Rowan commissioners oppose lethal injection for euthanizing animals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Rowan County commissioners are on the record opposing legislation that would ban counties from using carbon monoxide gas to euthanize dogs and cats.
Commissioners weighed in on the issue Monday night after N.C. Rep. Fred Steen asked for the county’s position.
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold hearings today on the the bill sponsored by N.C. Rep. Cary Allred of Alamance County. Steen and Rep. Lorene Coates, both Rowan representatives, serve on the committee.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain asked the board to add the issue to the agenda for discussion Monday. Coltrain said the switch to lethal injection would add significant cost to the county, including additional personnel.
Animal Control Supervisor Clai Martin, who is scheduled to testify at the Raleigh hearing today, said 5,498 cats and dogs were euthanized last year at the Rowan County animal shelter.
Chairman Carl Ford tread lightly, noting the matter wasn’t on the agenda originally and people hadn’t been able to speak about it. Ford noted people on both sides of the issue are very vocal.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell suggested the interest for the county is more about stopping another state mandate without funding than wading into the debate about which method is better.
County Manager Gary Page estimated 75 percent of the counties across the state gas dogs and cats. He wouldn’t venture a guess on dollars, but he said using lethal injection would be far more expensive.
“What we are doing now is cheaper, more humane and safer for our staff,” Page said.
Page and commissioners expressed concerns about employees getting bitten and scratched. Page pointed out some of the dogs are pit bulls seized from fights or attacks, which raises the risk for staff.
The board unanimously approved the motion by Coltrain to oppose changing the method for euthanizing animals.
The House committee is tentatively scheduled to vote on the matter next week.
House Bill 6 would entirely ban the use of carbon monoxide. Another bill, House Bill 27, sponsored by Rep. Cullie Tarleton of Watauga County, would ban counties from using carbon monoxide except in the case of wild animals.
Neither bill would provide any state funding.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.