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Lawmaker may revive proposal to ban animal euthanasia by gas chamber

FILE - SB 56 "“ Animal Shelter Amendments sponsor Sen. Peter C. Knudson (R) speaks to the  Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 201.
FILE - SB 56 "“ Animal Shelter Amendments sponsor Sen. Peter C. Knudson (R) speaks to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 201.
Nicole Boliaux, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After failing earlier this year to pass a proposed ban on the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers at animal shelters, Utah lawmakers are again considering what issues counties may have in changing to less controversial euthanasia methods.

Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, sponsored SB56 during the 2017 legislative session, attempting to replace CO gas chambers with lethal injection as a form of euthanasia for shelter animals.

During a Wednesday meeting of the Legislature's Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, Knudson revisited the issue, saying he's considering reviving the issue next year.

Knudson said he was moved to take on the issue after seeing a dog put down while he served as mayor of Brigham City.

"Nowadays, animals can be euthanized by injection," he said, "and that, I believe, is a much more humane approach to the problem."

Knudson said part of the opposition to his 2017 bill was from a Utah County commissioner who said euthanasia by carbon monoxide was the "way to go."

He speculated that cost may have factored into the commissioner's recommendation, but said the costs for lethal injection are still low, and there are advocates and agencies that would be interested in subsidizing the cost to make the transition in methods.

Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Price, said another objection to lethal injection might come from shelter workers deterred by the emotional toll it can take to administer the lethal shots.

"When they use the gas chamber, they can kind of distance themselves from that," Watkins said. "If you were injecting them and then watching them die, that can take a toll on your heart."

Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, also questioned what guidance cities would use to determine whether an animal might be too dangerous for shelter workers to safely administer the lethal injection.

The committee ultimately tabled the issue for further discussion.