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What happens to animals in the pound.
How pets are killed (euthanized) in pounds and shelters is 1) controlled by Federal law, 4) apparently is seldom monitored by Federal agencies due to lack of funding, 3) ultimately determined by the individual pound or shelter. Some pounds and humane shelters have been forced to change their methods due to public outcry.

First, here is the website url for the AVMA guidelines which the NIH uses for reference:

URL for the Office of Animal Welfare:

Note: For help accessing PDF, RTF, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint or RealPlayer files, see Help Downloading Files, on that website.

To determine which euthanasia methods are used in your area, simply call each pound or shelter you want to know about. Ask for the director or whoever actually runs the facility (speaking to the director is important, since many lower-level employees may not be privy to such info). When you speak with that person, also ask outright what other methods are known for sure to be used in your area, and who uses them; you may get some very interesting responses if you ask if other methods are suspected in your area.

Because not all people are personally comfortable talking about these issues, it's important to call each pound and shelter director and ask exactly the same question(s) of each. You may find different answers, you may find some not being honest with you, you may find that things have changed and certain methods are no longer used in your area. However, the following are the methods known to be used a few years ago in different agencies or facilities:

1) Lethal injection
2) Decompression chamber
3) Gas chamber
4) Electrocution
5) Other*

*AVMA guidelines indicating which methods are considered inhumane are listed near the end of the document in the pdf report cited above.


1) Lethal injection: Lethal injection is the most-preferred method to euthanize dogs and cats, since it causes the least stress for the animals and a somewhat minimal amount of stress for the humans involved. However, the amount of stress for the animal is in some ways dependent on the method or location of injection, the type of chemical(s) used, and the proficiency of the human involved. Most-typically, injection is done quite painlessly in a front leg; in the case of severe dehydration, other locations may be used. This writer once brought a cat to a veterinarian who injected directly into the heart, and is something to be avoided if possible.

2) Decompression chamber. A decompression chamber is a spinning mechanical unit which houses small cages into which animals are enclosed; the spinning of the unit prevents the animals from breathing, causing them to lose consciousness and eventually die. Today, this method is considered inhumane under the AVMA guidelines.

3) Gas Chamber. Various kinds of gas chambers are used; a typical professional type includes individual small cages for numbers of animals which are all gassed at the same time, although AVMA guidelines for certain gases require euthanasia individually.

4) Electrocution. This method for small animals such as dogs and cats sometimes involves a metal clip on the animal's lip and a metal rectal electrocution probe. This method was described to us several years ago by a well-known large humane shelter director, but we do not find it currently listed in the AVMA guidelines.

Again, to get more details on types of methods or any specific method, simply ask various impoundment directors, and you are sure to get a great deal of information on these and other methods used in your area as well as those that have fallen by the wayside and are no longer employed in your area. Also review the entire pdf document cited above.

To learn about other happenings in pounds and shelters, check out the other sections in this website -- you'll find myriad details here and there in relation to search tips. Also visit Section 6 which gives answers via questions you should ask of each pound you visit. The impoundment system is extremely complex, even varying considerably by agency and by U.S., state, or municipal location. What happens to animals in pounds in my area may be different than what happens to animals in pounds in your area. What happens to pets in my local city pound maybe different than what happens to pets in a pound 5 miles away. Typically, most impounded lost or abandoned pets are not claimed by their owners, and less than 50% are adopted to new homes.

What happens to the dead bodies of animals killed in pounds and shelters?
Each location / each facility handles this problem differently. In some communities, the bodies are simply stored in a shed and ultimately buried; in larger communities or those with more particular regulations, the bodies are kept frozen until removed from a facility. The disposal procedures we know of include:

This is most-expensive, so although this method is used, it is not considered typical due to the expense.

--Rendering plant
 This is the least expensive, since truckers normally pick up the bodies for no fee. The truckers get their payment from the rendering plants where the bodies are brought. The rendering plants get their monies from the products they produce (tallow, meat and blood byproducts, hair byproducts) which are included in everyday products which you and I purchase and use for ourselves and for our animals. To determine which products you use may contain rendering plant products, read the labels and look for terms such as hydrolyzed animal protein, blood meal, bone meal, meat byproducts, tallow, etc. Note that not all rendering plants choose to dispose of household pets in this way -- it all depends on the rendering plant. If your local plant does, please understand that such a plant is providing a community service.

--Burial in landfill  This is not allowed in some areas, but is a common disposal method around the country.

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