In a letter addressed to euthanasia technicians and registered animal shelters in the state, the N.C. Department of Agriculture says the use of gas chambers for euthanizing cats and dogs is no longer acceptable.
The letter comes from Dr. Patricia Norris, the new director of the Animal Welfare Section at the Department.
"We're basically clarifying the policy for everybody," said Norris.
North Carolina's animal euthanasia policy is meant to follow the guidelines of a few different groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Humane Association. While two of the groups (HSUS and AHA) had urged for the end of gas chambers for years, AVMA changed it's guidelines in 2013.
"We're making sure everybody is complying with the new guidelines," said Norris. There are only a handful of gas chambers still active in the state.
"The numbers have been dwindling," said Kim Alboum, the North Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States, noting that 13 gas chambers stopped functioning over the past couple of years. "And even for some of those shelters that had gas chambers, they weren't using the gas chambers the majority of the time."
According to Alboum, there are just under 200,000 animals euthanized in North Carolina shelters each year and the number is dropping. (It's not clear how many come from gassing). Everyone seems to agree the gas chamber method has been on the downward trend for some time.
"It puts a stigma on our shelters and I think being known as a gas chamber state ends up hurting our animals in the long run," said Alboum.
According to an HSUS map, 23 states have banned the gas chamber, while only nine states have active or suspected gas chambers.
The updated policy will go into effect February 15, 2015. The guidelines still allow for the use of a gas chamber in the event of extreme circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a disease outbreak.