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Utah lawmaker pushes to end gas chamber euthanasia in animal shelters

Jan 18, 2023, 5:22 PM
Katherine Heigl of Jason Debus Heigl Foundation and Sen. Mike McKell at Wednesday's press conferenc...
Katherine Heigl of Jason Debus Heigl Foundation and Sen. Mike McKell at Wednesday's press conference (KSL-TV's Michael Houck)
(KSL-TV's Michael Houck)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah County senator has introduced legislation to ban the use of gas chambers in animal shelters.

On Wednesday, Sen. Mike McKell said he is moving SB 108 Animal Shelter Revisions to the Senate Rules Committee for approval.

“S.B. 108 is a compassionate approach to euthanasia,” McKell said in a press release. “Not only are gas chambers more expensive, but they also unnecessarily place staff members at higher risk of injury or death from carbon monoxide gas. Other forms of euthanasia are more humane, cost-effective, and safe. Switching to injections just makes sense.”

Katherine Heigl, a Utah resident and founder of the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an organization dedicated to animal welfare, is also supporting the bill.

“The sign of a civilized society is marked by how we treat the voiceless and innocent,” Heigl said. “We cannot continue the inhumane practice of using gas chambers for animals.

According to McKell, Utah is one of three states that continues to use gas chambers for euthanasia in animal shelters. Out of the 3,500 shelters in the United States, only five shelters still use this method. Three are in Utah.

“One is too many,” McKell said at the press conference. “If we are going to ban it across the country for really good reasons, to be the last state not to ban them, to me, it’s not the Utah way. We are better than that in the state of Utah.”

A similar bill was introduced in 2022 but was voted down after opposition from groups like the Utah Sherriff’s Association. However, McKell believes he has worked out the issues between them for this bill to pass.

“The word opposition to me is probably the wrong word. I think we need to educate. People have questions, they have concerns, there is often a lack of understanding,” McKell explained.

Heigl added that there are better ways to euthanase animals, like with ejections.

“Now, our dogs in the shelters and our cats in the shelters are not getting a loving vet, not getting a loving person by their side, but they can have the ejections, which is much faster,” Heigl said. “If you had to put any animal to sleep, you have seen it, it’s fast, it’s painless, it’s peaceful.”

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Utah lawmaker pushes to end gas chamber euthanasia in animal shelters