SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A bill that would end gas chamber euthanasia in Utah passed a committee hearing on Tuesday and will now head to the Senate floor.
Animal rights groups and animal lovers are praising the advancement of Senate Bill 56, as the Senate Government Operations Committee voted by a vote of 6 to 2 in favor of the Animal Shelter Amendment that would ban gas chamber euthanasia in the state of Utah.
Senators David Hinkins (R) -District 27 and Daniel Thatcher (R) – District 12, were the only two to vote against the bill.
The bill would require all animal shelters to move away from the practice of using gas chambers to euthanize animals and instead use euthanasia by injection (EBI). Utah is one of four states that continues to practice gas chamber euthanasia. According to the Humane Society of Utah there are over 50 shelters in the state and about 5 of them continue the practice.
“A lot of these shelters that are maintaining the gas chamber, you have to look at the long term cost of purchasing new ones, when they break down — repairing, and there’s no state regulation to maintain or calibrate these shelter gas chambers,” says Deann Shepherd with the Humane Society of Utah.
The Humane Society says gas chambers pose more of a threat to humans than the practice of lethal injection. They say gas chambers use carbon monoxide and there is no regulation or oversight for these devices. They say there have been cases where employees and/or veterinarians have gotten sick or were killed because of their exposure to the gas. They say with EBI the animal is unconscious within 3-5 seconds and death occurs within 3-5 minutes.
During the committee hearing yesterday opponents expressed concerns that EBI would cost more than gas chamber euthanasia.
“‘Cause I do have some counties and cities that are saying this could be a hardship, so if they could let me know so I could get animal control some numbers,” said Senator Hinkins (R) – District 27.
The Human Society says there is research that has shown it costs less to use EBI than the gas chamber.
“So, if there’s any additional expenses of getting the equipment and training then there is help to get that but, we offer free training at the Humane Society,” says Shepherd.
The Humane Society says there are grants that can offset the cost of purchasing any equipment that might be necessary to use EBI. They, along with other organizations, also provide free training for personnel who will be administering lethal injections.
Opponents are also concerned about the safety of staff using EBI when handling more aggressive animals.
“We offer training for free,” says Shepherd. “We want the personnel well trained to handle these animals and here’s the key, you just sedate them. There’s no more handling of the animal to sedate them than to move them into a gas chamber.”
The Humane Society says the research, equipment and training are all there to help move all shelters away from gas chamber and end the practice in the state. Previous efforts for a bill to end gas chamber euthanasia have failed in the past but proponents are optimistic this time around.
Tuesday morning before the committee hearing over 100 animal lovers and activists gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to show their support and encourage legislators to vote in favor of the bill.
The Human Society of Utah also cited examples in Davis County and Sandy City where they say they have seen the benefits of EBI after moving away from using gas chambers to euthanize animals.
The bill will now head to the full Senate and is expected to be taken up for discussion sometime next week.