Sandy City Council votes to discontinue animal euthanasia by gas chamber

Sandy City Council votes to discontinue animal euthanasia by gas chamber

(Stacie Scott/Deseret News)

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SANDY — Following a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Sandy City Council will require the euthanizing of animals to be performed by lethal injection rather than a gas chamber beginning in 2016.

The amendment to city code, spearheaded by City Councilwoman Kristin Coleman-Nicholl, was readily agreed upon by the council, but not before some debate over how long animal control officers would be able to transition to only using lethal injection.

Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker asked for six to eight months for animal services officers to prepare for the new method, saying an undue burden would be placed on just four officers to administer lethal injections to dozens of skunks and raccoons each month.

Two employees who would also be responsible for injections are still being trained and wouldn't be able to fully contribute to euthanizations for at least four months, Thacker said.

"My request would be that we slow down a little bit," he said, noting that he supports getting rid of the gas chamber.

Others who supported the measure spoke earlier in the meeting and asked that it be adopted immediately. Gene Baierschmidt, director of the Humane Society of Utah, which has offered an $8,000 equipment grant and free injections training to Sandy to aid the change in policy, said earlier that using lethal injection would be more humane and more cost effective for the city.

"I'd like to emphasize that Sandy city is euthanizing so few animals now that I don't feel it's cost effective to have a gas chamber," Baierschmidt said.

After a debate about the timing of the measure, the City Council decided it wanted to give the police department about four months to ready its officers.

It was the most horrible part of my job as an (animal control) officer. I often found myself in very compromising situations.

–Heather Beck

"Let's do it the safest and the best way," said City Councilwoman Linda Martinez Saville.

Sandy Animal Control already doesn't use its gas chamber for cats and dogs except at the request of their owners, Thacker said. However, hundreds of skunks are euthanized in Sandy each year using the gas chamber.

About 14.5 percent of all cats and dogs in Utah shelters are euthanized, according to the Humane Society.

Several Sandy residents made comments at the hearing in support of the amendment, saying that euthanization by lethal injection is much more humane because of the speed of the procedure.

"It was the most horrible part of my job as an (animal control) officer," said Sandy resident Heather Beck, recalling her own experience euthanizing animals. "I often found myself in very compromising situations."

Contributing: Katie McKellar

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