Committee recommends lethal injection

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

After about a month of research, meetings and euthanasia observation trips, members of the Clovis Animal Control Task Force’s euthanasia subcommittee voted Wednesday to recommend the city switch to lethal injection.

The recommendation will be presented to the Animal Control Task Force at an Aug. 18 meeting. The task force will make its recommendations to the city commission for a final vote.

The euthanasia subcommittee also agreed it wants lethal injections handled through private contractors who would bid to perform the service.

Wednesday’s vote came after more than an hour of discussion.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield told committee members she feels strongly legislation or regulations prohibiting use of gas are imminent and Clovis should be proactive.

Brumfield also said she feels confident funding sources for the change can be found, even if it means approaching the governor’s office for support.

“I personally think that we can get some funding for a year or two. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to cost what it costs Roswell (at about $150,000 a year),” she said.

But some members remained concerned about the cost.

“In all the years I’ve been connected to the animal shelter, I’ve always seen the city drag their feet,” said Jacque Wuest of Clovis Animal Welfare League.

The subcommittee voted 9 to 1 in favor of switching to lethal injection from gas, with five members absent.

City Commissioner Len Vohs voted against the recommendation.

He said until legislation is passed forcing the issue, he doesn’t see the sense in throwing away a system that already works humanely and efficiently in exchange for higher costs during a tight-belt budget climate.

“We aren’t just talking about a few dollars here, we’re talking about massive dollars,” he said.

Clovis has used a carbon monoxide gas chamber to euthanize dogs and cats since the mid-1990s at a cost of about $3,600 a year.

In 2007, Clovis euthanized 2,457 animals.

A proposed switch to lethal injection could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 for setup plus $5 to $18 per animal, according to figures presented by animal rights proponents.

Public perception of Clovis’ use of the gas chamber, whether lethal injection services could be obtained through contract, the cost of contracts and ensuring lethal injection be done professionally and correctly were among other topics discussed.

“I firmly believe, and I’ve read the (American Veterinary Medical Association) guidelines again, that both methods are acceptable. It’s just what this committee decides,” Committee member Dr. David Hudson said.

Wuest said she was concerned about funding and training.

“What it really comes down to is it’s not the method, it’s the people who do it,” she said.

“That’s the big stumbling block that I have… (and) I struggle with how it is going to make our community look if we don’t,” Hudson said.

Animal Protection of New Mexico representatives said previously it would pay for training, startup and a year of operating costs if the city switches to lethal injection.

How they voted:

For lethal injection:

Louisa Maestas, Clovis Animal Control supervisor

Marti Scarpa, Clovis resident

Betty Johnson, Animal Protection of New Mexico

Dr. David Hudson, Clovis veterinarian

Linda Cross, Clovis resident

Jacque Wuest, Clovis Animal Welfare League

Heather Ferguson, APNM, Albuquerque

Claudia Roll, APNM, Albuquerque

Mayor Gayla Brumfield

Against lethal injection:

Commissioner Len Vohs

Absent (no vote):

Commissioner Juan Garza

Commissioner Ron Edwards

Commissioner Robert Sandoval

Dr. Glenn Keim, Clovis veterinarian

Yvette Dobbie, Laguna Beach, Calif., resident

• A link to an audio recording of this meeting is available at the top right of the page. The list above reflects participants at the meeting.

• To read the minutes from the subcommittee’s two prior meetings, visit the minutes link at the top right of the page.