New Castle News

January 8, 2013

Your Pets: County ahead of new euthanasia law

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A new year and a new law bring happy tidings for those who love animals.

The legislation — House Bill 2630,   signed by Gov. Tom Corbett and which went into effect Jan. 1 — prohibits the use of carbon-monoxide gassing and drowning at animal shelters as a way of euthanizing animals.

Pennsylvania is now the 20th state to ban that practice.

Making the decision to end an animal’s life is always difficult and stressful for pet owners and veterinarians. But when the time comes, the method used should be as humane as possible, pointed out Lois Winter, board president of the Lawrence County Humane Society.

While Winter notes that euthanasia is a necessary evil, the local agency is considered a low-kill shelter and all euthanizations have occurred by injection for about a year.

“We only euthanize unadoptable ones due to illness, behavioral problems or aggression and never because of space issues,” Winter confirmed. “The new law doesn’t affect us at all.”

She added that the adoption rate at the shelter is very high.

“People are adopting for the right reasons,” Winter said.


The humane society now has four trained and certified euthanasia technicians licensed by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine. Training consists of two, eight-hour sessions.

At the shelter, the animal is first given a tranquilizer and then the injection.

“Although it’s very peaceful for the animal, it’s so hard on our employees,” Winter said. “We always apologize to the animal and do anything possible to avoid euthanasia.”

Veterinarians and animal protection organizations must now also disclose the specific euthanasia method they use.

“There’s nothing secret in my practice,” said Dr. Sherry Talowsky, who also administers a narcotic first for sedation. That two-step process is used by other veterinarians in the area, as well.

All pet owners sign a consent form, which offers an explanation of the procedure, Talowsky said.

She explained she has received no official notification from the state and needs to study the law further, a statement also made by Dr. Maureen Altman of North Memorial Hospital.

Under the new law, it is illegal to kill animals by use of carbon monoxide gas, chloroform, ether, halothane, fluothane, drowning or any means deemed unacceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Use of a high altitude decompression chamber or decompression device already was illegal. All devices or chambers made illegal by this law must be dismantled.

Persons, animal shelters or rescues not authorized or licensed that are found in violation could be fined up to $500 per “violation day” and up to $1,000 per violation day for second and subsequent offenses.


“Most shelters are going with humane injections and very few practices are affected by this,” Dr. Cindy Maro of Ellwood Animal Hospital said of the new law.

Maro pointed out that euthanasia might be avoided if awareness were raised about spaying and neutering animals. Low-cost clinics are offered in the area several times a year.

During her 26 years of practice, she has become aware of a higher number of animals being neutered.

“Education is key and we realize some people face real financial difficulties,” she continued, adding Facebook and other social media outlets are instrumental in getting that information across.

In September 2010, the National Animal Control Association adopted a policy — “NACA considers lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital, administered by competent, trained personnel, to be the only method of choice utilized for humane euthanasia of animal shelter dogs and cats.”