City working on euthanasia change

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A looming June deadline has Clovis working to switch from the gas chamber to lethal injection as a mechanism for killing unwanted animals.

Almost two weeks since the governor signed legislation into mandating lethal injection, state boards are still working to approve training facilities.

And, the communities affected by the law are working to obtain funding and comply.

Clovis, Jal, Lovington and Tucumcari are the only communities in the state that still use gas chambers.

Lovington said it has already stopped using its gas chamber and along with Jal, is calling for more staff to manage the change.

But in Clovis — which partners with Portales to euthanize animals in exchange for shared maintenance costs — things are still being figured out as officials work to meet the June 19 deadline.

The price of change for Clovis is still uncertain. Leaders are working to reconcile available funding from various sources with the amount the community will have to cough up on its own, city spokeswoman Claire Burroughes said.

The Legislature allocated $100,000 to assist communities. Clovis is trying to get a portion of the state cash.

Burroughes said Clovis is also in discussion with Albuquerque-based animal rights group Animal Protection of New Mexico.

Last year APNM approached city leaders with a promise to fund the equipment needed for the switch as well as first-year operating costs if Clovis would make the change in advance of legislation.

“(The offer for assistance is) still there,” Burroughes said Thursday.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to help us to some extent with the (start-up costs).”

But until city leaders know how much the area will receive from outside sources, it is impossible to know what amount will have to be drawn from general reserve funds to meet regulations by the deadline, she said.

Meanwhile, the city is working to understand and plan for training and equipment needs. Among the issues: Methods for securing the needed pharmaceuticals and rearrangement of the animal control facility to streamline the more medical-like process of weighing, handling, injecting, observing and disposing of the animals killed by lethal injection.

Clovis isn’t the only entity trying to catch up with the change in law.

May 6, the state Animal Sheltering Services Board, which was appointed to provide euthanasia oversight, is expected to confirm a list of approved training programs — a decision that will leave municipalities little more than a month to get their people trained and ready to go.

Burroughes said Clovis is awaiting approval before personnel are sent to training schools.

“We’re standing ready, but we want to make sure that our staff go to a school that’s approved by them to make sure that they get an appropriate, approved training program,” she said.

Animal Control Supervisor Louisa Maestes said she and her staff of three have selected an existing area in the facility to perform the procedures.

They are still waiting instructions on where and when training will occur but are shifting their perspective and are ready to the extent they can be, Maestes said.

“It’s something that is going to be done, so we’re working on it. As far as the building or any construction, we more or less have everything ready,” she said.

“You can say that we’re pretty confident and we’re going to do it to the best way that we know how and we’re going to get it done right,” she said.