Subcommittee decides against euthanization vote

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

For the second time in less than a week, a Clovis Animal Task Force subcommittee held off on a vote regarding euthanization methods at the city animal shelter.

At issue is whether Clovis will keep intact its current method of euthanization, using a carbon monoxide gas chamber, or switch to a process of lethal injection, which has been adopted throughout most of the state.

Members of the euthanization subcommittee made a Tuesday morning trip to observe the gas chamber process at the city shelter.

Clovis veterinarian David Hudson said he watched animal shelter personnel place a 65-pound pit bull in the chamber, and watched the dog as a carbon monoxide mixture came into the chamber (with a hissing sound) and caused the dog to pass out about 20 or 30 seconds later.

“Between the time the hissing stopped and he passed out,” Hudson said, “he seemed pretty normal to me.”

Hudson was unsure how challenging a dog that size would be to inject.

City Commissioner Len Vohs and Hudson said they would like visit to a shelter that uses lethal injections.

Shelter Supervisor Louisa Maestas said gas chamber euthanization — from prep to cleanup — takes staff approximately two hours, twice a week with anywhere from 25 to 40 animals killed in a session. Vohs is concerned injections may be an inefficient process, and he wants to compare how the lethal injection system is working in a city with similar demographics to Clovis.

“I would like to go to Alamogordo, Roswell,” Vohs said. “I would like to see them (euthanize) many animals at a time … to see (if and how) they are doing it right.”

City Legislative and Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said she would try to set up a visit within the next few weeks. Any information gathered would likely not be available in advance of the full task force committee’s next meeting, scheduled for July 24.

Vohs and City Commissioner Juan Garza said they were concerned about the costs of training staff members. They said the gas chamber is an acceptable method and the city has other needs.

Lethal injection for animals requires two trained personnel to handle the animal and the use of controlled substances requires oversight by a veterinarian in addition to modified facilities other than what Clovis currently has.

Animal rights groups have expressed concerns about Clovis’ gas chamber method. They say lethal injection is more humane.

Heather Ferguson, Animal Protection New Mexico legislative director, said that the organization will respect whatever decision Clovis makes but is attending every meeting possible to be an informational source.

Ferguson said at last Wednesday’s meeting the state’s Animal Sheltering Services Board has promised to prohibit the gas chamber and will likely present the matter for public hearings in the fall.

Ferguson said APNM is prepared to pay estimated start-up costs for the switch to the lethal injection method for Clovis, which would be between $10,000 and $15,000, and assist financially for one year.

In 2007, the shelter euthanized 2,457 cats and dogs, according to the Clovis Police Department’s annual report.