Animal shelter euthanasia money in limbo

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

It’s been a month since the transition and Clovis’ animal control began complying with a state mandate to change its method of euthanizing animals.

Money the legislature promised the city to help defray cost is tied up, but lethal injection is now being used as required by state law, Police Chief Steve Sanders said.

It became mandatory in July for all New Mexico animal shelters to switch from cold-gas or carbon monoxide chambers, like those Clovis used to kill unwanted animals.

In its place, lethal injection has become the accepted method.

“Its been a difficult transition, this is a hands-on process … it wasn’t an easy transition for them. The gas chamber, you just walk them in and close the door. Now, they’ve actually got a hands-on technique where you have to handle (the animals) and apply the medication,” Sanders said.

“(Shelter staff) went and received the training and we’re accomplishing the task. It’s been a learning experience for all of us and we’re getting through this. These are dedicated professionals that stepped up to the plate and we’re making it happen.”

The new law was the result of lobbying by animal welfare groups who argued the gas chamber was inhumane.

Clovis in particular came under fire for resisting the change.

The city commission voted against changing to lethal injection. But the Legislature made it law.

In May, the city commission transferred $39,918 to the police department to cover initial costs.

The city used lethal injection to euthanize about 50 dogs and cats since the law went into effect July 19, Sanders said.

A $100,000 allocation the legislature had promised to assist Clovis and three other communities forced to make the change has not been seen and no one seems to know how that money is to be obtained, Sanders said. The other communities include Jal, Lovington and Tucumcari.

“There’s been no help from any outside agency,” he said. “We’ve made inquiries (of the state) and we’ve not seen any response.”

The money has not been released yet, but will be handled like a grant when the time comes, said Teal Kail, public information officer for the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. The agency oversees the Animal Sheltering Board for the state.

“The funds in question haven’t yet been released from the (Department) of Finance, and with the special session and budget crisis ahead, there’s no certainty when those funds will come,” she said in an e-mail sent Thursday to the CNJ.

“Once the ASB receives them, shelters could be reimbursed for their euthanasia-related expenses through a grant process,” Kail said.

Now, the city is handling the cost out of its budget and is contracting with a local veterinarian for oversight of lethal injections.

Sanders said the police department has not calculated a per-use cost for the method, since it is being administered under contract.

Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said local officials have not received money from the state, but it was promised and is expected.

“There’s money that will be forth coming from the state,” she said. “I think it’s going fine.”