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Testimony 1: Macon City Councilman Rabbi Larry Schlesinger

Rabbi Schlesinger voluntarily witnessed a mass execution at the Macon Animal Shelter on the morning after Martin Luther King Day in 2008. As a newly-elected member of the Macon City Council, Rabbi Schlesinger chose to observe the procedure in order to fairly assess the gas chamber ban being considered by the Macon City Council. This information was NOT provided to Shelter Reform by Rabbi Schlesinger, but was assembled from his published and public statements concerning his experience.

Macon, GA: Watching the gas chamber operate
Macon Animal Shelter - Morning of January 22, 2008

On March 24, 2009, Rachel Schaerr published an article about the Macon Animal Shelter for WMGT (NBC 41). (We correct some of the errors in that article here.) This is what Ms. Schaerr published from her interview with the Rabbi:

While visiting the shelter, City Councilman Larry Schlesinger says he was present when 17 animals were killed in the gas chamber. "What I heard was about thirty seconds of what I would term squealing," said Schlesinger. "It sort of went a level beyond whining. And it just let me know, this was through cinder block walls no less. "

After his experience, he and other city council members joined forces to try and stop the use of carbon monoxide in Macon's shelter. "A society is judged by the way it treats the most vulnerable inhabitants, and I think we could do a much better job," said Schlesinger.

On March 9, 2009, Rabbi Larry Schlesinger delivered his testimony to legislators in both the House and Senate of Georgia’s General Assembly in support of HB 606 and SB 232 (bills that if signed into law would have permanently banned gas chambers with no exceptions):

Rabbi Schlesinger testified that his visit to the Macon pound was unannounced. Upon his arrival he noted that the homemade metal receptacle into which the animals are loaded for gassing was crammed full with 17 dogs. This surprised him because the Council had been told that a maximum of 10 dogs were gassed at any one time. Additionally, the Rabbi noticed there were dogs of various sizes in the receptacle and they were not separated as recommended by the AVMA.

Rabbi Schlesinger then described in detail the pitiful cries of the dying dogs as they gasped for their last breaths, and their certain terror, all of which are indelibly etched in his memory after witnessing Macon’s inhumane procedure.

After the gassing, the presumably dead dogs were left in the chamber, unattended, for several hours. When Rabbi Schlesinger asked the person who had operated the chamber why the animals were left in the chamber all day, the man answered, “To be sure they’re dead.” The hideous experience ended sometime in the afternoon when a dump truck arrived and the contents of the chamber were simply dumped into the bed of the truck, transported a short distance to the landfill, and discarded like garbage.

When the sub-committee hearing was over, someone asked Rabbi Schlesinger if the animals were not put into plastic bags before being dumped into the landfill. The Rabbi said when he observed the gassing, they were not; but at some point after his visit, the pound began putting the bodies in bags because citizens with children who had brought their household garbage to the landfill had complained about the dead bodies piled up.

On June 9, 2008, Rabbi Schlesinger’s comments made during meetings of Macon’s subcommittee appointed to discuss legislation to end the use of Macon’s gas chamber were recorded in the following portion of Councilman Erickson’s blog:

During the subcommittee investigation, the head of Animal Control said he needed about $150,000.00 to get lethal injection up and running. Curiously, on his inventory list he said he would need stethoscopes. Rabbi Schlesinger, on the subcommittee, asked why they did not have them already. Animal Control is required to check each animal before disposal.

The head of Animal Control admitted that Animal Control in Macon does not do that. He said they pile all the animals in the pin together, lower them into the gas chamber, and then raise them up. They make a visual inspection to see if any of the animals are alive. They then leave the animals for a dump truck that carries them off to the landfill.

The animals are not sedated. It is not uncommon for animals in such a situation to tear each other apart in a panic.

City Council members Rabbi Larry Schlesinger and Nancy White were both quoted in an article by 11th Hour. (IMPORTANT NOTE: We at Shelter Reform do NOT agree with the way the article's author attempts to impose a guilt trip upon the reader.)

Rabbi Larry Schlesinger is the only city council member to witness Macon’s gas chamber in action. He listened as seventeen dogs were euthanized.

“As they are lowered down, they are behind concrete block walls so I couldn’t see anything. It was what I heard through those walls that I remember,” Schlesinger says. “There were 30 seconds of silence as the gas was administered and then there was this, I would say, 30 seconds of high-pitched squealing, a chorus of squealing. There was something going on in that chamber that was unnatural. Then there was silence. There was a last squeal. I assume it was a bigger dog that gave out that squeal that it took longer for the carbon monoxide to take effect.”

After touring the animal shelter with Schlesinger in January and hearing that nearly 4,000 animals—2794 dogs and 1166 cats last year—are put down this way, Ward V Post 2 Council member Nancy White was convinced.

“We are judged as a community by how we treat our animals,” White says. “We could do so much better.”

“If you are putting down that number of animals, you’ve got a problem. We have to address the problem,” Schlesinger adds.

On February 17, 2008, the Rabbi shared some of his testimony in a letter he wrote to Representatives Tom McCall and Terry England, Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Georgia House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee regarding House Bill 1060 to ban gas chambers in Georgia:

I never associated the sound of 'squealing' with dogs until I witnessed (in my role as a newly elected Macon city councilman) our Animal Control Office’s carbon monoxide gassing of 17 dogs some two weeks ago.

The sounds of shrilled panic and desperation that I heard through the gas chamber’s thick cinderblock walls clearly indicated to me that those canines were quite alert and conscious that something terribly out of the ordinary was happening to them. Their chorus of ’squealings’ continues to haunt me, and as a result, I am thoroughly convinced that there is nothing at all ‘humane’ about this practice.

I would strongly urge you not to let House Bill 1060 purposely die in your committee; instead, please do the right and conscionable thing by doing your part to put an end to what is truly a cruel and rather regressive procedure that is still practiced in some lingering corners of this state.

Rabbi Larry Schlesinger
Macon City Council - Ward 3, Post 1

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Help us document what happens at your local animal shelter. If nobody comes forward to share what goes on there, the animals will continue to be the victims. 

Kathy comments on Macon Councilman Rabbi Larry Schlesinger's published eyewitness testimony:

It takes considerable courage to head down to the Macon Animal Shelter to witness the mass euthanizing of seventeen dogs in the city's gas chamber. Councilman Rabbi Schlesinger is to be commended for his proactive approach to what happens on his watch as a member of the Macon City Council.

One man's report of how ghastly this process actually is was sufficient to wake people up. We should embrace this bold testimony, grateful that this awful chamber no longer exists down on Eleventh Street in Macon, and work toward outlawing and destroying all such cruel death contraptions.