339, was sponsored by Del. Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s County.
- House Bill 227 sponsored by Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery County, which will allow courts to prohibit someone convicted of animal cruelty from owning animals as a term of probation. This legislation had strong backing from organizations addressing the issue of domestic violence. Companion legislation, SB 115, was co-sponsored by Sen. James Robey, D-Howard County.
- Senate Bill 747 sponsored by Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, which allows courts to include protections for pets in domestic violence protective orders. Research has repeatedly shown a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Children and animals in the family are often threatened, or actually harmed, as a way to manipulate and coerce others in the family. Victims of domestic violence often delay leaving abusive situations because they fear for the safety of their companion animals. This legislation benefits both people and animals and had strong support for organizations which address the problem of domestic violence. Companion legislation, HB 407, was sponsored by Del. Susan McComas, R-Harford County.
- House Bill 897, sponsored by Del. Peter Murphy, D-Charles County, to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in most major antifreeze brands, has an aroma and a sweet flavor which can tempt animals to drink the highly toxic substance. Adding a bittering agent makes it less attractive to companion animals and wildlife.
- House Bill 941, sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim, D- Baltimore County, which permits restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas.
Maryland Votes for Animals (MVFA) works to create an ever-growing voting bloc of animal advocates who will elect representatives willing to champion and vote for animal protection legislation.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2011, advocacy, animal, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, antifreeze, bills, breeders, breeding, commercial, dining with dogs, dogs, domestic violence, general assembly, house, laws, legislation, legislature, maryland, maryland votes for animals, neuter, outdoor, pets, protection, senate, spay
O’Malley, whose family has two dogs, is expected to sign the bill, the Baltimore Sun reports on its Maryland Politics blog.
The bill permits restaurants with outdoor patios and tables to welcome dogs, if they want to.
Del. Dan Morhaim sponsored the legislation, and said it will provide a financial boost for restaurants and bars heading into the outdoor dining season.
The Dining Out Growth Act of 2011 permits restaurants statewide to have outdoor space for humans and dogs to eat together — as is already the case in Frederick County, for which similar legislation was passed last year.
Opponents of the bill said it could lead to more dog bites and other health hazards.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allowed, animals, bill, dan morhaim, dining, dining out growth act, dining with dogs, dog, dog friendly, dogs, frederick county, governor, health, laws, legislature, martin o'malley, maryland, outdoor, patio, pets, politics, restaurants, seating, signature
Sen. Don Vaughan, a Greensboro Democrat, filed what he dubbed “Chamberlin’s Law” on the opening day of the General Assembly session, according to the Greensboro News-Record.
The bill would allow criminal charges to be brought against pet owners who “recklessly” neglect their pets, as opposed to the current law, which allows just those accused of doing so “maliciously” or “intentionally” to be prosecuted.
“They’re living things,” Vaughan said of dogs. “And they’re different from having a desk or a chair. They’re actually living beings in God’s world, and we ought to take care of them at least to a minimum standard.”
The bill has been named after Chamberlin, a black and white pit bull mix who was severely neglected — left in a backyard in High Point among tall weeds along with another dog. The other dog, who had been tethered, became so sick it had to be euthanized. Chamberlin was in bad shape, as well.
“His front legs had fused together,” said Marsha Williams, executive director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter. He was unable to walk when he arrived at the shelter in December, but was still wagging his tail, she said.
Since then he has put on weight and in coming weeks he will be fitted with a wheelchair to support the weight of his front legs, which no longer function.
The dog’s care was paid for with donations, some of which came from a fund established in the name of Susie — a dog that was beaten and lit on fire. The judge refused to sentence the perpetrator in that case to jail time because it was his first offense. The public outcry that followed led to ”Susie’s Law,” which increased the penalties for animal cruelty and gave judges discretion to sentence even first-time offenders to active jail time in certain cases.
The owner of Chamberlin is facing charges in Guilford County court, but under current laws, prosecutors will have to prove the dog’s owners intentionally or maliciously let him waste away.
Chamberlin’s law would switch that standard to “recklessly,” which is easier to prove.
In addition to making cruelty cases easier to prosecute, the bill also would set minimum standards for the shelter that dogs must have if they are kept outside and give judges the power to seize animals and order psychiatric evaluations in animal neglect and cruelty cases.
Sen. Austin Allran, a Hickory Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee to which the measure has been assigned, said the bill could face an uphill battle. In the past, hunting and dog breeding groups have fought similar measures.
(Photo: Nelson Kepley / Greensboro News-Record)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, chamberlin, chamberlin's law, dog, dogs, don vaughan, fused, general assembly, greensboro, high point, law, legislation, legislature, legs, neglect, north carolina, pets, proposal, proposed, senator, susie's law