A Lexington man said he saw Davidson County Animal Shelter employees laugh as they put a mother cat, her kitten and a raccoon into the same compartment of the shelter's gas chamber in 2009 and let them fight before they were euthanized.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Paul Carawan said he will tell his story to the county commissioners tonight at a meeting at which animal advocates are asking the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, which runs the shelter, to switch to lethal injection as a more humane form of euthanasia.
The shelter also has used the gas chamber to euthanize kittens, puppies and sick animals, according to public records obtained from the shelter by animal advocate Tina York.
The N.C. Animal Welfare Administrative Code prohibits use of the gas chamber for animals that appear to be 16 weeks or younger, pregnant or near death. It also requires that all animals in the chamber be of the same species.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has recommended these restrictions because it takes sick, younger or older animals longer to absorb the gas, resulting in a slower death.
Sheriff David Grice did not return multiple messages from the Journal on Monday. The sheriff, who owns three rescued dogs of his own, has said shelter employees don't want to euthanize animals. He said the shelter selected the gas chamber, based on veterinarian recommendations, as the most humane way to deal with the more than 6,000 animals that must be put down each year.
Shelter records from June 9 through July 8 indicate 12 kittens, including two that were sick, and four puppies were euthanized with carbon monoxide. An 8-week-old pit bull and a 3-month-old pit bull are the only ones whose specific ages were listed. The records also indicate the gas chamber was used for an "elderly, blind, sick" Chihuahua abandoned at Thomasville Veterinary Hospital and taken by Thomasville police to the shelter.
The records indicate that some puppies and kittens were euthanized by lethal injection, as were some adult dogs and cats.
Paul Carawan, a private commercial contract worker in Lexington, said he was called to the shelter to fix a problem with the Internet on June 29, 2009. He was working in a room with the gas chamber when two shelter employees put a raccoon inside with a mother cat and her kitten.
"The gas chamber has two windows, one on either side," Carawan said. "The raccoon and the adult cat started fighting. Then they turned the gas on. The adult cat got on one corner and the raccoon got on the other, and as soon as they turned on the gas, the kitten started shaking and going into convulsions."
Carawan does not know the shelter employees' names and did not contact the sheriff's office or file a complaint. He said he was sickened by the incident and just wanted to forget it. He doesn't work in animal rescue, but he plans to speak to the commissioners because he works with York's husband and she urged him to come forward when she heard the story.