The Multiple Attempts Made Upon Andrea's Life Graphically Demonstrate the Urgent Need for an Immediate Ban on the Killing of All Shelter Animals
"While this story about an animal's tremendous will to live is extraordinary, the practice of euthanizing animals in a gas chamber is all too ordinary. It is very disturbing to realize how many other animals have survived the gas chamber, only to be gassed again or, worse, placed in a plastic bag alive and left to suffocate in a cold cooler."
-- Community Animal Welfare Society
Pretty little Andrea with her luxuriant black fur and dainty white paws was minding her own business one day in September when she was set upon and abducted off the mean streets of West Valley City, Utah. She then cruelly was incarcerated without either trial or legal representation for the next thirty days at the West Valley City Animal Shelter (WVCAS).
Since she was house trained and especially friendly, it was obvious from the outset that she at one time had been someone's companion. Most likely she either had been abandoned or became separated from her guardian for some unknown reason.
Totally unwilling to even consider either her past history or her inalienable right to live, WVCAS decided on October 13th to do away with her in its carbon monoxide gas chamber. After all, a little gas is considerably easier on the wallet than feeding, housing, and medicating a cat. Moreover, procuring a new home for her was totally out of the question because that would have required time and work as well as money.
Without either further ado or so much as an inkling of compassion, WVCAS locked her inside its death house along with several other cats and turned on the gas. When against all odds she somehow survived that attempt on her life, the diabolical monsters who operate WVCAS turned around and gave her another dousing. Satisfied that she now finally was dead, an unidentified employee wrapped her up tight in a black plastic trash bag and stowed her corpse in a 37° Fahrenheit freezer.
Andrea had proven to be harder to kill than the vast majority of the tens of millions of cats that routinely are exterminated each year in the United States but the staff at WVCAS was able to take satisfaction in knowing that she finally was done for and that her corpse soon would be reduced to ashes. Since out of sight is equivalent to being out of mind, it would be as if she never had existed.
Besides, she meant absolutely nothing to her cold-blooded killers who think no more of gassing a cat than they do of passing gas. Killing and abusing defenseless animals is, after all, how they earn their daily bread and, in some cases, get their perverted kicks.
Imagine then the shock when her killer, returning to the freezer forty-five minutes later in order to deposit the corpse of a fourteen-year-old dog, heard a meow. Tearing open the plastic bag, the employee found Andrea trembling and covered in vomit and poop but very much alive. As Charles Dickens said of Dr. Alexandre Manette in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, she had been recalled to life.(See photo of her above shortly after being gassed and the one below of her later in foster care.)
While it is extremely rare for an animal to survive even one gassing, it is almost unheard of for one to survive two such attempts. In most cases, survival depends upon there being a leak in the chamber which allows some of the gas to escape.
Other factors impacting survival rates include, inter alia, the number of animals being gassed, the concentration of the carbon monoxide, and the health of the animals. Generally speaking, young and healthy animals stand a significantly better chance of surviving than do their opposites and since carbon monoxide is heavier than air it tends to sink to the floor thus favoring tall dogs and those animals able to climb on top of their doomed companions.
For its part, WVCAS insists that there was nothing awry with its gas chamber . "The chamber was working properly," the organization's Aaron Crim told The Salt Lake City Tribune on October 17th. (See "Death Can't Catch This West Valley City Cat.") "In fact, several other cats were euthanized at the same time, and this cat is the only one that survived."
Perhaps then Andrea survived by either avoiding the higher concentrations of gas at the bottom of the chamber or by somehow not inhaling very much of it. Even if that were the case, it does not explain either how she was able to survive in an airtight trash bag for almost an hour or to ward off the numbing effects of hypothermia.
In defense of WVCAS's unconscionable and abhorrent behavior, Crim claims that gassing is an effective way of exterminating animals. "This is actually a recommended method by the American Veterinarian Association (sic) and we follow all the procedural guidelines that they give us," he blew long and hard to WPTV of West Palm Beach on October 17th. (See "Andrea the Cat Survives Multiple Euthanization Attempts at Utah Shelter.") "We've never had an instance like this since we started using this method so it does work."
To rely upon the cruel and inhumane pronouncements of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in regard to killing animals is tantamount to sanctioning almost any kind of barbarism. For example, the AVMA not only sanctions the use of almost any drug but also wholeheartedly approves of, inter alia, gunshots, electrocution, decapitation, maceration, blows to the head, cervical dislocation, microwave irradiation, thoracic compression, kill traps, exsanguination, stunning, pithing, and captive bolts as acceptable means of killing animals.
The AVMA's inveterate hatred of homeless cats is well documented but its abhorrent killing policies reveal it to be a thoroughly reprehensible moneygrubbing fraud. That is not even taking into consideration its naked collaboration with factory farmers, slaughterhouses, vivisectors, and sportsmen and entertainers who exploit and abuse animals. In short, anyone who would rely upon it for guidance on how shelter animals should be treated also no doubt would find the minimalist protections afforded laboratory animals under the feeble Animal Welfare Act as worthy of praise.
Crim is such a no-good rotter that he did not even have the bon sens to stop there, but instead went on to ludicrously claim that gassing animals is humane. "It's actually very humane and it's very quick," he declared to WPTV. "This is just an anomaly."
He also apparently believes in resurrections. "There were no vital signs and for whatever reason as time went on the cat came back to life," he told The Salt Lake Tribune in the article cited supra. That puts him in the same class as evangelist Oral Roberts who during his lifetime claims to have raised the dead.
Unfortunately, there is not any way of verifying Crim's claim as to the efficacy of his killing chamber but, generally speaking, killing animals with carbon monoxide is far from being foolproof. That is why some shelters are on record as admitting to wringing the necks of cats and dogs that have survived gassing attempts as well as drowning others in buckets of water.
In Andrea's case, WVCAS actually made four separate attempts on her life. Besides gassing her twice, it not only attempted to suffocate her in a plastic bag but also to freeze her to death in an icebox.
After that, the shelter finally gave up and threw in the towel. "It was just one of those things where they (sic) thought this cat obviously wants to live," Crim told the Daily Mail on October 19th. (See "The Cat That Wouldn't Die!") "Let's give it a chance to find a permanent home."
A statement such as that is difficult to believe because if Crim and WVCAS were serious about placing Andrea in a new home they would have done so weeks ago instead of electing to take the cheap and easy route by snuffing out her life.
Secondly, anyone so callous as to nonchalantly refer to the taking of an innocent life as "just one of those things" quite obviously would not have felt ill at ease at either Treblinka or Buchenwald. More than likely, WVCAS ultimately spared Andrea's life simply because it was too cheap and miserly to spend any more time and money killing her.
Crim's comments expose WVCAS as fervently believing the en masse eradication of cats, dogs, and other helpless animals to be little more than a sadistic game designed for its own amusement and livelihood. Such behavior is reminiscent of drunken louts who, while beating their spouses to a bloody pulp, never stop out of compassion but rather only once their arms grow too tired to inflict any more damage.
Andrea may have survived WVCAS's multiple attempts on her life but she did not come away unscathed. The double exposure to the deadly carbon monoxide has left her with undetermined neurological damage that is reflected in an unsteady gait.
It additionally is feared that she may have suffered serious liver and kidney damage. She initially was taken to Orchard Animal Clinic in Centerville for emergency treatment and later transferred to the Community Animal Welfare Society's (CAWS) no-kill shelter in Clearfield.
She since has been placed in foster care with CAWS' volunteer Janita Coombs of Syracuse. (See photo above of Andrea treating Coombs to a game of catch the string.)
At last report, she is said to be eating and drinking but having some difficulties using the litter box. Blood and urine samples taken from her are said to be mostly normal. Nevertheless, attending veterinarians have recommended to Coombs and CAWS that she remain in foster care for a few more weeks before being spayed and placed with another family.
In the meantime, her caretakers and well-wishers from around the world remain on tenterhooks hoping against hope that she did not suffer any significant damage from the carbon monoxide. Nevertheless, she certainly is faring considerably better than she was at WVCAS.
"When we first got her, she had some difficulty walking. When they found her hypothermic in the freezer she had vomited and defecated on herself, but she has since seemed to recover quite well," Coombs told The Salt Lake Tribune in the article cited supra. "If you just look at her she looks perfectly healthy."
Like everyone else, Coombs has been impressed with Andrea's will to live. "She's pretty tough, obviously," she marveled to the Daily Mail in the article cited supra. "She's definitely got some will to live."
Since carbon monoxide gas chambers are perfectly legal in Utah, it is going to be difficult for CAWS to hold WVCAS accountable. Undeterred nonetheless, it is planning on putting in a request under the Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) for Andrea's shelter file and it may also file a complaint against the shelter. At the very least, WVCAS should be held liable for Andrea's veterinary treatment for as long as she lives.
More generally speaking, CAWS has placed itself in the untenable position of advocating on the one hand for the abolition of gas chambers while simultaneously continuing to support traditional shelters on the other hand. It is, however, its wrongheaded policy of blaming the public for the hideous crimes that shelters and Animal Control officers voluntarily choose to commit that is the most revolting. After all, no society exterminates orphans and abandoned children just because their parents have failed to fulfill their obligations to them.
"But it must be recognized that the animal shelters have a very difficult task of dealing with the unwanted animals in our communities," the organization complained October 18th on its web site. (See "Andrea's Story.") "Ultimately, the practice of euthanizing animals is a tragic result of pet overpopulation caused in general by people who do not spay or neuter their pets or abandon them."
That is pure baloney! Shelters and Animal Control officers kill cats and dogs because, first of all, they get paid for doing so and, secondly, that is how they get their perverted kicks. These monsters should not be pitied; au contraire, they belong in jail!
Even though CAWS blows considerable smoke about sterilization, its does not give any indication on its web site that it provides this valuable service to the community. More to the point, organizations that are serious about reducing the number of unwanted cats and dogs, such as PetSmart and the Toby Project in New York City, offer this service gratis.
CAWS also is remiss in limiting its advocacy to the abolition of gas chambers. "While this story about an animal's tremendous will to live is extraordinary, the practice of euthanizing animals in a gas chamber is all too ordinary," the organization stated on its web site in the October 18th article cited supra. "It's very disturbing to realize how many other animals have survived the gas chamber, only to be gassed again or, worse, placed in a plastic bag alive and left to suffocate in a cold cooler."
Gassing, suffocation, and hypothermia are sans doute horrible ways for an animal to die, but so too are sodium pentobarbital, gunshot wounds to the head, and electrocution. CAWS and other organizations should be advocating for the inalienable right of all animals to live and for the abolition of traditional shelters instead of sucking up to them.
Since shelters are not about to disclose how many animals survive trips to the gas chamber, they likewise are not about to reveal how many of them later either suffocate in trash bags or freeze to death in refrigeration facilities. The little information that exists on this taboo subject is therefore anecdotal.
For example, a few years back a puppy named Davie was found alive in a Dumpster after having been gassed at a shelter in North Carolina. (See Mooresville Tribune, February 3, 2009, "Animal Gassing May Be Stopped.")
Ten days prior to WVCAS's pulling out all of the stops in its failed attempt to kill Andrea, a five-year-old, twenty-pound beagle-mix named Daniel underwent an almost identical ordeal at Animal Control's killing factory in Florence, Alabama. (See photo of him stretched out on a rug above.)
Cruelly abandoned outside the pound, he was gassed along with eighteen other dogs on October 3rd but amazingly not only survived but, unlike Andrea, escaped without incurring any permanent damage. Although frightened and malnourished, he still was able to wag his tail after being freed from the gas chamber.
"It may be that his breathing was shallow because of a cold or something," Phil Stevenson, a spokesman for the city, theorized to the New York Daily News on October 29th. (See "Lucky Dog Survives Gas Chamber, Up for Adoption.")
Sure enough, Daniel had contracted an upper respiratory infection as the result of being confined in the cramped and unsanitary shelter. He also sustained a minor skin infection.
Not completely satisfied with that explanation, Stevenson next turned to the Almighty in a belated effort to make sense of how any good could possibly come out of such a heinous act. "Maybe God just had a better plan for this one," he blowed to the Daily News.
It does seem odd, however, that Stevenson's god would elect to intervene in order to spare Daniel's life while simultaneously standing idly by while millions of other totally innocent animals are vanquished each year by shelters. In fact, only two other dogs have survived Florence's gas chamber in the past dozen years.
Thanks to the timely and compassionate intervention of Eleventh Hour Rescue (EHR) in Rockaway, New Jersey, Daniel was flown out of Florence on October 26th and immediately placed in foster care with the charity's Jill Pavlik. "He's absolutely fabulous!" the northern New Jersey hairdresser gushed to the Daily News in the article cited supra. "He walked in the house like he had always lived there. He's very sweet, happy and outgoing."
Even though EHR has received inquiries from several hundred individuals wanting to give Daniel a home, Pavlik is not in any hurry to make a decision on that point just yet. "We're going to be very careful," she confided to the Daily News. "He's a dog; he's a lucky dog, but he's a dog. And there are a lot of nutty people out there."
That undoubtedly is true to a certain extent but the real monsters are those who kill cats and dogs as a livelihood. That certainly is the case with unrepentant Vinny Grosso who operates Florence's pound.
"It's just very, very rare," is how he calmly described Daniel's amazing survival to the Daily News. "It (Daniel's relocation to Rockaway) was a great ending to a kind of bizarre story."
Something is terribly wrong whenever a dog's salvation is termed as bizarre whereas mass exterminations simply are accepted as the norm. Nonetheless, that is the kind of thinking that prevails not only in shelters but throughout societies everywhere.
"It is criminal that wonderful, loving animals just like Daniel are killed every day in this country," EHR stated recently on its web site in an undated article. (See "From the President.") "If we refuse to use euthanasia as a tool to manage our pet problem then we will be forced to find a different and hopefully more humane way to deal with this problem."
Daniel's plight has prompted Andy Dinniman, who represents Pennsylvania's nineteenth senatorial district, to introduce a bill that would ban the use of gas chambers in the Keystone State. The law, appropriately enough, will be called Daniel's Law.
A rally in support of the proposed legislation will be held tomorrow between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. at the Thorncroft Equestrian Center at 190 Line Road in Malvern, thirty-one kilometers outside of Philadelphia in Chester County. Best of all, Daniel will be on hand in order to lend his support to the legislation. (See notice advertising the rally above.)
Pavlik has since handed over custody of Daniel to Linda Schiller and he is said to be getting on famously with two other dogs that are under her care. (See photo above of him with his new playmates.)
No matter who ultimately adopts him, Daniel never will have to enter another gas chamber so long as he remains in the Garden State because those barbaric killing devices wisely and humanely have been banned there as well as in fourteen other states. He will, however, be divested of his manhood before he is put up for adoption.
While a ban on the gassing of cats and dogs by the authorities would be a step in the right direction it would not completely eliminate the menace. That is because private exterminators also round up and gas animals.
That was the terrible tragedy visited upon Patrick Boland and Shelley Bolek of League City, Texas, in March of 2007 when ABC Pest and Lawn of Houston trapped and gassed their cat, Butty. (See Cat Defender post of August 30, 2007 entitled "Texas Couple Files Lawsuit Against Pest Control Company for Trapping and Gassing Their Cat, Butty.")
In June of 2008, Fox-35 of 1925 Westmoreland Road in Richmond, Virginia, hired thirty-seven-year-old Keith Copi of Critter Control to trap and remove several dozen cats from its property. In the process, he gassed at least three of them in his truck and later disposed of their corpses in a Dumpster.
Convicted on August 14, 2008 in Henrico County District Court on three charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty, he escaped with a paltry $750 fine. Since he received $409 from Fox for killing the cats, in the end he was out of pocket only $341.
Based upon that, the court equated the lives of his victims to be worth only $113.66 apiece. (See Cat Defender posts of July 7, 2008 and August 21, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Fox Affiliate in Richmond Murders at Least Three Cats and Then Sends in the Bulldozers to Destroy Their Homes" and "Justice Denied: Exterminator Who Gassed Three Cats at the Behest of Fox-35 in Richmond Gets Off with a Minuscule Fine.")
Although it never has been disclosed what method PETA uses in order to kill cats and dogs, its death vans very well could be equipped with carbon monoxide gas chambers. (See Cat Defender posts of January 29, 2007 and February 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Finally Is Exposed in a North Carolina Courtroom" and "Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs.")
The ludicrous assertion made by Crim and others that gassing an animal is painless, quick, and humane is refuted by knowledgeable individuals outside the extermination racket. "I will never forget what I saw," Alice Singh of the North Carolina Coalition for Humane Euthanasia told the Mooresville Tribune in the article cited supra after watching a group of dogs gassed at a shelter in Yadkin County. "The dogs were trying to jump out of the large metal box, only to fail with many other dogs in the chamber with them. The screams from the box will never escape my memory, nor will the many scratches inside of the box, or the blood in the bottom left after removing the dogs." (See photo above of a gas chamber.)
Her colleague at the Coalition, Michele King, also has heard the harrowing cries emitted by doomed animals and seen the scratches that they leave behind on the walls in their futile attempts to save themselves. "It doesn't appear to be a peaceful death," she declared to the Star News of Wilmington on February 6, 2009. (See "Bills Aim to Shut Down Animal Gas Chambers.") "We can do better for these animals."
Animal rights activist Barbara Mansfield of Pasquotank County in North Carolina has witnessed fights between animals that were being gassed en masse. "Gassing is not a pretty way to die," she told the Daily Advance of Elizabeth City on January 28, 2009. (See "Bill to Be Introduced Would Stop Gassings.") "The animals aren't always separated when they're put in and they can end up fighting each other before the gas kills them."
Gassed animals also suffer convulsions, seizures, and innumerable other horrors during their final minutes on this earth. In fact, their lives are nothing short of a living Hell even before they are gassed in that some shelters have their own death rows in the form of constraint containers where large numbers of cats are lumped together in order to wait their turns to be killed. (See photo above of one such box used at the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Tyner, North Carolina.)
In addition to being anything but painless, gassing an animal to death takes considerable time. "Having them gasping for breath for five or ten minutes seems a particularly cruel method of euthanizing an animal," South Carolina state politician Jeff Kessler told the Charleston Daily Mail on March 10, 2009. (See "Bill Would Ban Gas Chambers for Animal Euthanasia.")
Kessler actually is understating the case according to a November 2nd posting on Dinniman's web site that claims it can take twenty-five minutes or longer for carbon monoxide to kill an animal. (See "Rally to Ban Animal Gassing Set for November 13th.")
Even more outrageously, a few shelters still rely upon the exhaust fumes from idling motor vehicles in order to gas animals. They simply run a hose from the tailpipe to either the box or cage where the animals are incarcerated.
In particular, the Humane Society of the United States has been accused of using this method in order to extirpate hundreds of fighting cocks that were seized during a raid in Tennessee. On that occasion, the already horribly abused birds were stuffed into a barrel that had a hose leading from it to the exhaust pipe of a truck.
The gassing of animals is an equally controversial subject north of the border where compressed carbon dioxide often is used instead of carbon monoxide. "It's graphic. The animals struggle inside their cages," Michael O'Sullivan of the Humane Society of Canada told The Province of Vancouver on September 9, 2009. (See "Groups Protest Gassing Stray Cats in Duncan, North Cowichan.") "There's a lot of saliva, banging around."
Cat activist Jean Ballard also flatly rejects the often repeated notion that if gassing were painful an animal would exhibit distress. "If it was a wild cat, it's possible it was malnourished and too weak to fight," she told The Province.
In particular, she went on to point out that when carbon dioxide mixes with the mucus in a cat's respiratory system it generates carbonic acid which in turn causes the cat intense pain. Even more staggering, if any penal institution ever so much as contemplated using either carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide in order to execute condemned prisoners there would be widespread outrage but when it comes to totally innocent animals such barbarism is merely accepted.
The only time that voices are raised against it is when the system fails and animals, such as Andrea, Davie, and Daniel somehow survive. The same holds true for other extermination methods, none of which work one-hundred per cent of the time.
Even much ballyhooed jabs of sodium pentobarbital are not always effective. For example, in October of 2010 Matt Olivarez of Redford Township in Michigan took his ailing eleven-year-old Rottweiler, Mia, to Westcott Veterinary Care Center in Detroit to be killed.
Afterwards, he collected her corpse and took it home. The following day when he went to bury her he was shocked to discover that she had revived and was standing on all four legs. (See photo above of them together in happier days.)
No explanation ever was presented as to what went wrong and Mia since has been adopted by a family in Hillsdale. Originally, Olivarez had elected to have her killed off because he was too miserly and uncaring to pay for her upkeep and veterinary needs. (See The Detroit News, November 9, 2010, "Euthanized Dog Who Wouldn't Die Will Be Going to New Home.")
Even gunshot wounds to the head, endorsed by the AVMA and favored by law enforcement personnel, have their limitations. For instance, on April 15, 2003 an unidentified police officer in Clearlake, California, shot a ten-month-old pit bull-mix named Dosha in the head after she was run down and injured by a motorist. (See photo of her directly above.)
She next was taken to Animal Control and deposited in a freezer. Two hours later, the morgue attendant was startled to learn that she had regained consciousness.
The bullet was removed but, like Andrea, she had to be treated for hypothermia. (See People Magazine, May 12, 2003, "Dosha the Wonder Dog.")
Recent medical research has revealed that it takes some individuals up to three hours in order to die. Therefore, the old Victorian fear of being buried alive is every bit as much of a concern for individuals as it is for animals.
It thus follows that all of this consternation over gas chambers not only is selective but totally misses the point as well. That is because it is morally reprehensible to kill any animal except in extreme cases of self-defense. An animal's inalienable right to live is in no way diminished by the method of execution employed.
No method is either humane or painless and those who claim the contrary are being dishonest. Much more poignantly, there never can be any justice in vanquishing the innocent and powerless regardless of whether they are animals or individuals. Such aberrant behavior stinks and it tarnishes all individuals and societies who engage in it.
It is way past time that societies stopped shillyshallying around and wallowing in the minutiae of extermination methodology and for once took the bull by the horns and outlawed without exception the killing of all shelter animals. Since both shelter personnel and veterinarians alike have proven themselves to be unwilling to respect life, no discretion should be permitted under any circumstances.
The sickly should receive treatment and hospice care, the unsocialized should either be released into the wild or tamed, and the vicious placed in secure sanctuaries. Above all, the emphasis should be away from warehousing and killing and directed instead on adoption and sterilization.
Contrary to the lies spread by critics, this is preeminently an achievable objective. It will require, however, the closing of all traditional shelters, the abolition of Animal Control officers, and a revocation of the right of veterinarians and policemen to kill animals.
In order to achieve that lofty goal, people of good conscience who not only recognize a difference between right and wrong but are willing to speak up on behalf of the innocent are desperately needed. Suck-ups are of absolutely no use and individuals and groups who falsely claim that they can reform the current moribund regime and make it more humane are out of their skulls.
Photos: WPTV (Andrea), CAWS (Andrea), Djamila Grossman of The Salt Lake Tribune (Andrea and Coombs), ABC-TV via the New York Daily News (Daniel), Andy Dinniman (Daniel with his new playmates and rally notice), Mooresville Tribune (gas chamber), Justin Falls of The Daily Advance (cat constraint container), David Guralnick of The Detroit News (Mia and Olivarez), and People Magazine (Dosha).