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Animal shelter demolishing gas chamber

A sad reminder of old policies will soon be gone at Columbus County Animal Control.

Shelter Manager Joey Prince said the gas chamber that was used to kill thousands of animals over the course of decades will soon be dismantled and discarded. The chamber hasn’t been used for years, Prince said, and was partially disassembled some time ago.

Although the remaining structure is primarily just empty masonry blocks, Prince said the chamber is in the way, and serves no purpose except to remind staff and visitors of how unwanted animals were once euthanized.

The chamber was last used around 2007, and shelters were banned by state law in 2014. Dogs, cats and other animals have been killed by lethal injection since the chamber was shut down.

Thankfully, Prince said, improved adoption rates have significantly reduced the number of animals put down at the shelter.

Fewer than 30 adoptable dogs and cats have been euthanized at the shelter this year due to overcrowding. In 2006, an average of 100 animals were killed on a monthly basis.

“We’re pleased that we’re able to network with animal welfare groups to re-home nearly every adoptable animal that comes through the shelter,” he said. “The emphasis still needs to be on spaying and neutering, but reducing the euthanasia rate is a major accomplishment. I’m proud of the hard work of our staff and volunteers to make this happen.”

Chambers were used widely across the country for decades. Animals were placed in the sealed metal and concrete box, then carbon monoxide was pumped inside, asphyxiating the animals. Death could sometimes take several minutes.

“On the rare occasions an animal has to be put down,” Prince said, “it’s only responsible to do so in as humane a way as possible. The chamber was never a humane method, but it was the industry standard for years. We’re proud that we can take this next step forward in protecting and helping both animals and the citizens of our county.

“Tearing down the remains of the chamber is just a gesture,” he said, “but it’s an important one.”

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