I am writing to respond to the two letters recently submitted about the Jefferson City Animal Shelter. Yes, it does have a CO2 (carbon dioxide) chamber. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs required them to have one. CO2 is listed as an accepted euthanasia method by the American Veterinary Medical Association. However, it is not used for all animals.
Terminally ill or injured animals are normally euthanized by a humane lethal injection administered by the veterinarian on staff.
The reason that the state requires the shelter to have a CO2 chamber is because the drugs normally used to euthanize an animal cannot be administered by anyone except a licensed veterinarian or an employee who is in immediate supervision.
The shelter does employ a full-time veterinarian, but she cannot be there 24/7. Occasionally an animal that is severely injured or suffering needs immediate attention after hours. In these emergency situations an animal control officer or veterinary technician cannot legally administer the humane injection normally given. Until Missouri changes this law, or an additional licensed vet is willing to be on call and work pro-bono, there is no other option in an emergency situation. Contact your state representatives if you would like to see this law changed.
The CO2 chamber is mainly used for feral (wild) animals, as it is not safe for shelter staff to restrain a wild animal to administer an intravenous injection. The JC Animal Shelter is not only a shelter, but also animal control for the city. The animal control officers are responsible for disposing of all wild animals that are deemed a nuisance by the citizens of Jefferson City, including groundhogs, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and feral cats. I personally would not want to attempt to restrain a raccoon for a humane lethal injection.
Animal control does not randomly set traps around town in an attempt to catch stray animals. Traps are only set if a citizen calls and requests assistance. The citizens' tolerance for wildlife and use of humane deterrents would save these animals lives.
The Department of Conservation's website has helpful tips for humanely dealing with nuisance wildlife (mdc.mo.gov). The best way to prevent feral cats from being killed via CO2 is to encourage the city to adopt a TNR ordinance. TNR (Trap Neuter Return) is the process of trapping feral cats to be vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and tipping their left ear for identification purposes before they are returned to live with their colony. TNR naturally and humanely decreases the number of feral cats.