PhotoPennsylvania has become the 20th state to outlaw the use of gas chambers to euthanize pets kept at animal shelters. Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

"The citizens of Pennsylvania should be proud of their legislators for coming together to end this barbaric practice," said Nancy Shilcock of Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR).

The bill was the subject of an intense lobbying effort but in the end, backers found that it was an easy sell. Many lawmakers were eager to sign on with their support.

"This is a victory not only for the dogs and cats of Pennsylvania but for all the people who fought so hard to ban gas chambers in our state," said Bill Smith, also of MLAR.

Only four Pennsylvania shelters still use gas

The new law mandates an end to the use of carbon monoxide chambers in Pennsylvania. It affects only four animal shelters in the state that still use gas to put down animals.

Supporters built on networks of support that proved instrumental in passing legislation in 2008 that cracked down on the state's puppy mills.

MLAR worked to raise awareness among lawmakers about how gas is used to kill animals. The group says the process can last up to thirty minutes with multiple terrified dogs or cats in the chamber at one time.

The American Humane Society says animal shelters are not required to keep records of the number of animals they take in and euthanize. However, it surveyed 1,000 animal shelters in 1997 and found that roughly 64 percent of the total number of animals that entered shelters were euthanized -- approximately 2.7 million animals in just these 1,000 shelters.

It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008. This number represents a generally accepted statistic that is widely used by many animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).  

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