SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to regulate animal euthanasia at government-controlled animal shelters passed through a House committee Friday, but not before it was watered down to allow for use of carbon monoxide chambers.

The changes to HB185 (le.utah.gov/~2010/htmdoc/hbillhtm/HB0185S01.htm) were made after several local animal control officers addressed the House Government Operations Committee.

The amendment allows animal shelters to use carbon monoxide gas chambers as a means of killing unwanted pets even if those animals wouldn't be "unduly stressed" by lethal injection. An earlier version of the bill would have made carbon monoxide poisoning a last resort for shelters throughout the state.

The debate was sparked in 2009 when a new shelter operated by West Valley City and Taylorsville purchased a carbon monoxide chamber. Since then, activists have called the euthanasia method inhumane.

But according to those who testified at Friday's hearing, the procedure is both humane and endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Sandy Animal Services director Rich Bergan told the committee that he chose carbon monoxide to peacefully end the lives of his own pet dogs.

"If I didn't think this was humane, I absolutely wouldn't use it," he said.

Other animal control professionals told the committee that outlawing carbon monoxide for pet euthanasia would be too expensive and would cause more "compassion fatigue" for personnel.

After the changes were recommended by Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, the bill was unanimously recommended by the committee to the full House.

e-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com