Animal advocates rallied with candles and posters Monday afternoon in Salisbury. They're upset that the Rowan County Animal Shelter is still using the gas chamber to euthanize animals.
Shelter workers say sick or injured animals are euthanized immediately.
Animals that are surrendered or found wandering the streets are held for two weeks. If they're not adopted or claimed in that time frame, the animals are euthanized in the gas chamber.
Animals advocates call the gas chamber a "barbaric and outdated practice."
Laura Ashby, one of the protesters, said "we want to ban the gas chamber in Rowan County. It's barbaric and it's awful and it needs to stop."
Rally organizers say the "barbaric method of destroying homeless pets is funded by taxpayers' dollars, so residents do have the right to request how their money is spent."
Workers at the animal shelter say they use the gas chamber because it's a humane method. Clai Martin says animals lose consciousness without pain and they don't suffer. The shelter says animals are unaware of the carbon monoxide gas, and that death occurs rapidly if the right percentage of the gas is used.
But some animal advocates are opposed to the gas chamber. They don't like the idea of euthanizing animals.
"But if we do have to do it, I think it needs to be done in the most humane manner we can possible do it" said protester Debbie Krueger. "If there are safer, less cruel ways to do this I would like to see if be done."
Laura Ashby added "when you put them in the gas chambers, their organs actually shut down first before they lose consciousness which means there is more pain involved with that."
Workers at the shelter say that's not true.
Protesters would like the county to switch to lethal injections – but the director of the shelter says that could be inhumane because workers have to hold down the animals to try and inject them.
Some protesters took advantage of the public comment portion at the start of the Rowan County Commissioners meeting to speak out against the gas chamber.
One Commissioner told WBTV that the Board, back in July, gave the animal shelter $10,000 in the current fiscal year budget to test lethal injections on some animals.
According to Commissioner Chad Mitchell, the shelter has been testing lethal injections on some older, more docile dogs that had to be euthanized.
Commissioner Mitchell said the board is waiting to hear back from the animal shelter on how the test cases went.
The Board of Health oversees the animal shelter and will likely be the ones to make a future recommendation - one way or the other - about the gas chamber.
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