Alabaster group fighting for animal rights

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A newly formed, Alabaster-based political action committee is looking to have a big impact on the laws governing stray animal treatment throughout the state, and is hoping to cut down on the number of animals admitted to shelters.

The Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation, which is the first PAC of its kind in the state, will work with Alabama legislators during the upcoming session to sponsor bills aimed at strengthening penalties for animal abuse and neglect, banning gas chambers at animal shelters and instituting minimum standards at shelters and humane societies.

“Our committee is really made up of Alabama residents of all walks of life,” said Alabaster resident Dr. Rhonda Parker, the group’s chairperson and membership coordinator. “We aren’t one of those kind of fringe, radical animal rights groups.

“We just want to do things to strengthen laws about animal cruelty,” Parker added.

One of the committee’s first goals will be to outlaw carbon monoxide gas chambers as a means of euthanizing animals in shelters and humane societies. The PAC has been able to confirm five such gas chambers in the state, but there could be as many as 16, Parker said.

“When they euthanize animals in gas chambers, they load them in bulk into the chambers,” Parker said. “When the animals begin to suffocate, they begin to fight each other. Sometimes, the workers have to pry the animals apart when they remove them from the chamber.

“We want to move to have much more humane ways to euthanize animals,” Parker said.

Euthanizing an animal by lethal injection would render the animal unconscious before it died, and would be more cost-effective than using a gas chamber, Parker said.

“It is less expensive to euthanize animals by lethal injection, and it would be much more humane,” Parker said.

The group will also be pushing to create more low-cost spay and neuter clinics across the state, which will help cut down on the number of animals admitted to animal shelters and humane societies, Parker said.

“Let’s use some common sense. It’s more cost-effective to have a lower number of animals admitted to shelters,” Parker said. “Our idea is to get out in front of the problem and reduce the intake number of homeless animals to shelters.”

Shelters across the state took in about 160,000 stray animals in 2008, of which about 120,000 were euthanized, Parker said.

“The general thinking in Alabama, and in many states, is that when you drop an animal off at a humane society it will be adopted,” Parker said. “But we are dealing with an alarmingly high number of kill rates in Alabama.

“With the economy the way it is right now, shelters are seeing a huge rise in the number of surrenders,” Parker said. “In Alabama and here in Shelby County, we have a number of outstanding animal rescue groups. But that is nothing but a Band-Aid on the problem. For every animal you save, you are going to lose 1,000 more.”