In Utah, we have a strong community of animal advocates who are daily striving to serve the needs of the animals of our state, but despite our best efforts, we are still not to where we can “Save Them All.” When it isn’t possible to do so, it is important for our own mental health to know that in the end, the animal suffered as little as possible.
Especially when it comes to minimizing suffering, it is crucial for society to move forward with the times and employ the best techniques available to us. For many years, the most common way to euthanize an animal was the gas chamber. When you think of an animal being put in a gas chamber, the concept is that they will slowly go to sleep and just never wake up. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. A scared animal is put into a small, dark box, filled with strange smells (potentially including previous animals’ defecations). They cry out in fear for the several minutes it can take for them to fall asleep - but sleep may not come. If multiple animals are placed in at the same time they can fight. They may struggle for air. Their organs can start shutting down before they lose consciousness. They may even survive the process. Shelters that use gas chambers have much higher rates of compassion fatigue and no wonder. I tear up just thinking of their piteous cries.
So WHY is Utah one of only four states who has not fully moved to lethal injection, where animals lose consciousness in 3-5 seconds while being kindly handled by a shelter worker? At least 27 states have passed laws banning the use of gas chambers, and the rest have almost all voluntarily moved away from them. In Utah, there are about seven shelters that still use them, but until we have made the shift entirely, it just isn’t good enough.
For the past four years, the Utah Legislature has voted down legislation that would ban the use of gas chambers in our beloved state. Some of our representatives claim that there is no need for a law in place because the movement towards legal injection is already well underway. But if you are an animal lover, “underway” is not good enough. How can we move the process forward to end the suffering of animals and help support our shelter volunteers and workers who are still weighted down with the burden of compassion fatigue?
I spoke with District 17 Representative Peter C. Knudson, who has put forward the bill (SB50 in 2017) to ban gas chambers for the last two years, to see if he had any intention of bringing the bill forward again. Unfortunately, he explained that he was retiring before the next session of our legislature in January. Someone else is going to have to pick up the torch and carry on, and we need to be the squeaky wheel that ensures this happens. Animal Lovers Unite!
These are the legislators who voted YES to pass SB50 last year. If you are in their districts, CALL THEM and encourage them to put forward another bill for the 2019 session:
Sen. J. Iwamoto
Sen. B. Zehnder
These are the legislators who voted NO to pass SB50 last year. If you are in their districts, CALL THEM and let them know you are not happy with their vote and explain to them why a law banning the use of gas chambers is what their constituents want:
Sen. A. Christensen
Sen. M. Dayton
Sen. D. Hinkins
Sen. E. Vickers
You can find your districting information on Senate.utah.gov.
If you don’t live in these districts, call whoever does represent you and let them know animals are still suffering, and we won’t rest until they can have a truly peaceful walk over the rainbow bridge.
After you have called your Senators, take to social media! Let your friends and families know that you called and advocated for the end of gas chambers, and encourage them to do the same. It is likely a lot of them live in the same districts.
Then take to the streets! If you are volunteering at a local shelter, share information with other animal lovers. If you are at the dog park, tell your local fur-parents to call as well. Raise awareness any way you can, from a table outside your local shelter or grocery store to hiring a skywriter!
Our legislators want to hear from us. They listen to us. It is when we advocate loudly for change that they know our votes are at stake and they need to make us happy or we will find leaders who will!
I may sell pet food, but I also have a Master's Degree in History. Anyone want to talk British Navy stuff? No? You just want the pet food stuff? Ok...