Pets and companion animals play a central role in the lives of families across the country. Sadly, each year, five to seven million lost or unwanted animals end up in shelters. To raise awareness for these cats and dogs in search of a good home, the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, which I co-chair with Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), joined with ten local animal shelters and the ASPCA to showcase 50 adoptable pets on Capitol Hill. The event, entitled “Paws for Celebration,” celebrated the staff, volunteers, and pets in our nation’s animal shelters and rescues.
Hundreds of congressional staffers and several Members of Congress attended the event, spending time getting to know these adorable creatures. Amid the constant partisan fighting in Congress, “Paws for Celebration” served as a reminder that animals provide comfort to Democrats and Republicans alike. Supporting the vital services provided by local animal shelters should never be a partisan issue. The event was a success, at least two of the pets found a loving owner, one I’m proud to say was a staffer in my office.
Not every shelter animal, however, finds a home. Despite successful efforts in recent years to expand spay/neuter programs and increase adoptions, nearly half of the animals cared for in shelters each year are euthanized. While this remains an undesirable reality, euthanized animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. Unfortunately, many animal shelters across the country still use gas chambers to euthanize animals. Currently, only 18 states, including Virginia, have outlawed this practice.
The use of gas chambers is a dangerous and inhumane method for euthanizing shelter animals. Studies indicate that using carbon monoxide and other gases can result in prolonged suffering and distress, particularly among old, pregnant, sick or injured animals unable to readily absorb the gas. Further, gas chambers threaten the safety of shelter workers, causing the death of at least one human and severely injuring several others.
To bring more attention to this unnecessarily gruesome practice, I recently introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives, H. Res. 736, opposing the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals. The resolution calls for states to instead use the more humane “euthanasia by injection” method and to ensure that training and certification in the use of these drugs is widely available. I am hopeful that with the continued advocacy of compassionate citizens, we can put an end to this outdated practice.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.