Bill would end gas chamber animal euthanasia in Utah, one of the last states that still uses it

A Utah bill could end gas chamber animal euthanasia, a practice considered inhumane but still practiced at Utah County and Wasatch County shelters. This lost puppy awaits its owners at Salt Lake County Animal Services on Feb. 25, 2019. The Salt Lake City facility has never used gas chamber euthanasia.

A Utah bill could end gas chamber animal euthanasia, a practice considered inhumane but still practiced at Utah County and Wasatch County shelters. This lost puppy awaits its owners at Salt Lake County Animal Services on Feb. 25, 2019. The Salt Lake City facility has never used gas chamber euthanasia. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bill could end gas chamber animal euthanasia, a practice considered inhumane but still in use at some shelters in the state.

Utah is one of just three states where the method is still used, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

SB69 sponsor Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said shelters in Wasatch and Utah counties both still practice gas chamber euthanasia.

The bill would require euthanasia to be performed only by injection, except in emergency situations outside of a clinic or shelter. In those emergencies, the bill would direct the person performing the euthanasia to use the most humane method possible in the situation.

The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday, and it now goes to the Utah House before it receives final passage.

Gas chamber euthanasia isn't humane for animals or for the workers who perform it, said Rachel Heatley, advocacy director of the Humane Society of Utah, during a Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee this week.

It takes about 25 minutes for an animal to die in a gas chamber, Heatley said. The method also poses emotional and physical risks for workers, potentially exposing them to carbon monoxide poisoning.

"The physical effects are less severe, perhaps, than the psychological impacts. The constant exposure to prolonged animal suffering by a workforce dominated by animal-loving, compassionate individuals is immeasurable," Heatley said.

Euthanization by injection is the humane method, she said, and the Humane Society of Utah offers training on how to administer it.

"Let us not be the last state to ban this practice," Heatley said. "We are really behind here."

Representatives from other animal advocacy groups have also spoken in support of the bill.

A similar bill sponsored by Hinkins passed the Utah Senate last year but did not receive a final vote in the House before the session ended.

Hinkins acknowledged that occasionally, animal welfare workers deal with wild, dangerous animals that need to be euthanized. In those situations, giving the animal an injection could pose danger to the worker, Hinkley noted, adding that the bill might need to include provisions to prevent injury.

The bill would also require shelters to adopt euthanasia training programs and require each person who performs euthanasia for the shelter to attend a training program every two years.

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Utah LegislatureUtah CountySummit and Wasatch countiesUtahPoliticsSummit/Wasatch County
Ashley Imlay is an evening news manager for KSL.com. A lifelong Utahn, Ashley has also worked as a reporter for the Deseret News and is a graduate of Dixie State University.

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