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Locals protest after animal shelter euthanizes dog via gas chamber

By Ashtyn Asay - | Apr 29, 2022
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Protesters stand outside of the Pleasant Grove Police Department on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
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Protesters stand outside of the Pleasant Grove Police Department on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
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Heather Smith holds a sign depicting Penguin the husky-mix on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
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Dogs, brought by their owners, participate in the protest outside the Pleasant Grove Police Department on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Protesters stood outside the Pleasant Grove Police Department Thursday, many holding signs with the picture of a smiling black and white husky-mix on them.

The dog, a stray named Penguin, was brought to the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter earlier this year. Like several others, Heather Smith’s mother had wanted to adopt Penguin after seeing his photo online.

“My mom had seen him online and she fell in love with him. My mom had a series of losses throughout this time, her dog just passed away three weeks prior, she fell in love with Penguin and she said ‘Heather can you get him for me,'” Smith said.

Smith is president of Few Steps From Home Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, located in Gladwin, Michigan. According to Smith, she had been working with local animal control officers in order to get the rights to pull Penguin from the shelter and arrange transport when she learned her efforts were for naught.

Smith found out that Penguin had already been put down. The dog, which had previously been described by shelter staff as friendly and sweet, had been euthanized via gas chamber after shelter staff deemed him too aggressive to be re-homed.

“I had to tell my mom that they had put him down,” Smith said. “I had to tell my mom that they gassed this dog to death after she just lost hers.”

According to Smith, she specializes in rehabilitating and re-homing aggressive dogs and believed Penguin wouldn’t have been too much of a challenge.

“That’s what I do,” she said. “I’ve been doing rescue for over 20 years, but he [Tug Gettling] didn’t think I was capable or qualified to handle animals of any sort.”

According to Tug Gettling, director of NUVAS, even though Penguin seemed sweet upon entering the shelter, seven potential adopters and four staff members reported that the dog had become aggressive — and tried to bite or attack them — during interactions.

“We moved him out of adoption and re-evaluated him, he was extremely aggressive. He was no longer safe to be made available for adoption,” Gettling said. “We had to euthanize him. It was a sad case because we thought he was a sweet dog, but our number one concern is the safety of the children and the community members, so that’s why we made the decision to euthanize him.”

Euthanasia via gas chamber is considered by many to be less humane than euthanasia by injection. The shelter vowed in late 2021 to cease using gas chambers for euthanasia, but  the practice has continued well into 2022.

According to Gettling, the shelter has been working toward making the switch to euthanasia by injection, but making that transition takes time.

“In August of 2021 I made a recommendation to the board that we switch to euthanasia by injection, the board supported that, and then we started down that road to get that done,” he said. “It takes a while, you have to get state certifications, federal certifications, training … you have to be able to acquire supplies and drugs, which these supplies are controlled substances, so there are certain things you have to abide by, certain vendors you have to go through.”

Gettling stated that the animal shelter hopes to have everything in place to switch to euthanasia by injection by next month, although with COVID-19 related supply-chain shortages, this is not a firm estimate.

The shelter has recently experienced an influx of animals, so they are appreciative of anyone wishing to adopt from or donate to the shelter.

“We’re grateful for everyone who reaches out here to help us, we certainly accept donations and things that help us care for the animals here,” Gettling said. “It’s interesting that those who are calling for change have never done business with us.”

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