Jordan Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A House committee gave a favorable recommendation Tuesday to a bill that would limit the circumstances in which an animal shelter can use carbon monoxide gas to euthanize an animal.
The bill would require shelters to place only one animal in a gas chamber or compartment, and shelters would have to adopt a training program for those performing euthanasia procedures.
After passing the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee by a 7-2 vote, HB57 now goes to the full House.
HB57, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, states that carbon monoxide gas could be used only when another method of euthanasia would cause unnecessarily stress to the animal or endanger the person doing the procedure.
"Hopefully it will limit the use of carbon monoxide when euthanizing animals because it’ll set a standard," Romero said. "The majority of shelters already are no-kill shelters, or they do euthanize by lethal injection."
Some veterinarians say injections are a more humane method because the procedure is quicker than carbon monoxide and allows for a human touch.
"I think a lot of the reason that people like the idea of the shelters using the injectable form of euthanasia is that as that animal passes, it’s being handled. There’s that human touch, so it doesn’t feel so cold and heartless," said Drew Allen, a Salt Lake City veterinarian.
An animal will "fall asleep" one to two minutes after an injection, as opposed to the five to 10 minutes it takes with a gas procedure, Allen said.
"As we know, carbon monoxide is odorless, non-irritating," he said, " so it’s not in that way a stressful thing for the animals. It’s just not quite as quick and lacks the human touch."
The bill specifies that the carbon monoxide gas used in the chambers be non-irritating and of commercial grade.
"The carbon monoxide does have its cases where it is very important to be used, especially for feral cats, and that idea of human touch and handling is the last thing that animal wants," Allen said.
Pam Rasmussen, a South Jordan animal control officer, said the type of procedure she uses is determined by the animal's health, attitude and behavior.
"We’ve got a Great Pyrenees right now. I don’t know how we’ll sedate him," Rasmussen said. "He’s so large and he wants to eat me, and he’s my eye level. How am I going to hold him down to euthanize him?"
Rasmussen said the dog is too strong and will probably be euthanized with carbon monoxide gas.
She estimated South Jordan officers perform 20 percent of euthanasia procedures in Utah. Last year, the shelter used both injections and gas for about 56 dogs and 89 cats, Rasmussen said.
"I myself have used this chamber on my own personal pets because they were wondering why I was restricting them, and I didn't want to make a pin cushion out of them," she said.
The question of who would enforce such a law has yet to be determined. Currently there is no policing.
"That is something that we’re going to look into, so this is just a first step," Romero said.
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