Humane Society refuses legislative request to suspend euthanizing animals

The Connecticut Humane Society has rejected a request by state lawmakers to stop euthanizing animals for non-health reasons until it answers their questions about how and when animals are destroyed.

At issue, according to the lawmakers, is who is administering the lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital, how it is administered and why so many animals are being euthanized under the auspices of ‘behavioral’ problems.

“We believe you have been given a great deal of misinformation,” Christopher White, the society’s president, wrote June 23 to Democratic Reps. Diana S. Urban of Stonington and Annie Hornish of Granby and Sen. Edith Prague of Columbia, calling its policies “responsible and appropriate.”

But this group of a dozen state lawmakers – dubbed Legislators for Animal Advocacy – are not convinced the procedure is adequate, which is why they continue to call for a moratorium on euthanizing animals for behavioral issues.

Urban and friend

Rep. Diana Urban with her rescued dog, Indiana Jones. (Jacqueline Rabe)

According to documents leaked from a worker at the humane society to LAA, 362 dogs and cats were euthanized in 2009. About half of those animals were killed for health issues and the remaining for aggressive or behavioral reasons. In the first three months of this year 81 dogs and cats were euthanized.

Urban said she suspected that five Humane Society workers euthanizing animals outlined in the leaked documents are not trained vet-technicians.

“There doesn’t appear to be vets overseeing this,” she said. “That’s the big problem. This is OJT, on the job training. A person took the job and an hour later was shown how to euthanize.”

A spokeswoman for the Humane Society did not respond to a request for an interview to respond to Urban, but the society issued a statement from its chief veterinarian, Dr. William Bryant: “The procedures are carried out by a veterinarian or by properly trained staff who follow the polices we have in place.”

Who exactly is deemed “properly trained” is what irks Urban.

“There have been stories about animals that they have given med shots to, that they cannot get into the vein, and the animal is not completely dead, but certainly not revivable,” she said.

Existing law, from 1981, allows society personnel to euthanize animals because it was becoming too costly to have a veterinarian perform the procedure. The organization unanimously received an exemption from the state legislature at the time, but Urban said she doesn’t believe that law was ever meant to allow those with “little to no” training to be permitted.

Urban, and the other legislators for animal advocacy coalition, are proposing a list of state reforms to help better serve the animal population.

Urban wants to require a vet-tech or veterinarian oversee the euthanasia procedures, require vet-techs receive a state license and adopt a criteria open to the public when animals are decided to be put down.

“We have had a terribly difficult time trying to put in regulation and I am hoping this [legislative] session we can do it,” she said, determined that there is “excessive euthanasia” happening.

But the Humane Society’s acting director, Raymond Gasecki, defended the status-quo.

“If the veterinary professionals feel an animal cannot be rehabilitated or placed safely in a home environment, it is inhumane to keep that animal locked in cage in a state of distress. We think it is appropriate to allow our animal experts, working as a team, to make the important decisions about euthanasia in the best interests of the animals we serve,” he said.

The society reports that the national euthanasia rate is 50 to 60 percent compared to the state’s just 13 percent of all animals handled at the state humane society.