Bill to ban gas chambers in Utah for animal shelters failed

A bill to ban gas chambers to euthanize pets at animal shelters in Utah failed at the end of last week. The House Government Operations Committee killed SB56 on a tie 4-4 vote. The legislation had previously attracted a majority of votes as it passed in the Senate 19-7 with animal advocates rallying in popular support of the more humane way to end the life of pets at Utah shelters using euthanasia by injection (EBI) to be the only acceptable and humane means of euthanasia.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracey opposed- citing he was against the “elimination of choice.”

“We do euthanize with injection, and we also euthanize with the chamber based on the issue of the animal” and how difficult the animal is to handle”, Tracy stated.

In addition the sheriff added that holding an animal and injecting it with a needle to put it to death is riskier to the safety of his staff, and harder on their mental health – meaning it is safer and easier for staff to place animals in  dark, gas chambers.

Senator Pete Knudson (R-Brigham City) refuted Tracey’s claims of safety factors to his staff after reading a letter from Davis County where gas chambers are no longer used and injections were given to euthanize hundreds of raccoons, skunks, feral cats and dozens of injured or hard to handle dogs with no injuries to workers or staff members. In addition no staff members left their jobs since 2014; stating it was more humane to use injections than the slow deaths animals suffer in gas chambers.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, animals are placed in a small box (gas chamber) that is full of the smells of the animals who came before them—many of whom may had urinated or defecated before they died. When animals are placed in the chamber together, they may  fight out of fear and desperation. For several minutes they are wide awake, terrified, clawing, barking, meowing and whining for a way out. They may struggle for air or begin convulsing before finally losing consciousness. In the best of circumstances, the procedure takes minutes, but if the gas chamber has not been properly calibrated, in the cases of shelters with limited resources, the very young, very old, injured and stressed can linger on for longer periods of time and remain conscious in excruciating pain while their bodies slowly shut down.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states euthanasia by injection is the most humane way to end an animal’s life. Even in rural animal shelters, staff members can still show compassion and provide a quiet room, a soft embrace from someone who cares, and a gentle, painless sleep induced by a trained technician. When an animal is injected with proper euthanasia drugs, he loses consciousness in as little as 3-5 seconds.

To contact Sheriff Tracy and respectfully help him understand the horrors of the antiquated gas chambers for defenseless animals, he can be reached at
Jimtr@utahcounty.gov. Make sure to also thank Senator Peter Knudson and Representative Lee Perry for sponsoring the bill and ask them to continue their fight to remove all gas chambers in the state. Email pknudson@le.utah.gov and leeperry@le.utah.gov.

(Photo of animal gas chambers supplied by the American Humane Organization)

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