Over the past decade, animal shelters everywhere, including in Utah, have made substantial progress in reducing the euthanasia of dogs and cats. This progress has been made because of increased efforts to promote the adoption of animals from shelters, rather than breeders or pet stores, and to increase spay and neuter animals to reduce shelter intake in the first place.
However, despite this progress, Utah animal shelters continue to euthanize thousands of dogs and cats every year. And it’s important to understand that this number will never reach zero. Open-admission shelters must accept all animals who come through their doors, including those who are irretrievably sick or injured and require euthanasia. Many animals come to open-admission shelters specifically because their guardian knows they require euthanasia, but they are unable to pay the expense or find a veterinarian in a moment’s notice.
For those animals who must be euthanized at a shelter, UARC’s position is simple: we believe there is an ethical obligation to use the most humane method feasible. Specifically, shelters should use the method of euthanasia that which brings about death as quickly as possible, and with the least amount of attendant suffering. Experts and veterinarians all agree that euthanasia by injection is the most humane method at a shelter’s disposal for euthanizing animals, and this is why greater than 99% of animal shelters in the United States use only this method.
And for the overwhelming majority of animal shelters in Utah, euthanasia by injection is the only method utilized. Several animal shelters in Utah, including West Valley, South Jordan, Draper, Sandy, and Weber County, have ended their use of a gas chamber to kill animals in recent years. However, at two animal shelters – North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) in Lindon, and South Utah Valley Animal Shelter (SUVAS) in Spanish Fork – dogs and cats continue to be killed using carbon monoxide chambers, a cruel and outdated method of euthanasia. It’s past time for this to change.
Leading organizations in the areas of animal advocacy and sheltering all agree on this point:
• Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): “carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide gas chambers…can virtually never provide a stress and pain free death, [and] must therefore never be used in shelter settings.”
• Humane Society of Utah: “Gas Chambers can take up to 30 minutes [for loss of consciousness and death], and some animals survive the terrifying process.”
• Association of Shelter Veterinarians: “the use of carbon monoxide for individual or mass companion animal euthanasia is unacceptable due to significant humane, operational and safety concerns.”
• National Animal Control Association (NACA): “NACA condemns the use of carbon monoxide…for animal shelter euthanasia of dogs and cats.”
• American Humane: “Euthanizing shelter animals by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide is inhumane to animals and harmful to humans.”
• American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): “The ASPCA believes it is critically important that euthanasia is administered with compassion and care, which gas chambers do not provide. When performed properly, euthanasia by injection of sodium pentobarbital is the safest, most humane method, and the least stressful to the animal.”
• American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “Intravenous injection of a barbituric acid derivative…is the preferred method for euthanasia of dogs, cats, and other small companion animals…[gas chamber euthanasia] is not recommended for routine euthanasia of cats and dogs.”
Using a gas chamber to kill animals in shelters is prohibited by law in 27 states, and almost never used at any shelter in the entire country. But at SUVAS & NUVAS, more than 2,000 dogs and cats have been killed since 2019, most of whom were killed using the gas chamber.
‘The residents of Utah County should be served by animal shelters that place a top priority on humane treatment of animals in their care. Unfortunately, they are being poorly served by two shelters that are stuck in the dark ages of animal shelter practices, with shelter management that stubbornly refuses to change archaic practices.
We believe it is long past time for elected officials in Utah County to take action to end this barbaric and outdated practice. UARC has sent letters and emails to all elected officials in all towns and cities in Utah County that are served by these two shelters, urging them to modify their municipal contracts to end this cruel practice, and we will continue pushing for change. Please stay tuned for additional ways that you can be involved.