Utah Pound Cat Story: Why Am I Not Happier?

The West Valley City Animal Shelter in Utah gasses groups of pets to death.  Recently, after gassing a group of cats, the worker who opened the chamber found a black cat named Andrea was still alive.  So the worker scooped Andrea up in his arms, showered her with kisses and told her she was a miracle kitty who would be pampered for the rest of her days.  Just kidding.  He gassed her again.  Then he put her in a garbage bag and tossed her in the freezer.  Forty-five minutes later, workers went into the freezer unit to add the remains of a dog they’d just killed and heard persistent meowing.  They opened up the trash bag containing Andrea and found she was alive.  The pound manager called the Community Animal Welfare Society (CAWS) to come get the cat.  I don’t know if it was because the manager felt sympathy for Andrea or if she was just frustrated that the cat wouldn’t die.  The manager refused to talk to the news station reporting the story.

The TV crew got to meet Andrea, now in the care of CAWS:

“She’s used up three of her nine lives,” laughed Janita Coombs of the Community Animal Welfare Society. “And we hope she doesn’t use up any more!”

Yeah, total ha.  A real knee-slapper, that one.

In the video accompanying the online article, the reporter says CAWS may offer Andrea for adoption or might “use her” in their campaign against the gas chamber.  Use her.  Maybe everything is just rubbing me the wrong way today, I don’t know.

West Valley City’s Animal Shelter manager and other workers declined to comment to FOX 13 on Friday. City spokesman Aaron Crim said they follow the proper procedures and defended the method as being endorsed by the American Veterinary Association.

Those who want to keep gassing pets to death often cite that it is an AVMA approved method of killing (pdf).  This is accurate.  But it needs to be put into context.  The AVMA has become isolated in its support for the gas chamber.  The No Kill Advocacy Center (pdf), the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (pdf), the National Animal Control Association, and the American Humane Association have all issued position statements against the use of the gas chamber. In addition, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming all ban gas chambers for killing shelter pets in their states.  Other states have similar legislation pending.

“We’ve never had an instance since we used this method. It’s very quick, very humane,” Crim said. “This is an anomaly.”

As pet advocates know, gas chamber survivors may be rare, relative to the number of pets killed, but they do make the news with some regularity (e.g. Lucky, Quentin and Grace).  As for the method being consistently quick and humane, apparently the AVMA is the last major animal group clinging to that myth.  Much to Mr. Crim’s delight I suppose.

The West Valley City Pound has a website.  In addition to protecting the community, they see their job as follows:

It is also our responsibility to care for ourselves. We must be proud of the work that we are doing, recognize our accomplishments and compliment to [sic] each other. Be happy. If you are happy, those around you will be happy too resulting in more effective service to yourself and the citizens of West Valley City and Taylorsville.

Tha hell?  Compliment to each other.  Also, when the local news shows up:  Hide.

Both CAWS and West Valley City agree that the method wouldn’t be necessary if shelters weren’t overrun with stray animals. They encouraged pet owners to take more responsibility by spaying and neutering their animals and keeping them for life.

Man, why can I not like any of these people even one iota?  Newsflash:  Not everyone can afford spay-neuter and not everyone can keep their pets for life.  Life is a fluid situation.  Sometimes people need education and/or a helping hand.  I checked the CAWS website because I wanted to see what their position was on spay-neuter and because I really want to like them.  After all, they took in Andrea when they got the call.  They have a page called Spay and Neuter on their site.  It’s blank.  But on other pages they do have info about TNR for community cats and state they offer some assistance to people in the community who need help getting their pets neutered.  So that’s good.  I just wish Andrea’s story left me with a better feeling.  What do you think?

16 thoughts on “Utah Pound Cat Story: Why Am I Not Happier?

  1. This story … the torment Andrea suffered is scarcely addressed or acknowledged – the story, the people in it, seem to think it’s just a curiosity, an anomaly, one for the weird news file. And, as you note, a marketing opportunity. Look, she’s so lucky! Isn’t it marvelous!

    Andrea was not lucky. She’s survived. But before that … she suffered hours of officially sanctioned torture for no more reason than that she was deemed inconvenient.

    It makes me sick.

    1. I am speechless, but wanted to thank you for your comment about this topic…What got to me was your words.”.that she was deemed inconvenient.” I read that.. turned around and saw all 5 dogs sprawled out on the floor.. taking their afternoon nap and I thought what a beautiful site. How could anyone think any animal is an inconvenience? They love us unconditionally.. no matter what. The killing has to stop. Gas chambers are very painful.. period.

  2. It is worth noting that Amazing Grace was adopted into a loving home (she lives near Chicago with a Georgia native) *and* she serves as an inspiration/symbol for ending gassing. She and her family even attended the signing ceremony for the law named after her in the Georgia Capitol:


    So, the two roles are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they (ahem) *complement* each other quite well.

    The list of organizations that impede and end to gassing includes two in Pennsylvania:


  3. I have always loved animals….didn’t know I was rescuing a dog or cat when I brought it home. I just thought it was the “thing to do.” I couldn’t just stand there or drive by and let an animal be hurt, hungry, run over or ALONE. Until about a year ago that is what I had done since I was 5 years old. A year ago I decided I would get involved with the “real animal” rescues…..never did I imagine what a heart breaking task this is, never did I know the cruelty of man….I wish I was still ignorant!

  4. Wonder how many brain cells poor Andrea lost in her two dances with CO2? Maybe some of the ones she will, you know, need? Oh well, I hear hypothermia has a protective effect v.v. brain injury. It all evens out, right?

  5. What I think is probably not printable…these so called “shelters” seem to be cut from the same mold…they hire callous, uncaring employees that are only there for a paycheck, period! As anyone with a soul could NEVER do this, not for any amount of money.

  6. I surely hope this cat finds a loving, forever home for the rest of her natural life. She deserves better than to be a poster child for whatever . . .

  7. Saw this on the news last night; couldn’t believe how callous the story seemed, and how superficial & giggly the news reporters were as they presented it.

    Biggest question – WHY wasn’t a rescue group or foster home contacted BEFORE the effort was made gassing and then freezing the poor animal to death?? Too much trouble, I guess.

  8. Hello – I am a CAWS volunteer so I am a bit biased but I did want to put the “behind the story comments out there”. First – Janita was responding to something the camera man about nine lives when the camera man was setting up and did not realize the camera was on. Next – When West Valley Shelter announced they were installing a gas chamber in their new shelter several years ago, all the animal rescue groups and activists were up in arms and tried everything we knew to do to convince the WVC Community Preservation Department (the department that manages their animal shelter) and the West Valley City Council that this was a terrible idea, but they did it anyway. Kelly Davis is who the WVC shelter manager reports to and he said over and over again when the gas chamber was approved that it would only be used for animals that would hurt employees if they were to euthanize them individually (ie. aggressive and/or feral animals). Many people in Northern Utah are aware of this and the most of the shelter personnel are very unhappy with the gas chamber and how its being operated…so a lot of back story was not covered in the piece.

    What CAWS was trying to point out was – WVC is euthanizing tame animals, WVC is using the gas chamber incorrectly and is not even checking to see if the animals are actually dead before putting them in the cooler and then the refrain of all of us – spay and neuter your pets. The FOX 13 station is great to work with but they heavily edited their interview and went more with the “feel good” portion. The dialogue on their FB page and the CAWS FB page goes into much for detail and the station is interested in talking to us again after the shelter responds to our GRAMA request.

    Sorry to run on….but here is more. The Utah animal rescue community and the local shelters work very to hard place as many pets as possible. The West Valley shelter staff is one of the hardest working but they don’t have the support of their upper management and their population has a lot of folks new to the U.S that are not as aware of the reasons for spaying and neutering or how to claim their animals that go missing. Most of them were very happy with this story and its exposure. Also, in Utah there are tons of easy avenues to have your pet fixed for a very low cost ($15 for a male cat up to $70 for a dog spay on a 50# dog – several places will do pit bulls and black dogs for even less). We are lucky enough to have four low cost spay/neuter clinics in the valley (no need for snap certs, proof of low income, etc) plus several of the shelters have two to three “free to $10 clinics” a year for any pet. Low income folks can get their animals fixed for free here by reaching out to shelters or No More Homeless Pets/Best Friends. I know we are luckier than most places because I was visiting family in Huntsville, Al last week and was trying to find a low cost neuter alternative for my niece’s crypto-orchid (sp?). I called about 15 vets and SNAP and the lowest price I could find was $80 (the other prices were $250 to 600)….this was after she paid $90 for it at the shelter but they couldn’t fix it after they saw that his testicles were not going to descend.

    I would write more but I guess I better see if you are willing to post portions of this first.

    Thanks very much for commenting on this story and giving it more exposure.

  9. As a volunteer for the organization that you can’t seem to like, it saddens me that members of the animal advocacy community don’t seem to afford others the benefit of the doubt and want to immediately take some shots at others. While not as difficult as receiving the initial call and rushing to pick up this little one, finding room in her home for another foster, dealing the press, the frustration of how news media cuts a 30 minute discussion down to the ‘highlights’, having other animal advocates make comments about a brief minute of joy when Andrea was playing with the camera before the interview was perhaps the most hurtful. Yes, there are mixed emotions as we are deeply saddened that our efforts in our state to end the use of gas chambers has been unsuccessful, Andrea’s ordeal was sickening but we must take a little joy in seeing this little one saved. Her love of life is infectious.

    Other than your opinions on the presentation there is little in your factual responses that we don’t fully agree with and have been striving for years for the same goals. As a volunteer organization we have worked hard to build awareness in our community about spay and neuter and have worked closely with a other rescues since we started in 1994 with spay and neuter programs at the top this list. And while the update to our website has not been completed (we rely on a volunteer web master), our previous site has had S&N materials for years and it will be updated again.

    We also understand the life is changing and with the last years of economic turmoil we have taken back animals who were adopted years ago because of economics as we have a commitment for life for to any animal that enters our program. We also provide help for those who financially cannot take care of their animals to help keep the animals from coming into the shelters, a big task for a small volunteer organization.

    As with all of our animals, Andrea will be adopted out after she is fixed. It is sad that it takes a face on the problem for people to wake up, but she does have an amazing face.

    Please keep up the good work, but perhaps in the future remember that new media has a story to tell and they will do it in their own way. Our focus was not the ‘miracle’, it was the whole horrible situation. While we are not always happy with the way our message is presented, it does get the message out.

  10. Just an FYI for anyone who’s interested . . .
    Itchmo (http://itchmoforums.com/help-for-pets-in-need-b91.0/) has a thread dedicated to pet food pantries/support as well as low cost vet care BY STATE. One of the readers has done an amazing job gathering and putting information for folks who need help. You might be interested in looking there if you have people in need of that kind of help in order to keep their pets.

    It’s not always easy, working in rescue, but too often the unusual situations (ie Patrick in New Jersey, Oreo, etc) sometimes the animals are simply used as a ploy to raise more money. I am glad to hear that you are working actively to make changes for the animals in your area. Gassing is a terrible way for an animal to die and I wish all gas chambers were outlawed.

    I’m also glad that this lucky girl will find a wonderful home once she is spayed.

    Thanks, also for the behind the scenes information. Don’t give up the fight – there are so many counting on you!

    1. db – thank for that info…I have tons of people that ask me where they can get help for their pets, the number goes up as the economy goes down….FINALLY someone had the forethought to put something like that together and it is amazing!

  11. After reading the comments left by Neila & Steven it really made me think. I know that ALL media outlets cut the hell out of interviews and sometimes the end result is not what the person interviewed intended it to be. So it is nice to hear from some people who are “in-the-know” about this. BUT given that this chamber of death was supposed to be set up and ONLY used when it comes down to animals that could be hard to kill with injection without fear of someone getting hurt….one can only assume that since they are utilizing the death chamber so much that there HAS to be an avenue that can be taken to put a stop to this. Because you can’t tell me Andrea was going to hurt anyone if given an injection. I just don’t know how ANYONE can live with themselves putting animals in a gas chamber and hitting the button only to hear the cries and screams, the scratching at the door, the terror that each animal feels – sometimes to the point that they tear each other apart in a panic to get out. Humane my ass! If it is used improperly then I surely hope that those advocates in the state will raise their heads and blast the news far & wide.

    Maybe someone can turn this horrid story into a good story – besides the fact that Andrea made it out alive after multiple attempts to kill her! Maybe we could see Andrea’s Law make it onto the books outlawing the use of gas chambers in the state!?!?! If she is going to be “used” for anything then turn it into something positive! Now that would be news worthy!


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