Animal shelter under fire for use of gas chamber to euthanize

Animal shelter under fire for use of gas chamber to euthanize

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Andrea survived one trip to the gas chamber.

And then another, unbeknown to animal shelter employees.

More than a half-hour later, employees at the West Valley City shelter heard meowing coming from inside a cooler, where the the black, long-haired cat had been stored in a plastic bag.

"The cat was alive and healthy," a shelter employee reported in a letter to city officials regarding the Oct. 13 incident.

Janita Coombs later took Andrea home after offering to foster the once-stray, resilient feline.

Coombs was among the nearly 100 people who packed the City Council chambers at West Valley City Hall on Tuesday night, many of them there to encourage city leaders to abandon the practice of carbon monoxide euthanasia at shelter.

According to city documents, the shelter's gas chamber has malfunctioned on at least nine occasions since February 2010.

"When I received the call and request to rescue Andrea, one of my first thoughts was, 'How many others have there been?'" Coombs said.

City officials had called the incident "an anomaly," but requests Coombs filed through the Government Records Access and Management Act tell a different story.

According to city documents, which Coombs shared with the Deseret News, the shelter's gas chamber has malfunctioned on at least nine occasions since February 2010.

"It is very clear Andrea is not the only one, and there is an ongoing problem," she told the City Council.

The use of a gas chamber to euthanize animals has been banned in 18 states, she told the council, and that number will increase to 19 when Louisiana's ban takes effect in January 2013.

"Please voluntarily discontinue the use of the gas chamber in West Valley City," she said. "Allow us to stop debating on the best way to kill animals and focus our time, energy and attention on working in collaboration on the best way to save animals."

Kay Brown, a local veterinarian, cited several position statements from organizations such as the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, National Animal Control Association and American Humane Association that oppose the use of carbon monoxide for animal euthanasia in shelters.

Euthanasia by lethal injection is the safest and most humane method of euthanizing shelter animals, Brown said.

Others who spoke Tuesday night called on the City Council to strive for no-kill status at the shelter, meaning no healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized.

"I'm sickened by what I've seen at that shelter," said Debbie Brouchard, a West Valley City resident. "I would ask that you do something to ban the gas chamber. I don't want to see animals suffering anymore."

Mayor Mike Winder said he and members of the City Council intend to visit the shelter in coming weeks to learn more about its procedures.

"You've given us a lot of good food for thought," Winder told the crowd.

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