SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Animal advocates made their way up to Capitol Hill for Humane Lobby Day speaking to lawmakers about three bills related to pet safety this legislative session.
Stephanie Smith joined the Humane Society of the United States Thursday morning. Calling her an animal lover would be an understatement. She’s fostered nearly 50 dogs for Rescue Rovers and helped them find a forever home.
One of the bills she lobbied for is H.B. 365 (sponsored by Rep. Erik Hutchings), which would ban Utah shelters from using a gas chamber to euthanize animals.
“This bill is long overdue. This is an antiquated process. It is not necessary. You have only four states that even use a gas chamber, two of them are moving it along. Ohio is banning them. It’s time for Utah to step up,” said Smith.
Deann Shepherd, Director of Marketing and Communications of the Humane Society of Utah (HSU) said euthanasia through injection is a better choice than a gas chamber.
“It’s a very difficult thing to talk about because we’re talking about ending the life of an animal. But we want to talk about doing it in the most humane way possible” said Shepherd. “By injection, it’s very fast, painless, and actually less expensive for the shelter than using a gas chamber, which can be very stressful and scary for animals. It could take up to 30 minutes before they may expire.”
Another bill Smith lobbied for is S.B. 142 (sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis and Rep. Eric Hutchings), which provides a clear definition as to what kind of shelter needs to be provided to pets in extreme weather conditions.
“Would you sleep out there? Would you live out there? You certainly wouldn’t. You’d be seeking shade if it was extreme heat, you would seek warmth if it was freezing cold. These animals are literally dying from these elements,” said Smith.
Shepherd said Salt Lake County is the only county to have established a clear definition of what constitutes as “shelter” for an animal.
“An officer may or may not give someone a citation if they don’t have appropriate shelter for their animal, especially if the animal has been left out in extreme cold or hot temperatures that can be life-threatening,” said Shepherd. “The term, ‘shelter’ is just too ambiguous right now. Is a tree providing shade in hot weather considered shelter? What about a cardboard box in a snowstorm? Probably not.”
Animal advocates are currently working on a bill that provides civil and criminal immunity to Good Samaritans who break into a hot car to rescue a dog, but they want to make it clear there should be a dispatcher on the phone and proper documentation.
“We don’t want the public to simply vandalize vehicles and break windows or perhaps cause more of an accident if you break a window and the dog jumps out of the car and gets injured, or jumps out into traffic and causes an accident,” said Shepherd.
The bill, which has not been numbered, hits close to home for Smith.
“It breaks my heart. I’ve actually had several incidents where I’ve called the police because I’ve seen animals in cars and I’ve waited. Luckily the owners have come out and we’ve been able to resolve it before the police have had to show up,” said Smith.
HSU will be holding another lobbying day at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, March 6th from 9 to 10 a.m.