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Stray dog awaits adoption after surviving gas chamber

A stray beagle mix that cheated death in an Alabama dog pound's gas chamber has found a temporary home in New Jersey while he waits for another family to adopt him.

Volunteers began looking for a new home for the dog known as Daniel after the animal walked out unscathed from the carbon monoxide administered by the Animal Control Department Oct. 3 in Florence, Ala.

The nonprofit Eleventh Hour Rescue group, based in Rockaway, N.J., arranged to have the dog flown to northern New Jersey where he is staying with volunteer Jill Pavlik until he can be adopted. Linda Schiller, the shelter's founder and president, said the facility has received about 100 applications from people around the country seeking to adopt him.

Phil Stevenson, a Florence city spokesman, said Friday that no one is sure why Daniel was the lone survivor. "It may be that his breathing was shallow because of a cold or something. Or maybe God just had a better plan for this one," he said.

Stevenson said the gas chamber is a stainless-steel box roughly the size of a pickup truck bed, and dogs are put into the chamber about seven or eight at a time. A computer-controlled pump slowly feeds carbon monoxide into the chamber once it's sealed, and an operator presses a button.

A new operator placed the dog into the chamber with other animals and started the machine, Stevenson said.

Variables that could allow a dog to survive such a gassing include the number of animals placed in the chamber, the concentration of carbon monoxide, whether the chamber is airtight and the health of the animal, with young, healthy animals having the best chance for survival, said Julie Morris, senior vice president of community outreach for the ASPCA.

Since carbon monoxide is heavier than air, it sinks, so a tall dog, or one that climbed to the top of a pile, would have a better chance of surviving, she said.

Vinny Grosso, the Florence animal shelter's director, said Daniel was named by workers after the biblical figure who survived the lions' den.

"In the last eight years, I've only seen it one other time. It's just very, very rare," Grosso said, adding that the shelter's policy calls for officials to find surviving animals a new home.

Daniel showed up in one of the shelter's "drop box" cages where people can drop off animals anonymously. "It was an unwanted dog. We didn't have a history on him," he said.

As many as 30 animals a month are put down; Stevenson said Daniel was the third dog he could remember surviving in the last 12 years.

Mindy Gilbert, Alabama director for the Humane Society of the United States, said Daniel's story explains why the group pushed the State Legislature to ban gas chambers effective Dec. 31. She said many states still allow gas chambers.

At least 15 states, including New Jersey and New York, have banned carbon monoxide for euthanizing shelter animals.

Pavlik, who was worked with Eleventh Hour Rescue for seven years, said Daniel is getting along well with her two dogs, both of which are rescue dogs like him.

"He's absolutely fabulous," said Pavlik, a hairdresser. "He walked in the house like he had always lived there. He's very sweet, happy and outgoing."

Grosso said he was pleased to see the reception Daniel got in New Jersey and hopes his story will increase adoptions.

"It was a great ending to a kind of bizarre story," he said.