Part Jack Russell terrier, part Chihuahua, Rep. Diana Urban, D-Stonington, used Indiana Jones’ story to call for a moratorium on behavioral euthanasia’s by one of the state’s largest charities.
Indiana Jones, who used to fear crowds and had a tendency to nip, may have been euthanized by the Connecticut Humane Society for behavioral issues, Urban said Wednesday at a Capitol press conference.
“There are euthanasia’s being done over there by staff who are not veterinarians or vet-techs,” Urban said.
A horse owner, Urban said she personally wouldn’t even think of euthanizing a lame horse because of the pain it would cause if it was done improperly. She said a veterinarian or vet-tech are really the only ones qualified to perform the injection procedure.
“When you can’t hit the vein sometimes you have to do a heart shot or a neck jab,” Urban said not wanting to go into further detail about how the procedure can go wrong very quickly.
But the visual Urban painted isn’t what really happens, officials from the Connecticut Humane Society said.
“We care as much about the animals as Rep. Urban does,“ Karyn Cordner, a Connecticut Humane Society district manager, said Wednesday in a phone interview. “Euthanasia’s are very rare.”
She said a committee of five individuals including the shelter veterinarian, head of the medical team, district manager, behavioral technician, and member of the animal care team all vote on whether a dog or a cat are put down for behavioral reasons. The vote has to be 4 to 5 before the procedure is performed.
She also said euthanasia’s are done by a two person team. She said even though they don’t have to be performed by a vet-tech, the individuals who perform them are very specifically trained.
The national average for shelter euthanasia’s is 50 percent, but the Connecticut Humane Society’s rate is less than 13 percent and over the past few months has been as low as 11 percent. Most are put down for medical issues, and not behavioral issues, Cordner said.
Urban, who never offered any numbers regarding the frequency of the procedures, said the Connecticut Humane Society was less than cooperative recently with the Office of Legislative Research as it worked to detail the legislative history and statutes governing the organization.
“Sometimes numbers aren’t always indicative of what’s really happening,” Urban said.
Urban’s call for an end to euthanasia comes more than three months after the organization was the subject of a scathing report by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Since the report was issued in March, Richard Johnston, the president and chairman of the Connecticut Humane Society, resigned, and the labor issues raised by three employees are pending at the National Board of Labor Relations.
In his report on the organization Blumenthal said it designated more than $46 million of its unrestricted $52 million fund balance to a quasi-endowment fund and restricted its spending limiting the amount of resources it has to “adequately conduct its core animal care and protection functions.”
“Many of the reports concerning dysfunctional management at CHS involve direct and tangible effects on the welfare of animals under CHS care,” the report goes onto state.
Before calling for an immediate stop to behavioral euthanasia’s Wednesday, Urban herself had applied for Johnston’s position, but after the initial phone interview she withdrew her name from consideration.
She said while she believes her background as an economist and her love of animals would have made her a perfect fit for the position she realized no single person will be able to turn the organization around.
She said it would have been possible if there was a completely new board elected, however, the board voted to extend their terms to five years.
Chris White, president of the Connecticut Humane Society, said he believes over the past few months the organization has been heading in the right direction, even before hiring a new executive director.
He said they’ve got a list of highly qualified candidates and are conducting their final interviews on Friday.
In the meantime, he said they heeded some of the recommendations in Blumenthal’s report and have decided not to allow the new executive director to also serve as president and chairman of the board.