Actor Katherine Heigl asks lawmakers to end gas chamber euthanasia of animals in Utah

State Sen. Mike McKell has proposed legislation to stop of the practice in Utah.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Katherine Heigl joins Sen. Michael McKell, R-Spanish Fork, as they discuss gas chamber euthanasia for animals shelters during a news conference at the Capitol, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

State Sen. Mike McKell introduced legislation to end gas chamber euthanasia in Utah’s animal shelters during a news conference Wednesday. And to bring more attention to the issue, McKell brought celebrity reinforcement to the Capitol.

Actor and animal rights advocate Katherine Heigl — of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Ugly Truth” — said as a proud Utah resident, the use of gas chamber euthanasia puts a “black mark on this incredibly sacred place.”

“I think as Utahns, we are better than this,” she said.

The bill, named the Animal Shelter Revisions, mandates that shelters use euthanasia by injection and requires shelters to create policies and training for euthanasia procedures, as well as documentation of that training.

The legislation, as its currently written, does provide an exception for animal control officers, allowing for the euthanization of an animal in an emergency situation outside a shelter by using the “most humane method available to the officer.”

“[Gas chamber euthanasia] is the least humane method to euthanize an animal and we shouldn’t use the least humane method in our state,” McKell said.

Previous legislation to ban gas chamber euthanasia in Utah has stalled in past years. Some opposition last year came from Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith, the senator said.

McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said he connected with Heigl through the Humane Society when the organization reached out to him about the issue.

“I don’t like the state being one of the last states to do this when we know there are better options,” he told members of the media on Wednesday.

Last month, the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter discontinued the use of carbon monoxide in gas chambers to euthanize animals in favor of injection euthanasia.

In July 2022, South Utah Valley Animal Shelter transitioned to using euthanasia by injection as its primary method, moving away from gas chamber euthanasia.

McKell said he expects the bill to reach committee soon and he would like to have a hearing on the Senate floor in the next few weeks.