Utah House of Representatives kills animal shelter amendments
Bill to end gas chamber euthanasia statewide fails
March 7, 2017
Last week, a Utah House of Representatives committee killed a bill that would have ended the use of gas chambers statewide as a way to euthanize animals.
The House Government Operations Committee failed to recommend SB 56 after a tie vote, 4-4. The measure had previously passed out of the Senate 19-7. Sen. Peter Knudson (R-Orangeville) District 17 and Rep. Lee Perry (R-Perry) District 19 sponsored the bill.
The measure would have prohibited the use of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or any other inhalant in a chamber to euthanize a domestic or wild animal. Sodium pentobarbital or a common derivative would have been the only acceptable method of euthanasia.
In an interview with The Park Record, Sharon Cantwell, the development director for Summit County's nonprofit organization Nuzzles & Co. and a member of local nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife, was at a loss for words.
"I'm just absolutely stunned and heartbroken," Cantwell said. "I'm in the same position that I was in a year ago wondering how many animals are going to have to slowly suffocate in terror over the next year."
Knudson and Perry resurrected the bill after it stalled in the House last year. This was the third attempt to end the use of gas chambers in Utah, one of the four states in the country that still uses it to euthanize animals. Summit County has a small trapping program for wildlife and still uses the gas chamber to euthanize those animals.
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"I love animals and it hurts me to see animals suffer," Knudson said. "But when an animal must be put down, for any number of reasons, if you can do it as pain free as possible, why not? I just don't think we should continue when there are options that are available."
Knudson commended the animal advocates who showed up at the Legislature to support the measure. However, he blamed the bill's failure on "statements that I don't believe are accurate."
"When the Sheriff's Office and animal control people testified from Utah County they destroyed, what I thought, might have been a very successful experience in the House," Knudson said. "I am very disappointed. I felt like this was an opportunity to make some major strides. I think the Senate is behind it, there are a few detractors, but the House is a different breed of cat and I don't think there will be much change as long as the current makeup is in there."
Sundays Hunt, Utah State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, said this third attempt was "not as effective as we were hoping." However, Hunt said she will continue to advocate for the measure.
"We are certainly not giving up on this. They know it is going to happen and we were hoping this would be the session that it did it," Hunt said. "There are humane options that are available and the biggest argument is the risk of staff injury, but that is ridiculous. There are 57 shelters in the state, why are 50 able to euthanize everyone that comes? We will get this done. We are not quitting until Utah is gas chamber free."
Clint Thacker, director of Davis County Animal Control, said his department euthanizes about 1,100 animals in the field and "there were no injuries and no issues."
"I know it is possible and you are capable of doing it without injuring anyone, but the individuals who are making the decisions are not the ones who are doing it and they are just hearing from the other side," Thacker said. "I believe these individuals and the shelters that are refusing to switch are scared of change and they are not willing to commit to make that jump. But gas chambers are an old tool that need to be gone."
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