Gas Chambers in Animal Shelters: Cruel and Outdated
Whether it’s due to the overpopulation crisis or because an animal is severely ill or injured, animal shelters are often faced with the difficult but necessary task of euthanizing an animal in their care. UARC believes that animal shelters have an ethical obligation to use the quickest and most humane method of euthanasia at their disposal. Decades ago, gas chambers were commonplace in animal shelters across the country. But as we have made advances in veterinary medicine and societal concern for the suffering of animals has increased, it’s now clear that euthanasia by injection (EBI) is the most humane and preferable method of euthanasia. Nearly all shelters nationwide, serving both small rural communities and major metropolitan areas, have adopted EBI as their only method of euthanasia.
As of May 2021, all shelters in the state of Utah have switched to using EBI for dogs and cats, with only two exceptions: North Utah Valley Animal Shelter (NUVAS) and South Utah Valley Animal Shelter (SUVAS). Both facilities are located in Utah County. Records obtained by UARC reveal that, at each shelter, more than 1,000 dogs and cats have been euthanized since 2019. NUVAS has confirmed to UARC that the gas chamber is the sole method of euthanasia used at its facility, while SUVAS uses the gas chamber for some animals and EBI for others. Unfortunately, SUVAS does not keep any records regarding which method is employed for each animal euthanized, so it is impossible to know how many animals were euthanized using the gas chamber at their shelter.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is the accrediting body for veterinary schools nationwide, and is widely considered the most authoritative professional organization for promulgating acceptable standards of veterinary care and practice. The AVMA releases updated Guidelines for the Euthanasia for Animals at least every ten years, but often more frequently. These Guidelines specifically address a wide range of industrial contexts where animals may be euthanized, including animal shelters. In the AVMA’s most recent edition of its Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals (2020), the AVMA is clear that “intravenous injection of a barbituric acid derivative is the preferred method for euthanasia of dogs, cats, and other small companion animals.”
“[Carbon monoxide gas chamber] is not recommended for routine euthanasia of cats and dogs…The preferred method of euthanasia in [animal shelters] is injection of a barbiturate or barbituric acid derivative with appropriate animal handling.”
UARC urges elected officials in Utah County to enact changes that prohibit the use of gas chambers to kill animals in their communities. There are a number of ways this change could be pursued. Because both shelters are “special service districts,” the towns and cities in Utah County have the ability to modify the terms of their “interlocal agreements” (contracts) to add a clause prohibiting the use of gas chamber euthanasia for any animal originating from their community. Additionally, the towns of Lindon and Spanish Fork, where these two shelters are physically located, could also enact municipal ordinances making the practice of gas chamber euthanasia illegal. There is a strong case for why change is needed and should be implemented as soon as possible.
Killing Animals in a Gas Chamber Prolongs Death and is Inhumane
It takes more time for an animal to lose consciousness and subsequently die in a carbon monoxide chamber than it does when euthanizing by injection. Exactly how much longer is debated and varies from animal to animal. The Humane Society of Utah states that gas chamber euthanasia “can take up to 30 minutes” to bring about death in the animal, with “some animals surviv[ing] the terrifying process.” The last shelter in California that used a gas chamber reported to the media “that on average it took about 15 minutes for the animals to die” in their gas chamber. One shelter director in Moberly, Missouri described her experience watching a dog die in their gas chamber, stating that “the dog grasped [sic] for air before collapsing and didn’t die for about 10 minutes.” Soon after this incident, this shelter dismantled its gas chamber.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), in its recommendations “for the euthanasia of dogs and cats,” states that CO euthanasia is “not acceptable” as a form of euthanasia, in part because it has a “[h]ighly variable time taken to lose consciousness and can take up to two minutes at 6% concentration” and that during this time “[v]ocalisations and agitation [are] observed in dogs and this may occur while they are still conscious.” Similarly, WSPA states that “[d]istressing side effects [are] observed in cats during induction.” The Safety Protocol in use at NUVAS, obtained by UARC via an open records request, states that a “cycle” in its gas chamber is “approximately 16 minutes.”
Evidence demonstrates that very young or sick animals, who often have diminished respiratory strength, can take longer than healthier animals to die in the gas chamber, due to their smaller, shallower breaths. This is one reason why the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) specifically criticizes the use of inhalant euthanasia agents like CO for these animals (discussed in greater detail below). However long this period of terror & misery lasts, animals in a gas chamber would likely start to experience some or all of the unpleasant symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning including headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and convulsions before they die.
In contrast, an animal given an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital reliably loses all consciousness within seconds. Respiratory arrest and cardiac death in the animal is usually confirmed within a minute or two. It is for this reason that euthanasia by injection is considered the standard of care in veterinary offices, everywhere.
Animals Sometimes Survive their Horrific Gas Chamber Experience
There are many documented cases of animals surviving gas chamber euthanasia. In some of these cases, these animals were subjected to the chamber repeatedly. In other cases, shelter staff couldn’t bring themselves to subject the animals to the brutal procedure again, and the animals were spared subsequent gassings. Some animals who survive the gas chamber experience chronic health conditions or shortened lifespans, likely as a result of their traumatic exposure to carbon monoxide. Even when not fatal, carbon monoxide exposure can result in permanent brain damage and cardiac injury.
Andrea (West Valley City, UT): In 2011, Andrea was placed in a gas chamber along with several other cats. Andrea survived multiple attempts at killing her in the gas chamber. A shelter employee recounts their experience: “I had 5 or 6 cats to put down that day…I placed all of the cats into the chamber. I closed the door and made sure it was locked. I pushed the start cycle…The cycle completed as normal and I took the black cage out of the chamber. All of the cats were deceased except for one…I put the cat back into the chamber for the 2nd time since it was still alive…It ran through the cycle and I opened the door. I took the cat out and I observed it to be deceased…Its eyes were completely dialated [sic]. I touched both eyes and they did not blink and there was no movement whatsoever…I then placed the cat in a black bag and put it in the cooler as normal…Approximately 30-45 minutes later, Officer [redacted] asked me to return to the euthanasia room. When I did, I observed [name redacted] and [name redacted] there with the last cat that I had to put through the chamber twice. The cat was alive and looked healthy. [Name redacted] stated that she heard a cat meowing inside a bag in the cooler, opened it up, and found the cat alive.” Internal emails from this shelter revealed that multiple such incidents of animals surviving the gas chamber had occurred at that facility. West Valley no longer uses its gas chamber for dogs and cats, and Andrea is still alive today in a loving adoptive home.
Amazing Grace (Hinesville, GA). In 2006, Grace was put in a gas chamber along with several other dogs at the Liberty County Animal Control facility in Georgia. Thirty minutes later, when staff returned, they found Grace alive – shivering, terrified, and covered in the blood and feces of the other animals. Grace had survived. She was hospitalized and treated for carbon monoxide exposure, and subsequently adopted to a loving home. Immediately after this incident, Liberty County Animal Control stopped using its gas chamber, and Amazing Grace’s story helped motivate a new law – Grace’s Law – which was signed into law by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2010, and ended gas chamber euthanasia in Georgia, statewide.
Davie, the Dumpster Puppy (Davie County, NC): Two residents of Davie County took their trash to a dump on a weekend, and heard a faint whimpering or barking. After digging deep into a dumpster, they found a young puppy, alive. The puppy had been dumped in the trash by the Davie County Animal Shelter, presumed dead after being put through the shelter’s gas chamber and falling unconscious. The shelter responded that apparently Davie “didn’t inhale enough [CO] to be fatal.” Davie’s story inspired a bill introduced in the North Carolina legislature called “Davie’s Law” to ban gas chamber euthanasia in shelters. In 2014, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture determined that gas chamber euthanasia was incompatible with the revised AVMA euthanasia guidelines, and thus violated existing state regulations. The agency issued a directive ordering all shelters in North Carolina to stop using the gas chamber and switch to injection going forward, giving shelters approximately 75 days to comply. At the time, there were four shelters in North Carolina still using the gas chamber.
Quentin, the Miracle Dog (St. Louis, MO): In 2003, a young basenji mix with pointy ears was locked in the gas chamber at St. Louis Animal Control along with seven other dogs. After the gas chamber ran through its cycle, a shelter employee opened the door only to find Quentin staring back and surrounded by dead dogs. Quentin came out of the gas chamber “walking around like he was a little bit drunk” but he survived and was adopted by Randy Grim, who became a passionate advocate against the use of gas chambers. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay responded, stating that he had “been very concerned about the inhumane way the city was euthanizing animals” and that once he ‘went down there and looked at it, we figured we had to find a way to change it.” The following year, he announced that the shelter would stop using its gas chamber.
Daniel, the Beagle Hero (Florence, AL): In 2011, Daniel was put in a gas chamber at the animal shelter in Florence, Alabama along with seventeen other dogs. When staff returned after theDani chamber ran its cycle, Daniel was standing and alive, surrounded by dead dogs. Daniel was adopted by a family in New Jersey, and later received a “Hero Dog” award by American Humane Association.
Beckham, brindle puppy (Cullman, AL): A 7-month-old puppy named Peaknuckle survived an attempt to kill him in a gas chamber at the Cullman County Animal Shelter in 2011. Local resident Sonya Graham subsequently adopted Peaknuckle and renamed him Beckham. Beckham’s family began working with the Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation to ban the use of gas chambers in Alabama shelters. “[Beckham] is the face of gassing,” the group’s founder told media.
After the stories of Beckham and Daniel received widespread coverage in the Alabama media, the Alabama legislature quickly enacted a law known as “Beckham’s Bill,” banning gas chamber euthanasia across the state. Daniel’s story reportedly also inspired Pennsylvania to enact its gas chamber ban.
Clear Consensus Among the Experts: Gas Chambers are Inhumane, EBI is Preferred
The overwhelming consensus among professional associations of veterinary medicine and animal control officers is that euthanasia by injection (EBI) is the most humane, safe, and cost-effective way of euthanizing animals. Below is a selection of leading organizations and humane advocacy groups that endorse euthanasia by injection and/or condemn the use of the carbon monoxide gas chamber for euthanasia:
- AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals (2020 Edition): “The preferred method of euthanasia in [animal control, sheltering, and rescue facilities] is injection of a barbiturate or barbituric acid derivative with appropriate animal handling…Time to unconsciousness with inhaled agents is dependent on the displacement rate, container volume, and concentration…Most inhaled agents are hazardous to animal workers…In sick or depressed animals where ventilation is decreased, agitation during induction is more likely because the rise in alveolar gas concentration is delayed. A similar delayed rise in alveolar gas concentration can be observed in excited animals having increased cardiac output. Suitable premedication or noninhaled methods of euthanasia should be considered for such animals…Neonatal animals appear to be resistant to hypoxia, and because all inhaled agents ultimately cause hypoxia, neonatal animals take longer to die than adults. Inhaled agents can be used alone in unweaned animals to induce loss of consciousness, but prolonged exposure time or a secondary method may be required to kill the unconscious animal.”
- Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters: “The use of carbon monoxide as a method of euthanizing dogs and cats in shelters is unacceptable due to multiple humane, operational and safety concerns…an acceptable method of euthanasia must be quick and painless, and should not cause distress. Any gas that is inhaled must reach a certain concentration in the lungs before it can be effective…Carbon monoxide stimulates motor centers in the brain and loss of consciousness may be accompanied by convulsions and muscular spasms. One 1983 study of the effects of a 6% concentration of carbon monoxide on dogs could not establish the precise time that loss of consciousness occurred, and dogs were observed to be vocalizing and agitated…Use of carbon monoxide cannot be justified as a means to save money, take shortcuts, or distance staff emotionally and physically from the euthanasia process. Studies have shown that carbon monoxide is actually more expensive than euthanasia by injection. It takes longer than euthanasia by injection and has not been shown to provide emotional benefits for staff. Some shelter workers have reported being distressed by hearing animals vocalizing, scratching and howling in the chamber, and by having to repeat the process when animals survived the first procedure.”
- National Animal Control Association (NACA): “NACA condemns the use of carbon monoxide…for animal shelter euthanasia of dogs and cats. NACA considers lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital, administered by competent, trained personnel, to be the only method of choice utilized for humane euthanasia of shelter dogs and cats.”
- Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): “[c]arbon 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS): “The gas chamber is a cruel practice from what should be a bygone era.”
- World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA): WSPA classifies carbon monoxide as “not acceptable”, as it is “slow acting,” with “distressing side effects observed in cats during induction,” and young, sick, or injured animals displaying “some resistance to hypoxia caused by exposure to CO.” WSPA’s condemnation of carbon monoxide chambers is so strong, that it states that “shooting a free bullet to the head” is a more preferable method of euthanasia.
Communities Around the Country Have Banned the Gas Chamber
The use of a gas chamber to kill cats and dogs is nearly extinct in the United States. Twenty-six states plus the District of Columbia now explicitly prohibit the practice by statute (AL, AR, AZ, CA, DE, FL, GA, ID, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MT, NM, NJ, NY, PA, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WV). Even in most states where it is lawfully permitted, there are no shelters still using this outdated method in 2021. There are only three states with known shelters still using a gas chamber for euthanasia in 2021: Utah, Wyoming, and Ohio.
Over the past twenty years, literally hundreds of shelters voluntarily modernized their facilities and ended their use of a gas chamber, often with great fanfare or public ceremonies where their gas chamber was publicly smashed with a sledgehammer. A simple internet search reveals many of these cases. Here is a small selection:
- Gaston County, North Carolina: Public pressure in 2010 prompted Gaston County commissioners “to insist that intravenous lethal injection become the primary measure for euthanizing strays.” County Police Captain Bill Melton celebrated the removal of the shelter’s gas chamber as a sign of progress, stating “one of the things we determined was that since the chamber wasn’t being used, we could use that space for the housing of cats.”
- Columbus County, North Carolina: Columbus County stopped using its gas chamber in 2008, and removed the machinery in 2016 in a public event, celebrating the progress made at this rural shelter. Columbus County Animal Control Director Joe Prince said at the time, “on the rare occasions an animal has to be put down, it’s only responsible to do so in as humane a way as possible. The [gas] chamber was never a humane method, but it was the industry standard for years. We’re proud that we can take this next step forward in protecting and helping both animals and the citizens of our county.”
- Medina County, Ohio: The County Commission voted unanimously in November 2013 to end the killing of animals in the gas chamber. Dozens of people gathered to watch their community’s animal shelter be demolished at a public event a few months later. Norma Houk, 84, brought her own small sledgehammer and gave the chamber a couple whacks. “I have asthma and know what it feels like to not be able to get enough air. I can imagine what the animals went through,” she said tearfully.
- Elliot Lake, Ontario: Dan Marchisella ran for Mayor of Elliot Lake, promising to end gas chamber killing in his town. After he won his race on this platform, he immediately made good on his promise, issuing an order banning gas chamber euthanasia and holding a public event where he and others smashed it with a sledgehammer. Mayor Marchisella stated that “a dark era for the community has ended” on that day.
- Coalinga, California: In 2016, the last shelter in the state of California still using a gas chamber to euthanize cats ended this practice and switched to euthanasia by injection. Nearly all shelters stopped using gas chambers in 1998 after a law banning carbon monoxide gas chamber euthanasia was enacted in California, but the law left a loophole for carbon dioxide chambers that some shelters exploited. Coalinga Police Chief Michael Salvador said that “he learned about the chamber after he took office.” He decided quickly to get rid of the gas chamber because “it’s just the right thing to do. It’s an upgrade for our facility. It’s a more humane way of doing business.”
- Lucedale, Mississippi: In 2013, the last shelter in the state of Mississippi to use a gas chamber for euthanasia ended the practice after the Lucedale Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to use exclusively euthanasia by injection. Veterinarian and Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor Dr. Phil Bushby stated at the time that carbon monoxide chambers “are now considered unacceptable as a form of euthanasia.” Lucedale shelter manager Kevin Carver stated that as a former corrections officer, working with prisoners “never stirred him,” but when he had to operate the shelter’s gas chamber, he “couldn’t stand it.” Carver said he could “hear the animals yell and scream during last 15 seconds of their life” and he was ready to refuse to continue operating the gas chamber or find another job. Media reports state that this was the last shelter in the deep South that was using a gas chamber.
- Bennettsville, South Carolina: In 2013, the city of Bennettsville received a $5,000 grant from The Humane Society of the United States to eliminate its gas chamber. Bennettsville Chief of Police Larry McNeil said that the grant would help Bennettsville “become better equipped to perform euthanasia more humanely. We’re proud to implement improved standards of care for our animals.”
On the rare occasions an animal has to be put down, it’s only responsible to do so in as humane a way as possible. The [gas] chamber was never a humane method, but it was the industry standard for years. We’re proud that we can take this next step forward [removing the gas chamber] in protecting and helping both animals and the citizens of our county.” — Columbus County (NC) Animal Control Director Joey Prince (pictured above with the gas chamber, just prior to its removal)
Euthanasia by Injection Is Less Expensive than Gas Chamber
While neither method of euthanasia is a particularly large expense for an animal shelter, carbon monoxide chambers do require regular supplies of industrially produced carbon monoxide gas, staff time to operate, and maintenance on the chamber apparatus. Studies have found that these expenses are more than double those associated with the cheap sodium pentobarbital used for euthanasia by injection, which is a widely available generic pharmaceutical. American Humane commissioned a study that found that carbon monoxide costs $4.98 per animal. The cost to use EBI, in contrast, is only $2.29 per animal. This study looked at real world data from a municipal animal control agency in North Carolina and is the only empirical study of its kind.
It’s important to note, that whatever peripheral costs would be associated with ending the use of the gas chamber would have been easily covered by the $15,000 in funding received by NUVAS by donors affiliated with HSUS in 2018. The shelter accepted this money, but then declined to phase out its outdated use of the gas chamber, as required by their signed grant agreement. NUVAS was then compelled to return these funds. It’s clear that will, and not financial means, is the primary impediment to ending gas chamber euthanasia at this shelter.
Gas Chambers Represent an Occupational Hazard and Serious Liability Risk
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is highly poisonous to humans, as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental poisoning and another 50,000 people visit the emergency department each year due to exposure to CO. The operation of a CO chamber necessitates the hazardous storage and use of industrial carbon monoxide cannisters in an enclosed space. If there is a leak, undetected structural deficiency, or mechanical failure in the wrong place, the gas can leak, harming or killing staff or visitors to the shelter. For this reason, the AVMA cautions that “carbon monoxide is extremely hazardous for personnel.” The risk is not merely hypothetical:
- Chattanooga, Tennessee: In 2000, Vernon W. Dove Jr., a 39-year-old worker at the Chattanooga Humane Educational Society, was found dead by two of his coworkers, and a medical investigation determined that he died of CO poisoning. Police investigators believe he may have forgotten to flip a vent switch to clear the air in the shelter’s gas chamber. A report by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that this employee “was an experienced operator of the chamber; he had used it for approximately 10 years.” The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) determined “that the animal control officer was exposed to CO in excess of 70,000 parts per million, which is rapidly fatal” and fined the shelter $22,800 for this incident. The following year, Tennessee passed a law prohibiting the use of carbon monoxide chambers in animal shelters.
- St. Clair County, Illinois: Dr. Tom Amlung, County Veterinarian and director of St. Clair County Animal Control Center, was performing a test of the shelter’s gas chamber for state officials when he “prematurely opened the chamber door” and “got a whiff of gas and passed out.” Dr. Amlung was hospitalized, but ultimately recovered. In 2009, Illinois passed a law that ended gas chamber euthanasia.
- Lincoln County, North Carolina: In 2008, gas build-up caused the door of the shelter’s gas chamber to explode, which led to an animal control officer being hospitalized with injuries. This shelter stopped using its gas chamber following this incident.
- Iredell County, North Carolina: In 2009, a gas chamber at the Iredell County Animal Services exploded with 10 dogs inside, causing a fire in the shelter and killing 10 dogs. Animal Control manager Chris Royal said at the time that none of the external alarms built to indicate a carbon-monoxide leak went off. In 2013, Iredell County Animal Services posted a video to its Facebook page of the gas chamber being removed from their facility, stating “We are trying to improve at the shelter and this is one GIANT step toward the right direction.”
In 2004, the CDC issued a report on the occupational hazards of operating carbon monoxide gas chambers in animal shelters, which included a list of recommendations. The agency’s first recommendation was simply “Use lethal injection instead of CO for euthanasia.” There have been no documented occupational deaths or accidents involving sodium pentobarbital, the drug used for lethal injection.
Using Humane Methods of Euthanasia Improves Staff Morale and Well-Being
There’s no question that those who work in animal shelters have extremely difficult, often thankless jobs, and that the task of euthanizing animals who you have cared for will always take an emotional toll. The negative impact of this work on shelter staff mental health has been well-documented. Animal shelter workers have an incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is five times higher than the national average. Many of UARC’s organizers and supporters themselves have a background in animal control or animal sheltering and have seen firsthand how overwhelming this line of work can be. Shelter workers are often asked to do the impossible with fewer and fewer resources. They are truly on the front lines of the animal overpopulation crisis, seeing firsthand the tragic results of society’s failure to spay and neuter. Compassion fatigue and mental health crises in this environment and line of work are very real, and the people who work in animal shelters – often for very little compensation – deserve our appreciation and gratitude.
Tasking these overburdened shelter workers with using a dangerous & less humane method of euthanasia does not ameliorate these very real mental health risk factors. In fact, it can worsen them. Over the past twenty years, more than a dozen animal shelters in Utah have stopped using the gas chamber to euthanize animals and now rely solely on injection. Deann Shepherd, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Utah, the largest animal shelter in Utah, has helped facilitate some of these transitions. In a comment to the Standard-Examiner, Shepherd said that shelters that made the transition “had no turnover, no injuries and it has increased morale on the staff after they’ve removed the chamber. They will have lower compassion fatigue, knowing what they’re doing is the best, and we can show them.” In a separate comment to The Daily Universe, Shepherd said that her organization has facilitated euthanasia education programs for shelter workers throughout Utah, and that this experience demonstrated that shelter workers “feel better knowing that they ended the animal’s life in a humane way instead of putting them in a chamber.”
Legislative Attempts to Ban the Gas Chamber in Utah
For nine consecutive legislative sessions, Utah has considered bills to ban gas chamber euthanasia. The bills have passed both houses, but in different sessions, meaning it has yet to reach the Governor’s desk for signature into law. In 2021, the bill passed the Utah Senate without a single ‘Nay’ vote. Here is a summary of each of these bills and their ultimate disposition:
- 2013 General Session: HB 150, “Animal Shelter Amendments”, Sponsored by Rep. Romero & Brian Shiozawa. Passed House Committee (10-3-3), Passed Utah House (50-18-7), Circled in the Senate.
- 2014 General Session: HB 57, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Rep. Romero & Sen. Brian Shiozawa. Passed House Committee (7-2-2), Passed Utah House (61-8-6), Passed 2nd Reading in Senate (21-7-1), then Circled in the Senate.
- 2015 General Session: S.B. 197, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler. Did not make it to a committee vote.
- 2016 General Session: H.B. 187, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Rep. Johnny Anderson. Passed House Committee (9-1-2), failed a House vote (31-40-4).
- 2017 General Session: S.B. 56, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Sen. Peter Knudson & Rep. Lee Perry. Passed Senate committee (6-2-0), passed final Senate reading (19-7-3), failed House committee after bill was amended (4-4-2).
- 2018 General Session: S.B. 50, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Sen. Peter Knudson. Failed in Senate Committee (3-4-0).
- 2019 General Session: H.B. 365, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Rep. Eric K. Hutchings. Was never brought to a vote in committee or on floor.
- 2020 General Session: H.B. 446, “Animal Shelter Amendments,” Sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero. Was never brought to a vote in committee or on floor.
- 2021 General Session: S.B. 237, “Animal Shelter Revisions,” Sponsored by Sen. David P. Hinkins & Rep. Ryan D. Wilcox. Passed Senate Committee and Floor vote without a single ‘nay’ vote (26-0-3). Never came to a vote in the House.
It’s Time for Change: A New Approach
Anti-cruelty advocates have tried to bring about change on the state level, only to be frustrated year after year by the dysfunction and institutional quirks of the Utah legislature. HSUS has also tried valiantly for years to incentivize the cooperation of NUVAS, extending $15,000 in contributions to the shelter to help facilitate an end to the gas chamber. HSUS has had enormous success with this approach at many other shelters across the country. But NUVAS and the leadership at this shelter appear unwilling to make a simple change.
UARC is now turning its attention on local elected officials in each of the towns and cities served by NUVAS and SUVAS. They have the power to enact a change and eradicate this practice in Utah, even without a state law. If you are a resident of Utah County, it is especially important you make your voice heard. Please call and email your city councilmembers and your mayor and demand change at your community’s animal shelter. You can use UARC’s simple online forms to send a message to all of the city council members and Mayors in each community serviced by NUVAS (we are in the process of configuring similar online forms for towns serviced by SUVAS):
- American Fork
- Cedar Hills
- Eagle Mountain
- Pleasant Grove
- Saratoga Springs
- Utah County (unincorporated areas)
UARC will be regularly attending City Council meetings in these communities and we invite residents to join us. We are planning a large protest and presence at the Orem City Council meeting (56 N. State Street, Orem, UT) on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 4:00 pm (RSVP here).
UARC member and dedicated anti-cruelty advocate Erica Olsen has also launched a wildly successful change.org petition demanding an end to gas chamber killing at NUVAS. As of this writing, this petition now has more than 21,000 signatures. The names of all those who sign this petition will be presented, in person, to the Orem City Council, and to other city councils going forward, until we win this campaign and gas chamber killing comes to an end in Utah.
Change is possible. Demanding that your elected officials take action has helped UARC achieve amazing victories, including a ban on cruel horse-drawn carriages on Salt Lake City streets, a policy prohibiting the use of county facilities for exotic animal circuses, and an ordinance against prolonged tethering of dogs in Salt Lake City. This is also how the gas chamber was dismantled in several communities in Utah, including Sandy City, South Jordan, and Weber County. People often don’t realize their own power until they begin to work together and organize around a specific, reasonable goal. We can get it done.
Together, let’s make the gas chamber history.