Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"I could hear them screaming": Problems at BCAC Must Be Addressed

KTBS broke a disturbing story last night out of Bossier City Animal Control in which two shelter workers, (one a volunteer and one a paid employee) report inhumane euthanasia practices:

Brandy Cornell quit working at the shelter Friday after she said she witnessed dogs and cats euthanized with the heart sticks by untrained technicians.  
"I could hear them screaming," Cornell said about the cats when they were being euthanized. 
Technicians are required by law to train in Baton Rouge once a year. Cornell provided KTBS with a letter, which you can see in the video above. In that letter Dale Keeler, who oversaw Cornell at the shelter, said that all heart stick practices would "cease" as of May 8 "until a technician is trained in chemical sedation." 

 Under Louisiana law, heart stick, or IC,  is illegal unless the animal has been sedated by a trained professional and can feel no pain.

"I could hear them screaming."

So to be clear, here is the law on euthanasia in Louisiana:

C. Euthanasia:  
(1) Euthanasia methods and procedures must conform with recommendations outlined in the report of the American Veterinary Medical Association on Euthanasia, dated July 1, 1978, or as revised except as provided in Paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Subsection.
(2) Euthanasia by carbon monoxide gas chambers on cats and dogs shall be prohibitd beginning on January 1, 2013 and thereafter. 
(3) Euthanasia by intracardiac injection on cats and dogs shall be prohibited unless the animal is unconscious or rendered completely unconscious and insensitive to pain through the injection of an anesthetic. 
(4) Euthanasia personnel shall attend the Humane Society of the United States Academy on Euthanasia or an equivalent program within one year of date of employment. 

 The KTBS story ended with former shelter volunteer Brandy Cornell asking,"Why would he [Keeler] tell them they would cease euthanasia until they got a sedation class? Why would he even say that if someone was already certified to do it. That doesn't make any sense whatsoever,"

She raises a good point.

Question:  Every certified animal euthanasia technician (CAET) at BCAC had to sign Keeler's May 8 mandate that "all intracardiac heart sticks will cease."  Why would you sign something like that if you aren't actually doing the procedure? 

What is heart stick?  If you Google it, you'll get headlines and images you don't really want to see so let me quote from the Human Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual:

Intracardiac Injection (IC) (Injection of Sodium Pentobarbital Directly Into the Heart) 
An intracardiac (IC) Injection involves the injection of sodium pentobarbital directly into the heart, where it is quickly transported to the brain.  Injection into a conscious animal's heart is excruciatingly painful, even if the technician is able to locate the heart chamber on the first attempt.  For this reason, IC Injection must never be administered to an animal unless the euthanasia technician has confirmed that the animal is fully unconscious.  Many states and municipalities have laws dictating that animals must be fully unconscious before an IC injection.
The Humane Society details specific measures to ensure that the animal is completely unconscious before such a procedure.

This is a very effective way to euthanize an animal that is unconscious, but if not, it is torture.

"I could hear them screaming."

Finding the heart chamber is difficult, even for a trained and experienced technician.

A Certified Animal Euthanasia Technician (CAET) is trained to administer euthanasia, but not sedation, and a CAET must renew their certification each year.  A CAET can only do heart stick euthanasia (IC)  if the animal is totally unconscious from trauma or sedation and sedation must be done by a veterinarian according to Louisiana law:

§1209. Pre-Euthanasia Restraint
 A. Euthanasia by intracardiac injection on cats and dogs shall be prohibited unless the animal is unconscious or rendered completely unconscious and insensitive to pain through the injection of an anesthetic. Such prohibition is applicable to animal control shelters and their animals located on site as well as their animals which may be transported to a veterinary clinic for euthanasia. Temporary transfer of ownership of the animal to the veterinarian by the animal control shelter for euthanasia by cardiac injection is a violation of the law. The performance of euthanasia by intracardiac injection in violation of this section by a CAET and/or veterinarian is sanctionable.  
 B. A CAET (lead status or otherwise) shall not use any drug for purposes of sedation, or any form of anesthesia, since sedation is beyond the permissible scope of euthanasia practice for this certificate holder. However, Acepromazine, Rompun (xylazine), or Domitor (medetomidine) which are non-controlled drugs, may be legally used by CAETs for pre-euthanasia restraint of feral/fractious animals. If an animal control shelter’s animal must be sedated/anesthetized pursuant to Subsection A above, then a LA licensed veterinarian must perform this service.

Question:  What sedation drugs are on site at this shelter that are used prior to the IC procedure?

 This should all be recorded at the shelter and monitored as controlled substances.  There ought to be a paper trail.  If not, that's a big problem.

Question:  There is no vet on staff at this shelter; who orders and administers the sedation drugs required by law before IC Injection?

Question:  Who on staff is sedation certified and for how long?  How many animals were put to sleep before that certification occurred and by what method?  Are the annual certifications up to date?  Do the medication logs align with procedures?

I think what we will discover is that there are no required sedatives on site at this shelter and no one certified to deliver said sedatives.

I hope not.

That aside, it is a terrible and inhumane procedure which has been outlawed in many states.  It should be a last resort procedure -- not the option of choice for euthanasia.

The whistle blowers in this case are both respected members of the animal community and have excellent reputations.  I don't say that to insinuate that anyone else does not have an excellent reputation; I only mean that it is difficult to question what these whistle blowers are saying.

It is clear that there are many, many questions to be investigated in this story.

The Humane Society Reference Manual on Euthanasia defines euthanasia this way:
Euthanasia involves more than ending an animal's life.  It is a process that combines compassion and scientific consideration while providing each animal with a death that is free of pain and stress.  Along with the technical skills required, there must be compassion and a sense of solemnity, reverence, and respect for the animals.
Shelter employees and volunteers are to be commended for the work they do; it is a job that is emotionally draining, without a doubt.  We must applaud and support the whistle blowers; when an injustice is done it must be corrected and in this case, when the public's trust is compromised it must be restored.  Best practices must be in place and full confidence in the shelter restored.

It is incumbent on the investigators to do this.


Unknown said...

The shelter who`s director should be arrested and fined for giving out these orders , breaking the law and causing needless terrible painful death of innocent animals. I am so disturbed and livid about this,incident I cannot begin to explain my emotions. Severe punishment must be given to the head of this shelter as to make an example for other shelter there will be zero tolerance for breaking the states laws in how the animals are to be killed. Why was no sedative given to help these animals die with less pain? What was done with the sedatives in stock? Was a count done of the sedatives to ensure none was being stolen? I am sure the frighten use could be used to sell to stupid drug addicts. Anyone so unethical as to Kill animus with no sedative is unethical and has the,ability to commit crimes in other areas. Who could stand to hear dogs screaming from horrible heart pain when there is supposed to be a sedative given first? A monster, that's who. And how can any volunteer or shelter worker even do this? What kind of people do you have working for this hell hole? I am going to cause this shelter as much exposure for the trimester have committed and work towards getting rid of the heart stick killing which is horrible and not necessary ... fire the administrator, Now!

Janet Kennedy said...

Thank you for this very well written article. It puts the entire issue of what has transpired in perspective for me.

SistaSuzyQ said...

This is all deeply disturbing. These poor animals have been through so much by the time they wind up at a shelter. I pray soon kill shelters will be a thing of the past and intelligent people can provide a miracle to right the wrong unintelligent people have caused. Until then, unfortunate animals that must meet this fate, are already scared, they deserve compassion.. this procedure should be administered in calm and quiet by a person who knows what they are doing and loves animals. There should be no pain involved.. it should be like going to sleep permanently.. the way it is at the animal hospital. This is the end of their little lives. It may not matter to some, but it matters a great deal to me and to millions of others also. If there is a training class on putting animals to sleep, it should be the same procedure used at the hospital. One day kill shelters will be a thing of the past if intelligent people who love animals, have the funding, and the power to get laws passed and enforced on spay / neuter, abuse, neglect, shelters, rescues, and termination of life. Working in a shelter is hard, stressful, and takes a toll on everyone. Only animal lovers should be hired and I don’t know what the pay is, but I’m sure it’s not enough.. and the person who sits behind a desk in a nice cool building along side the mayor, also needs to be an animal lover and activist, always looking for a better way. Encouraging the community to be involved, volunteer, supportive, submit ideas, have fund raisers, special adoption events and prices.. like Brittany and Brandy did! They should still be working at BPAC, this was a great loss.. these girls went above and beyond. This is a shelter for protection, for help, so in the end, their little lives couldn’t be saved, please treat them with love and compassion and let them go peacefully and pain free. If any employee lacks these qualities, terminate their employment, they should NOT be there. These animals are important.. their lives matter ♥️

Susan Procell said...

Please reply to my comment on here, to Susan Procell. I never use that email. I don’t know why it wouldn’t just put my name. I must have done something wrong.