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Protest calls to ban gas chambers at Utah animal shelter

Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 19:36:25-04

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Animal advocates have renewed a call to action to ban gas chamber animal euthanasia in the state of Utah.

Protestors lined up outside the Pleasant Grove Police Department on Thursday, holding signs calling for the ban. The group was inspired to act after a dog, Penguin, was euthanized earlier this month.

Heather Smith, who runs her own dog rescue out of Michigan, says her mom wanted to adopt Penguin, and asked Heather to pull him from the shelter.

Smith says she met all the necessary requirements to adopt the dog and even lined up transportation. However, she found out Penguin was killed before he even got the chance to get a new home, having been put in a gas chamber that shelter leaders committed to phasing out of last summer.

When Smith questioned why Penguin was killed, she says the shelter told her he began to act aggressive; a claim she questions based on her own experience working with dogs.

“Because [the worker] told me he became vicious, in just a couple weeks. I work with aggressive dogs daily and dogs don’t just become aggressive in a few weeks,” said Smith.

Gas chamber euthanasia at animal shelters is rare, with Utah being one of a handful of states that still allow the practice.

During the procedure, the animal is placed into a small enclosure and carbon monoxide is released. It takes significantly longer to euthanize compared to lethal injection.

“You can hardly fit a dog in it, they suffocate, they get dizzy, they aspirate,” said Smith.

Tug Gettling, the director of the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, one of only two shelters in the state that still use gas, has been quoted in the past saying the method is safer for employees.

However, the antiquated practice is something legislators tried to ban in the last session, but failed.

Connie Whiting, a local animal advocate, says last June the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter director committed to phasing out of using the gas chamber.

“We are here because of the gas chamber that Tug Gettling will not destroy, he said he’d dismantle it, and he hasn’t,” said Whiting.

FOX 13 News reached out to the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, but have yet to receive a response.

At a board meeting last month, the shelter confirmed it now meets requirements to purchase equipment and substances for euthanasia by injection, and committed to making the transition last August.