Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Who Knew?

"I think the Mullers are just thoroughly enjoying being here and I think also they are keen to spread the word about Bell's legacy. To let people know he was responsible for so much more than just the telephone."
Mary Tulle, chief executive, Destination Cape Breton

Beinn Bhreagh, Photo by Gordon Photography
Beinn Bhreagh (pronounced, ‘ban vreeagh’), is the historic estate of inventor Dr. Alexandre Graham Bell, and his wife, Mabel. The estate is situated near the town of Baddeck in Nova Scotia, on a beautiful peninsula that juts out into the Bras d’Or Lake and which forms the southern shore of Baddeck Bay. The Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust holds an easement on part of the estate, protecting both the land and the facade of the historic building, so as to maintain the natural beauty and cultural values of the estate.

A technological genius of fairly modern vintage is buried on a Cape Breton estate beside the Bras d'Or Lake fed by Atlantic waters, on 400 acres of prime real estate called Beinn Bhreagh. Alexander Graham Bell  named it in memory of his native Scotland. He spent his teen years in Brantford, Ontario, but selected Cape Breton in 1889 because of its scenery, its Scottish heritage, and its proximity to Boston and Washington, D.C., where work often called him.

That vast estate is now owned by the Bell family, descendants of the man whose amazing intellect and radical experiments helped bring the world into the modern era. One of his great grandsons, Hugh Muller, now in his 80s, lives on the estate with his wife in a remodelled house, once a workshop where his world-famous ancestor used to experiment with tetrahedron kites. Not just any kites, these were used in Canada's first airplane.

The 1,000-square-foot Kite House is now home to Hugh and Jeanne Muller. The complex within the 500-acre Beinn Bhreagh on Cape Breton holds 14 homes; the Mullers the only descendants to live there now year-round. Now long retired, Mr. Muller worked as a member of the U.S. National Park Service in Florida, and later became an adjunct professor at University of Michigan.
"Bell was easily distracted. So he had different stations where he would force himself to focus on just one thing. In the Kite House, he would just work on the kites and the aviation projects he was interested in. Then there was an area up the hill on the estate with the sheep and chickens where he worked on genetics. Another area near the water was where he worked on the hydrofoil."
Hugh Muller
The hydrofoil was an watercraft built with a Renault engine. It set a speed record of 114 kilometres per hour in 1919, a record unmatched for the next two decades. The watercraft was away head of its time, a project that Bell worked on with his business partner, Casey Baldwin. They also worked on a plane they named the Silver Dart, rivalling the Wright brothers' accomplishment in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The Silver Dart made over 200 flights along with an 800-metre flight at 65 kilometres per hour on its first day of operation in Baddeck, Nova Scotia on February 23, 1909. It flipped on a trial show run in Petawawa, where Bell and Baldwin were attempting to convince the Canadian military that airplanes represented an advanced component of the nation's future armed forces.

"But Canada didn't think airplanes would be used in war. Then World War I happens and of course airplanes are part of the weaponry, but by then he had moved on to the hydrofoil." And it is worthwhile noting that Alexander Graham Bell was indebted to his wife Mabel, because she piloted the watercraft occasionally, driving it on the lake between the estate and the town of Baddeck.

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Time-Lapse: Everest

time-lapse video of Mt Everest
View from a height.
Photo by Mike Saikaly, from the video.

I’ve been poking around the web lately looking at one time-lapse video after another, and I swear, the list of amazing work grows as fast as I can watch them. As I mentioned before, it’s getting to the point where the viewpoint taken by the photographer needs to be unique—we’re not wowed by just stars rising and setting anymore. The location, the angles, the lighting, the subject, the music: It all plays in to the experience.

Given all that, you must watch this: “Everest”. Yes, as in Mt. Everest. This is extraordinary.
Breath-taking! [Haha!] I live at an elevation of 1700 meters, and I’ve been up as high as 3700, where the air is thin enough (about 2/3 pressure as at sea level) that just moving around for some people is difficult. Photographer Elia Saikaly went up to 8000 meters to shoot that video, staying awake into the night while other, more sane climbers, were sleeping. At that height, air pressure is a mere one-third what it is at sea level, and climbers, not surprisingly, call it the “death zone”.

Read Saikaly’s account of his travels to scale Everest. It’s harrowing, and amazing, and wonderful. Climbing such mountains is incredibly dangerous, and some people undertake it foolishly. But the ones who prepare, study, practice, and understand what they are doing: I salute them. The spirit it takes to explore is an astonishing thing, and I’m glad so many possess it.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

NASA launches satellite on a two-year mission to ‘zoom in’ on the sun

Associated Press | 13/06/28 12:57 PM ET
In this image provided by NASA the Iris satellite heads into Earth orbit on a egasus rocket, which was dropped from an airplane flying over the Pacific some 100 miles off Californiaís central coast Thursday June 27, 2013.
AP Photo/NASA    In this image provided by NASA the Iris satellite heads into Earth orbit on a egasus rocket, which was dropped from an airplane flying over the Pacific some 100 miles off Californiaís central coast Thursday June 27, 2013.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — NASA launched a satellite late Thursday on a mission to explore a little-studied region of the sun and to better forecast space weather that can disrupt communications systems on Earth.

Unlike a traditional liftoff, the Iris satellite rode into Earth orbit on a Pegasus rocket dropped from an airplane that took off around sunset from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast. About 100 miles off the coast and at an altitude of 39,000 feet, the airplane released the rocket, which ignited its engine for the 13-minute climb to space.

Mission controllers clapped after receiving word that Iris separated from the rocket as planned, ready to begin its two-year mission.
“We’re thrilled,” NASA launch director Tim Dunn said in a NASA TV interview.

The launch went smoothly, but there were some tense moments when communications signals were temporarily lost. Ground controllers were able to track Iris by relying on other satellites orbiting Earth. It also took longer-than-expected for Iris to unfurl its solar panels.
AP Photo/NASA,VAFB, Randy Beaudoin,File
AP Photo/NASA,VAFB, Randy Beaudoin,File    This undated image provided by NASA shows technicians preparing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. for the launch of NASA's latest satellite, Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), that will study the sun.
In a statement, NASA said it received confirmation that the satellite deployed its solar panels and was generating power.
Previous sun-observing spacecraft have yielded a wealth of information about our nearest star and beamed back brilliant pictures of solar flares.

The 7-foot-long Iris, weighing 400 pounds, carries an ultraviolet telescope that can take high-resolution images every few seconds.

Unlike NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observes the entire sun, Iris will focus on a little-explored region that lies between the surface and the corona, the glowing white ring that’s visible during eclipses.

The goal is to learn more about how this mysterious region drives solar wind — a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun — and to better predict space weather that can disrupt communications signals on Earth.

“This is a very difficult region to understand and observe. We haven’t had the technical capabilities before now to really zoom in” and peer at it up close, NASA program scientist Jeffrey Newmark said before the launch.
RANDY BEAUDOIN/AFP/Getty Images    The Vandenberg Air Force Base shows engineers working with the IRIS spacecraft
The mission is cheap by NASA standards, costing $182 million, and is managed by the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Engineers will spend a month making sure Iris is in perfect health before powering on the telescope to begin observations.

The launch was delayed by a day so that technicians at the Air Force base could restore power to launch range equipment after a weekend outage cut electricity to a swath of the central coast.

The Pegasus, from Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is a winged rocket designed for launching small satellites. First flown in 1990, Pegasus rockets have also been used to accelerate vehicles in hypersonic flight programs.

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Voyager 1 discovers strange, unexpected region of space at solar system’s edge

Kenneth Chang, The New York Times | 13/06/28 | Last Updated: 13/06/28 4:00 PM ET
More from The New York Times
2009 data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft showed Voyager's path out of the solar system.
NASA/JPL/JHUAPL   2009 data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft showed Voyager's path out of the solar system.
At the edge of the solar system, there are no signs that proclaim, “You are now entering interstellar space.”

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched more than 35 years ago and now 11.5 billion miles from where it started, is closing in on this boundary. In recent years scientists have been waiting eagerly for it to become the first artificial object to leave the solar system and enter the wider reaches of the Milky Way, which they expect it to do. But there has been at least one false alarm.

On Thursday, scientists reported that, no, Voyager 1 still had not reached interstellar space, but it had entered a region that no one expected and no one can yet explain, a curious zone that is almost certainly the last layer of our Sun’s empire — technically speaking, the heliosphere. Three papers published in the journal Science describe in detail the sudden and unpredicted changes encountered in the surroundings of Voyager 1, which left Earth about three months after the original “Star Wars” movie was released and is heading for the cosmos at 38,000 mph.

Scientists had expected that Voyager 1 would detect two telltale signs as it passed through the heliosheath, the solar system’s outermost neighbourhood, which is thought to abut the heliopause, the actual boundary. The key instruments on Voyager 1, as well as those on its twin, Voyager 2, are still working, and its nuclear power source will last until at least 2020.

Last summer, one of the two events occurred, but not the other, leaving scientists perplexed. Scientists had predicted that at the boundary between solar system and interstellar space, the solar wind — a stream of charged particles blown out by the Sun — would fade away, and that Voyager 1 would no longer detect it. That happened.

They also expected that the direction of the magnetic field would change as Voyager 1 emerged from the Sun’s magnetic bubble. That did not.

“Nature is far more imaginative than we are,” said Stamatios M. Krimigis, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who is the principal investigator of an instrument that records charged particles hitting Voyager 1.

Krimigis is an author of one of the papers in Science.
AFP PHOTO / NASA    This NASA file image obtained September 4, 2012 shows an artist's rendition of the Voyager spacecraft.
In July, the spacecraft – which is roughly 1,600 pounds and would fit inside a cube about 13 feet on each side, according to NASA – observed a momentary dip in the intensity of the solar wind.

“It was exciting,” said Edward C. Stone, the project scientist for the two Voyagers. “We had never seen such a drop before. It happened in less than a day. Then five days later, it was back up.”
In mid-August, there was a deeper momentary dip.

Then, on Aug. 25, the solar wind dropped by a factor of more than a thousand, vanishing to imperceptible levels, and it has remained at essentially zero since. At the same time, the number of cosmic rays from outside the solar system jumped by 9.3 percent.
“It looked like we were outside,” Stone said.

But the magnetic field has steadily pointed in the same direction, indicating that Voyager 1 is still ensconced within the Sun’s magnetic field. Scientists guess that in this region the magnetic fields of the solar system partly connect to those of the surrounding interstellar space, allowing the solar particles to escape. (Charged particles travel along magnetic field lines.) They have named the zone through which Voyager 1 is hurtling the heliosheath depletion region.

“I think it’s clear we do not have a model which explains all of this,” Stone said.
Voyager 2, which is moving slightly more slowly, has not yet encountered this region.
Stone noted that, when the two Voyagers launched in 1977 on a tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, there was no way to know that NASA had built something that would last 35 years, long after it passed the planets. The designers of the mission, however, were prescient to be prepared if they lasted that long.

“It turns out that in fact we designed the cosmic ray instrument specifically for this phase of this mission,” Stone said. “We were planning, and it really paid off. We’ve begun to see what’s outside even though the magnetic field says you’re not outside.”

As for actually reaching the outside of the solar system, Stone said, “it could be a few months, or it could be several more years.”

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A Lifeline, Not a Lifetime

It would have to be the stuff of fearfully grisly science fiction. An unfortunate accident, to begin with, that would have the result of destroying someone's face. A death sentence, surely. If means could be found to surgically restore some function to whatever remained of a face which contains someone's vital features, organs allowing one to breathe, to see, to hear, to consume liquid and food, then survival, albeit awkward, could be achieved.

Means found, through medical-surgical intervention to reconstruct vital organs allowing someone to breathe on their own, to eat, ensure survival. If sight and hearing are impaired, an individual can still learn to use alternative means of replacing those senses to inform him/herself and be capable of living a public life. That public life becomes complicated, however, with the reality of that disastrous accident resulting in a monstrous distortion of facial features.
Pat Semansky, The Associated Press

Enough so that to the public coming face to face with a victim of a personally cataclysmic accident, the immediate, reaction is shock and revulsion. It is a vicarious human reaction. With some people adding their own particular brand of cruelty in offhand comments measured to inform the individual whose face has become monstrously contorted that they should be confined to an interior where no one would have to see them.

This is what happened to Richard Norris, 38, of rural Virginia, who fifteen years ago was the victim of a shotgun blast that utterly and savagely ravaged the lower half of his face. "I've heard all kinds of remarks. A lot of them were really horrible", he said. The result of that accident was a face absent a nose, teeth, and leaving him with a partial tongue, and no sense of smell.

Dozens of surgeries later he was still left using a hat and face mask, going out into the public arena only at night. "You can create a semblance of something, but I can guarantee you it's not normal by any means", explained Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, head of plastic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

A relative handful of facial transplants have been attempted worldwide, under 30 in total. Four recipients died. Survivors can anticipate a lifetime of being reliant upon immunosuppressant drugs to ensure their facial transplant is not rejected by their own body's immune system. The drugs themselves take a toll on people's health; they suppress the immune system, after all.

Face transplants are optional. Like cosmetic surgery. Richard Norris, like others who have suffered catastrophic accidents that have robbed them of their birthright facial characteristics that make them physically uniquely themselves, would have been capable of continuing to live with the face he was left with after reconstructive surgery which did not restore his former face, but did allow him to use whatever was left of it.

The surgery involved is complex. Face transplant patients are informed forthrightly that when they make the decision to proceed with their transplants they risk death. "If you talk to these patients, they will tell you it is worth the risk", says Dr. Rodriguez. He informed Richard Norris's mother that her son faced a 50-50 chance he would not survive surgery.

"We looked at Richard and we told him we loved him the way he was and it didn't matter to us, but it was his life. That was what he wanted to do and we supported him", his mother explained.

Richard Norris, now living with a transplant gift he received when a 21-year-old died after he was hit by a minivan crossing a street, contacts the family of the young man part of whose face he wears, to keep them informed about his progress. His transplant surgery took 36 hours to complete. It included teeth transplantation, upper and lower jaw, part of the tongue and all the tissue from scalp to base of the neck.

Immunosuppressant medications come complete with patient risks. Patients know in addition that it is an unknown how long the transplant itself may survive. If all proceeds according to optimistic expectations, says Dr. Rodriguez, a transplanted face may last 20 to 30 years.

It is a lifeline, but it is not a lifetime.

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50,000 years ago, a chunk of iron 30 or more meters across slammed into the Arizona desert at a speed dozens of times faster than a rifle bullet. The ensuing explosion was equivalent to the detonation of million of tons of TNT, and in seconds it carved out a hole in the ground 1200 meters (3900 feet) across and 170 meters (560 feet) deep.

We now call that impact site Meteor Crater, or more formally Barringer Crater, and it’s a tourist attraction located about 25 km west of Winslow, Arizona*. I visited there many years ago, and stood there on the rim, slack-jawed, in awe of the formation I was seeing, visualizing the enormous impact event in my mind.

Since then I’ve seen countless pictures of the crater, but in none of them have I ever seen this:
Meteor crater shadow pareidolia
At least he's facing Vegas...
Photo by Tomas Vorobjov, used by permission

Do you see it? The shadow of the crater rim looks like a face in profile, looking left. The top of an old, closed mine shaft even looks like an eye!

The photographer, Tomas Vorobjov, alerted me to it, even noting how much it looks like the King of Diamonds. I have to agree; a little Photoshop should make it obvious.

A pair of kings.
Card photo by Shutterstock/Christopher David Howells (modified by Phil Plait)

Ha! I love pareidolia: the psychological effect of seeing faces in unrelated patterns. This is a great one, and by great I mean huge. That shadow is a thousand meters long!

I’m rather glad that when I stood there, all those years ago, I wasn’t standing where Vorobjov did, and the Sun was at a different angle in the sky. I would’ve ruined the moment laughing out loud had I seen that. Of course, it would’ve been pretty cool to see it with my own eyes, too.

But there’s no use regretting it. We all have to face the cards we’re dealt.

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Showing posts with label Animal Welfare. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Did You Know that Some Shelters in Canada ‘Euthanize’ Dogs and Cats in a Gas Chamber? Ban the Use of Gas Chambers in Canada!

On Saturday June 1st 2013 there was a peaceful protest held  across the street from the SPCA Outaouais located at 132 rue De Varennes, Gatineau Quebec. It was my hope that this protest event would help bring light to the fact that Gas Chambers are still legal and used in some Canadian shelters on a regular basis to remove dogs and cats from the world of the living...
  • Would help to bring the issue to the attention of the community at large;
    • Like other communities where gas chambers are used - the majority of the residents of this area have no idea that gas chambers to kill animals exist, let alone that there is one in this area being used on a regular basis;
    • The problem of gas chamber use is not just a problem for the shelters like the SPCA Outaouais that use a Gas Chamber - it is, in my opinion a problem that involves the entire community and, therefore the entire community must be part of the solution;
      • It is a problem that must be brought to light;
      • It is a problem that must be dealt with;
      • It is a problem in which people must engage themselves;
      • However engagement in the issue and its resolution must be a partnership between members of the community and the shelter = for in the lack of co-operation between those involved the issue may only become more exacerbated rather than solved...
I do not think it possible for the Outaouis SPCA to shut-down their gas chamber today, tomorrow, next week...
  • I am a very committed animal advocate but I do believe that making a difference in this world often requires patience, compassion and understanding of all that may be involved to action real and permanent change; 
  • I believe that it is very important to lead by example of what it is that one desires to achieve...
    • I believe that in order to move the agenda forward to cessation of the gas chamber located at the SPCA Outaouais requires compassion for all involved and working within the system currently in-place in order to effect change.
    • I hope the future, the members of that protest group will come to the conclusion that in order to effect change in a way that will best protect the well being and best interests of cats and dogs in the community now and in the future - that they (the protest group) will seek to work with the Outaouais SPCA rather than in conflict with them - which is unfortunately what I see currently developing;
    • For the reason I have left the protest group - but this article is my plea to the community at large to:
      • Step-up and assist the Outaouais SPCA in developing a viable plan to shut down the gas chamber;
      • To strengthen the laws in Quebec and in Canada to better protect our companion animals, and;
      • To make illegal the use of gas chambers in Canada...
A Complicated Issue - Who Should Take Responsibility for Ending the Use Of Gas Chambers?

The short answer is that every one should take responsibility for what is happening in the community.

#1 - We should not be euthanizing (killing) dogs and cats and that is the root of the issue.

#2 - Puppy Mills should be banned outright, outlawed and made illegal.

#3 - Animal Welfare laws in Quebec and in the balance of Canada must be strengthened.

#4 - Gas Chambers should be made illegal in all of Canada.

While the use of gas chambers is still legal in Quebec most shelter facilities do not use such methods to euthanize the animals in their care.  

Responsibility to Speak Out Against The Use of Gas Chambers Belongs to Everyone, Including...
  • The shelters who are currently using gas chambers - for if they do not inform the public the community cannot help partner with the shelter to create an environment where the gas chamber can be shut-down;
  • Upon being informed of the gas chamber the individuals that make up the immediate community should get involved in a plan to support the shelter in ending the use of the gas chamber;
  • The support of local, private veterinary clinics;
  • Professional and regulatory bodies such as the various Veterinary Associations should step-up to the plate and unequivocally reject the use of gas chambers as a method to euthanize animals;
  • Municipal, provincial and the federal government should make it illegal to sue gas chambers to kill animals in Gas Chambers...
  • All of the above make up the 'Community' that must participate to effect change in how our companion animals are cared for in the shelter setting.  
When we do not speak out - we are all implicated in the brutality that occurs as an end result of our silence. 
Quebec is undeniably the province with the highest number of abandoned cats and dogs. The average time a family in Quebec keeps a dog is about 19 months. All shelters and rescues in Quebec and the bordering provinces know that summer time is particularly bad, as residents of Quebec go on holiday, and on the most popular weekend to move in the summer -  the rate of dog and cat abandonment escalates. 
The SPCA Outaouais is a perfect example of a shelter that desperately needs the support of the 'Community'.

To fund the facility and its operations (including maintenance of the gas chamber and supply of gas for its deathly use) the SPCA Outaouais relies heavily on donations from the community. Yet the community for the most part is unaware that the SPAC runs a gas chamber. The volume of animal intake at the shelter is very high and the number of animals adopted out has great room for improvement, subsequently the rate of euthanasia is high. Annual intake sits between 9200 to 8500 animals per year of which about one third are euthanized.
This is a shelter that needs the help of the 'Community' in order to make the future more humane for those animals that come in to the shelter. They also need the community to be more responsible so that the shelter is not inundated due to lack of responsibility by pet owners.

Euthanasia, by definition, is the act of inducing a painless death (from ancient Greek eu-thanos, meaning good death).
Meriam-Webster Dictionary - the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
Gas Chamber
The Gas Chamber was first developed in 1921 by the lawmakers in the State of Nevada. The Gas Chamber was later embraced for use by the Nazi’s as their primary means of mass murder. The use of the Gas Chamber for killing humans and animals has since been made illegal in many places around the world, including in its place of origin. When employed to kill humans, death in a gas chamber can be extremely slow and painful, as demonstrated in several high-profile executions from the 1980s and 1990s. One of the more infamous was that of Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983. Mr Gray frantically gasped, moaned, and slammed his head into a steel pipe for ten minutes as the cyanide slowly took effect. In 1996, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that execution by poison gas constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The fact is – death by gas chamber is no less cruel for a non-human animal.
Twenty-two (22) States in the U.S.A have made it illegal to use a gas chamber to kill dogs and cats with the latest being the State of Texas. This past week of May 20th, 2013, Governor Rick Perry enacted a law to prohibit the cruel practice of ‘euthanizing’ animals in a Gas Chamber. Texas State Senators voted unanimously to ban animal shelter Gas Chambers.  Now, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is proposing a bill to have gas chambers banned in all 50 States. Sadly, when it comes to animal rights, Canada may not be quite as civilized a place as you might have thought. And that is where protests like the one to be held this Saturday are so important.
Gas Chamber Use - Why We Must NOT Remain Silent on This Issue…
Martin Luther King Jr.
Gas chamber euthanasia is IMO undeniably cruel...
During the gassing process carbon monoxide is pumped into the gas chamber. The carbon monoxide slowly suffocates the animals to death.  Dogs and cats that are gassed in the chamber suffer indeterminate minutes before dying. The time spent suffering varies:
  • For some it may take 10 or 15 minutes;
  • For others the time of suffering can last a long time – 30 minutes, and hour;
  • Some animals do not die during the first gassing and must endure a second round of gassing.
  • In Alabama, on October 3rd 2011 Daniel the beagle made headlines in the dog advocacy world. Daniel was ‘put’ into a gas chamber along with 17 other shelter dogs, all the other dogs died except for Daniel.
    • Daniel’s case is pretty unique – because he was not tossed back into the chamber for a second round of gassing.
    • You can read more about Daniel here on Daniel the Dog’s Blog Site.
  • There are very few happy stories when it comes to animals and gas chambers.
  • You can read eye-witness accounts here.

It is well past time that Canadian’s stand-up, take notice and tell those having jurisdiction that enough is enough!

Some shelters gas one dog at a time rather than multiple dogs - however this does not make the use of the gas chamber a peaceful way to die. 

Some shelters put multiple animals into the chamber to be gassed together. The stress and panic causes them to fight. The fights result in physical injury – one more brutality in the face of all that they (the dogs and cats ‘put’ into the gas chamber) must suffer from the gassing The struggle to breath as they are slowly suffocated by the carbon monoxide;
  • The pain of organs slowly shutting down;
  • Disorientation as their brain struggles to function as it is slowly starved of oxygen;
  • And the panic of the other dogs or cats in the chamber – distress feeds distress just as it does in humans.
In my opinion, it is a truly horrible way to die.

Many shelters - when gassing just one dog at a time ‘tether’ the dog in the gas chamber so that the dog will not thrash about too much and leave a bloody mess. After all the real reason behind gassing animals (rather than using EBI) is convenience…so you can be sure that last thing the shelter staff wants to be is inconvenienced by having to clean up a bloody mess.  

Many shelters stop feeding the dog two days prior to gassing. This is not done for the dogs well being, it is instead done to stop the dog from vomiting once it is in the gas chamber and the gas is turned on. Not for the sake of the dog's well being but instead so that there is less of a mess for the shelter worker to clean-up afterwards.

Many shelters take the dog or cat right from the gas chamber to the incinerator or freezer without checking for vital signs, or without checking accurately for vital signs - the end result, the animal that has already suffered in the gas chamber is then burned alive, or frozen while still alive, or stuffed into a plastic bag while still alive.
Dogs and cats that end up in shelters are there because a human has let them down - sometimes intentionally and many times unintentionally. Sometimes the dogs human passes away and no family member is willing to take the once beloved dog or cat. Should that animal then die a painful death? 
Regardless of the reason why a dog or cats ends up in a high-kill gas chamber using shelter - the outcome is injury upon injury to that animal - that they should be made to suffer an agonizing death is unacceptable to me and I would hope it would be unacceptable to you as well. 
As a cross-poster (facebook and twitter) of dogs in high-kill shelters, as a human that lives her daily life with ten dogs – eight of whom are rescues, I know from very personal experience that dogs deserve better from human beings. About 50% of the dogs that I work with (my client’s dogs) are rescues from shelters and rescue groups.  There are so many amazing dogs that end-up in high-kill shelters including those that use gas chambers.

Some of my clients have adopted a dog(s) from the SPCA Outaouais - it is important to keep in mind that just because a shelter uses a gas chamber does not mean that they do not contribute good to the community, but it does mean that there is room for improvement within that shelter and most certainly within the community that the shelter resides in.
The American Humane Society Speaks Out on the Use of Gas Chambers for Euthanasia…
“EBI is the most humane method of euthanizing shelter animals.  IF successful, the gas chamber can take up to 25 to 30 minutes to end an animal’s life, whereas EBI causes loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds and clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes.  EBI causes animals to lose consciousness and brain function before their vital organs shut down.   In a chamber, however, animals lose consciousness and brain function only after their vital organs shut down, causing prolonged suffering and distress.  EBI is the method preferred by the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and The Humane Society of the United States.  Old, neonatal, and injured animals are often biologically unable to absorb the gas as readily as larger or healthier animals, which prolongs trauma and stress. “
And From the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) on the use of Gas Chambers…
“The HSUS considers use of the gas chamber in a shelter setting to be unacceptable under any circumstances. “Euthanasia of dogs and cats in shelters is a tragedy that must come to an end through spaying and neutering of pets, increased adoption of pets from shelters and other approaches, but when an animal must be euthanized, it’s critical that it be done in the most compassionate way possible. Direct injection of approved euthanasia drugs, by which the animal quickly loses consciousness without experiencing pain or distress, is the most humane method currently available,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for The HSUS. “Lesser alternatives like carbon monoxide gas chambers should never be used in shelter settings.”

The reasons the HSUS considers gas chambers inappropriate in shelter settings include…

  • Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations: 
  • The animals euthanized in shelters are often old, young, ill or injured; none of these animals can be humanely euthanized in a gas chamber. 
  • Even healthy adult dogs and cats will suffer stress just by being placed in a gas chamber, making their death inhumane.
  • Gas chambers pose grave dangers to staff: 
  • Gas chambers pose great physical and psychological harm to staff. 
  • Staff must handle, transport and place animals into the chamber, putting them at risk of bites and scratches. 
  • Animal care workers have also been injured and killed by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odourless and tasteless toxic gas.
  • Euthanasia by injection is less expensive: 
  • Studies have proven that it is more expensive to operate a gas chamber than it is to purchase and use euthanasia drugs. “
Am I Promoting a Campaign of Hate Against Shelters That Choose to Use Gas Chambers?
No. And in regards to the SPCA Outaouais - no I am not.
Nor am I saying that the SPCA Outaouais does zero good in the community.

I met with Francine Dubois (the shelter Director) as well as one of her staff and some of the volunteers...

I believe that Francine and her staff do care very much for the animals in their care but due to a confluence of circumstances they currently find themselves in a place and time where the use of the gas chamber is the norm in the shelter as is EBI (euthanasia by injection).

With additional and much needed support from the 'Community' the SPCA Outaouais could conceivably cease the use of the gas chamber. Without the support of the 'Community' this goal may still be possible but the time to implement would be much expanded, leaving many dog and cats to die via the gas chamber in the interim.
Economics of The Situation – Is Lack of Funding a Valid Excuse to Choose Using a Gas Chamber?
One of the participants in the protest discussion brought this very excellent example to light…
Sampson County Shelter's Journey to Change...
Sampson County in North Caroline made the choice to dismantle their gas chamber May15th, 2013. This shelter is much poorer than the SPCA Outaouais, yet Sampson County had the integrity, ethics and morals to move forward with shutting down their Gas Chamber. You can read the story here. In addition it is important to note that although Sampson County is a small and poorly funded shelter they work very hard to keep their rate of adoptions high and euthanasia low – currently their rate of euthanasia sits at 30%, with the rate of adoptions steadily on the rise.  A small shelter moving in the right direction, having left excuses for making the wrong choice far behind – it is a great story; you can read about it here
Is it Possible for the SPCA Outaouais to do the Same as the Sampson County Shelter?
Yes - but they need the community to support the effort...

Outaouais stated in their interview with the protest organizers that they (the SPCA Outaouais) are currently operating on an annual budget of $2.6 million.  The Sampson County shelter’s budget was and is considerably less than that of the SPCA Outaouais, but in order to shut the Gas Chamber down the County did get grants from the government. The SPCA Outaouais may not be able to access the volume of grants that Sampson County received. Should that indeed be the case, the support of the local community increases in importance.
“SPCA Outaouais stated 1.6 million goes to salaries for the 50 employees and another big chunk goes for medicine. Royal Canine donates their food (from what I am told) to SPCA Gatineau so there is 1 million left over and a 2009 study by the American Humane Association studies the costs between the use of gas and EBI by sodium pentobarbital, and found the cost to euthanize an animal with CO gas is $4.98 an animal if using sedation. If no sedation it is $4.66 per animal. The cost for EBI was $2.29 an animal. 

While these numbers support the fact that the gas chamber is not more economical (than EBI) there are a few more factors that need resolution in order to allow the SPCA Outaouais to move forward with elimination of the gas chamber...
  • At least one more full time veterinarian would need to be hired and retained;
  • Retention can be a problem if the salary offered is not somewhat equitable to that paid by a private veterinary office;
  • If the number of adoptions is not raised than it can be difficult to find a veterinarian who is willing to spend the majority of their time euthanizing animals as opposed to helping animals (i.e. doing spay/neuter, treating illness etc.);
  • The community needs to step-up and help increase the number of permanent adoptions and decrease the number of animals being abandoned and dropped-off at the shelter...if you get a pet, commit to keeping it!
    • The local veterinarian community should play a role in helping support the SPCA in increasing the adoption rates at the SPCA;
  • Spay and neuter you pet, and;
  • Speak out about back-yard breeders and puppy mills, and do not purchase dogs or cats from them;
  • Adopt from the shelter instead;
  • And donate to the shelter;
  • In addition, the province of Quebec must change the law which dictates that only a certified Veterinarian may perform an EBI;
    • The law should be expanded to allow certified veterinary technicians to perform EBI's.  
In my opinion, In return the SPCA should...
  • Speak openly to the community about the use of the Gas Chamber and the SPCA's desire to abolish the use of the gas chamber complete with a:
    • Plan to shut down the gas chamber that incorporates tasks, budget, deliverables and timelines outlined;
    • Clear statment of what the SPCA would need from the community to assist  in accomplishing the plan; 
    • Provision of a breakdown within that plan that provides clear information/direction regarding:
      • What and how much monetary and other support the SPCA would requrie from individuals in the community;
      • What type of support the SPCA would require from the community to push change at a municipal and provincial level;
      • Host petitions for those in the community, and groups to sign to trigger required changes in the laws that regulate the rights, care and ownership of animals, and;
      • Otherwise support the SPCA in pushing for the change plan/initiative.

So Why Do Shelters Still Insist on Using a Gas Chamber to Kill Dogs and Cats?
  • Because not enough people speak out to stop the use of gas chambers;
  • Becase it is not just enough to speak out; 
  • You must follow-through, help and collaborate in the process of attaining a culture where gas chamber use is:
    • not required, and; 
    • not acceptable. 
If you are not part of the solution YOU are part of the problem.

Should Gas Chambers be used to kill shelter dogs and cats? 
My answer is No, Not Ever...
What will your answer be and what will you do to contribute to the cessation of gas chamber use?

Canada – Stop the Silence...
  • Speak out, speak to and work with shelter authorities having jurisdiction...
  • Tell your municipal, provincial and federal representatives that the use of gas chambers to kill shelter animals IS NOT acceptable;
  • Sign petitions;
  • Promote spay, neuter;
  • Don't buy puppies from backyard breeders and puppy mills;
  • If you bring an animal into your life make that relationship a life-long commitment,and; 
  • If something gets in the way of that commitment find a good home for your pet - don't just drop it off at a shelter and make your pet someone else's responsibility.
I find it absolutely shameful that a so called civilized society (North America - with exceptions to those areas that have banned gas chamber use) turns their collective head and allows the continued use of gas chambers.

And in my opinion - shame on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the  Canadian Medical Veterinary Association (CMVA), for not taking action to outright condemn the use of Gas Chambers on companion (i.e. dogs and cats) and other animals (domestic and non-domestic).

Until the AVMA takes a committed ban on the use of gas chambers it is highly unlikely that the CMVA will take action to condemn the use of gas chambers.
Shelter dogs and cats need people to LOOK, need people to KNOW, need people to SPEAK OUT, need people to SHARE, TWEET and STOP this travesty.

This is my Pack of ten dogs, eight of whom are resuces...they are lucky, so many wonderful dogs are not so lucky - so please SPEAK OUT for those who cannot!

Related Articles
For related and additional articles on dog and cat, care, health, training, nutrition and animal advocacy go to this page.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

28 June 2013 -- News In Brief

  • The United States plans to start supplying arms directly to Syrian rebels within a month, American officials said Thursday, as it emerged that the CIA has begun shipping weapons to a secret network of warehouses in Syria's neighbour, Jordan. Leaked CIA plans disclose that Washington will dispatch arms from Jordan to specially vetted groups in the Free Syrian Army in co-ordination with European and Arab allies. The arms supplies are intended to be in the hands of the rebels before an offensive against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is launched in early August, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Readings by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft confirm it is in unfamiliar territory, but it is still inside our solar system. Voyager 1 is about 18.5 billion kilometres from the sun and is poised to become the first spacecraft to break out of the solar system into the space between stars. Scientists do not know how far this region extends.
  • Police in Tennessee say a puppy was killed when a man put it in a dishwasher and ran the machine. Police charged 27-year-old Marcus Curry with aggravated abuse to animals. He is being held on a $40,000 bond. Police were called Wednesday by an apartment maintenance man who found a dead puppy in a trash bin.
  • The UN is raising the alarm about the recent rape of nine young girls in conflict-ridden eastern Congo, the youngest 18 months old. Two girls died, though their ages weren't released. Two officials say the girls were admitted to Panzi Hospital in South Kivu province over the past two months with serious internal wounds. UN special representative to Congo, Roger Meece, and UNICEF representative Barbara Bentein released their statement through UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey on Thursday. Officials said two suspects have been arrested.
  •  Civilians in hospitals, schools, churches and mosques are increasingly put in harm's way in armed conflicts around the world, including in Syria, Red Cross head Peter Maurer said Thursday. "Weaponization of medical facilities" and similar misuse of schools, churches and mosques is a worrisome trend, he said.
  • An autopsy confirms that a 2-year-old found dead in a car west of Toronto had been exposed to searing temperatures while left alone in the vehicle, police say. Investigators say the boy was found Wednesday outside a Milton, Ontario home. They say the boy was in the care of his grandmother, who is in her 50s. Police say they are awaiting further toxicology tests for an exact cause of death. The homicide squad is investigating.
  • Matteo Renzi, Florence's mayor has denied his city is a hotbed of "bunga bunga" amid a growing scandal involving prostitutes being paid for sex by council officials and local worthies. Goings-on in the Tuscan city have invited comparisons with parties organized by Silvio Berlusconi, who was this week sentenced to seven years' jail after being found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitutes. Prosecutors are investigating a network of 142 prostitutes, many of them from Eastern Europe, who were allegedly paid for sex by council officials and businessmen. Fourteen people are being investigated for procuring prostitutes based on 4,000 pages of transcripts of telephone calls.
  • Pope Francis told the Vatican's ambassadors they risked "ridicule" if they lived overly comfortable lives, in the latest expression of his desire for a more austere Roman Catholic Church. The Argentinian Pope said the apostolic nuncios (ambassadors) should eschew a "bourgeois" style of life and reject the pursuit of worldly goods. He said they had a vital role in the countries they represent by recommending who should be made bishops. But they should avoid candidates who were overly ambitious or showed "a princely psychology". "There is always a risk ... of giving in to that sort of "bourgeoisie of the spirit and life' which drives one to recline, to seek out a comfortable and tranquil life", he said.

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