SALT LAKE CITY — A state Senate committee Wednesday voted down a proposal to ban carbon monoxide gas chambers for purposes of euthanasia at animal shelters, marking the fourth year in a row that such legislation has failed at the Utah Legislature.
Senate Majority Assistant Whip Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, who proposed a similar measure last year, made a joke about deja vu in presenting SB50 to the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.
Knudson said he believes "very strongly that we should get rid of the gas chambers that are used for euthanasia," noting that there are more humane methods for taking care of animals that need to be put down, such as euthanasia by lethal injection.
Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, said his organization has been working for several years to get the Legislature to ban the use of gas chamber.
There are 57 shelters in Utah, Baierschmidt said, and 50 of them have already converted to lethal injection. He said the method is less expensive, faster and painless for the animals, and safer for the personnel.
He described euthanasia by gas chamber as a pet being put in a small box and pumped full of carbon monoxide for 30 minutes.
Dr. John Zeigler, an anesthesiologist who has worked with many hundreds of animals, said "the concept of the gas chamber without any doubt is a much less humane way of ending an animal's life than injection."
"The anxiety, the trauma of the gas chamber process is significant. Not just to the animals, but also to the caregiver. It is oftentimes poorly done. The hypoxic state that the animals are forced into and the toxicities of either CO2 narcosis or carbon monoxide is a very unpleasant way to go," Zeigler said.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said the bill "speaks very highly of our state," saying is "the right time" to enact the ban "and the right thing to do."
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, pushed back against SB50, saying the state doesn't really need to ban the gas chambers because most shelters are already switching to lethal injection.
"I think that the picture you paint with (carbon monoxide euthanasia) being so terrible and cruel is not accurate. I think it's a very silent, quiet, gentle way to go," Christensen said.
"If you want it quick, a gunshot is the quickest way to go," he added, quickly clarifying that he's not advocating for that.
The bill failed on a 3-4 vote.