Methamphetamine, also known as Meth, Speed, Ice, Crystal, Chalk, Crank, Tweak, Uppers, Black Beauties, Glass, Bikers Coffee,
Methlies Quick, Poor Man"s Cocaine, Chicken Feed, Shabu, Crystal Meth, Stove Top, Trash, Go-Fast, Yaba and Yellow Bam, is
a highly addictive and powerful stimulant drug. Methamphetamine ranks third, behind alcohol and marijuana, in terms of drugs
of abuse in the United States, particularly in the Midwestern and Western States.
One factor that may be involved in the popularity of methamphetamine use, besides its highly addictive nature, is the ease
of manufacture. While large laboratories (super labs) in Mexico are considered the be source of much of the methamphetamine
on the West coast, the majority of methamphetamine is "home grown," produced in either super labs or in relatively small clandestine
laboratories (box labs) throughout the United States. These laboratories can be found in virtually any location, including
rural areas, residential neighborhoods, commercial properties, and industrial districts. Clandestine laboratories have been
found in private residences, hotels, motels, barns, farm outbuildings, outdoors, automobile trunks, boats and luggage.
Although the term "laboratory" may lead one to imagine a sterile, highly controlled environment, clandestine methamphetamine
laboratories are more commonly disorganized, dirty, and highly contaminated by the large number of potentially toxic compounds
that are used to produce the end product. The manufacture of methamphetamine is a relatively simple process, involving the
use of readily available ingredients and equipment. Many of the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine are extremely
hazardous (Figure 1), and approximately 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste is generated for each pound of methamphetamine produced.
Methamphetamine laboratories are generally dangerous places, not only to those who produce the compound, but to others who
may be living nearby as well as to law enforcement, firemen or individuals who may enter the area.
Very much like children of individuals who manufacture (and generally use) methamphetamine, animals in these environments
be at risk for a variety of potential hazards. The risks from chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine include
burns and injuries due to explosions and fires from highly volatile agents, breathing problems due to the inhalation of toxic
vapors or gases, systemic effects of ingesting the precursor chemicals or the end product, and irritation or burns of the
skin and or due to contact with corrosive chemicals such as acids. Chemicals spills onto flooring or the ground pose a particular
hazard to free roaming pets, as they may walk through, lie in, and/or ingest the spilled materials. Mechanical injury from
discarded syringes, razor blades or other hazards is also possible. Because many methamphetamine manufacturers are often
addicted users, animals in the area may also be malnourished due to neglect and/or have evidence of physical abuse.
The types of animals that might be present in a clandestine laboratory during a raid by law enforcement include household
pets, livestock, and captive-kept wild animals. Guard dogs are commonly utilized by methamphetamine manufacturers. Animal
control officers responding to should be ready for anything: at a Massachusetts methamphetamine laboratory raid, police found
alligators guarding the residence!
Seizure of animals during a methamphetamine laboratory raid must be done with care, as the animals themselves may be contaminated
and pose a health hazard to those that handle them. In an ideal situation, entry into the "hot zone" will be restricted to
those specially trained and equipped to handle hazardous materials and the animals that are seized will be brought out to
an area designated for initial decontamination. However, there will be times when animal control officers will be requested
to enter the hot zone to remove animals. In these situations, personal safety becomes paramount, as you cannot help the animals
if you yourself become injured or ill due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. At the very least protective eye, hand and
foot covering should be used. If available, protective jumpsuits (e.g. Tyvek) should also be worn. If toxic fumes are suspected
or detected, only professionals possessing suitable respirators should enter the area.