City targeting money from state euthanasia law change

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson A male setter watches and licks his lips in anticipation as Animal Control Officer Robin Wiggins fills his bowl with food Friday at the Clovis Animal Shelter. City officials are still waiting for money promised by the state to aid in a forced change from the gas chamber to lethal injection for euthanasia of strays.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The city of Clovis is targeting state money meant to reimburse cities for complying with a change in the state euthanasia law.

But city leaders aren’t optimistic they will ever see the full $54,000 it’s estimated to cost thus far in the switch to lethal injection.

Last month the city applied for a portion of a $100,000 state appropriation set aside to help communities offset transition costs, said Claire Burroughes, legislative and community development director.

Burroughes said it has cost the city more than $54,000 to make the change. Costs include hiring a veterinarian to oversee the process, software to tabulate data, staff training and hiring an additional animal shelter technician.

She said more than $10,000 went for equipment needed to conduct the procedure.

Teala Kail, a Regulation and Licensing Department spokeswoman, said the state’s animal sheltering board will consider a funding formula later this month for distributing the money.

Once it is decided how the money will be allocated, communities will be notified about the money the will receive, she said.

But either way — with four communities in line for money — it seems unlikely Clovis will recoup all of its expenses on the switch, according to Burroughes.

A state law that took effect in June forced community animal shelters to retire their carbon monoxide gas chambers and switch to lethal injection as a method for killing unwanted and stray dogs and cats.

The law was drafted in response to animal rights groups that pushed for change, calling the gas chamber method cruel and antiquated.

In the months preceding passage of the bill, Animal Protection of New Mexico, an Albuquerque-based animal rights group, began lobbying Clovis leaders and offering financial assistance to make the transition to lethal injection.

Clovis voted against the switch and Burroughes said when approached after the state law was enacted, APNM said it no longer had money available to assist.

“We received advice and assistance from them initially (during the transition) but when the city didn’t go ahead with the lethal injection transfer, the money (they had offered) was used for other things,” she said.

Clovis, Jal, Lovington and Tucumcari were the only communities in the state still using the gas chamber when the law changed.

Burroughes said the transition has gone well.

“We have some technicians that are trained in euthanasia (and) the process has been going smoothly.”

Overall euthanasia figures are dropping.

In 2009, 1,821 dogs and cats were euthanized by the Clovis animal shelter, a 15 percent drop from the year prior.

And 2008 showed a 13 percent drop from 2007, when 2,457 stray dogs and cats were killed.