(Updated 3:30 p.m.) Unsuccessful at its first attempt to get the Connecticut Humane Society to issue a moratorium on behavioral euthanasia, two state lawmakers armed with inside information are again calling on the charity for a moratorium.
According to documents leaked to Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and Rep. Annie Hornish, D-Granby, the Connecticut Humane Society put down 200 cats and 165 dogs in 2009.
The spreadsheet, which Urban says was leaked to lawmakers by an employee whom she refused to name, lists the species, breed, reason for the euthanasia, date it occurred, name of the person who authorized it, and name of the person who performed it.
Of the six names which appear only one ends with the initials DVM, or doctor of veterinary medicine. Most of the euthanasias performed by the veterinarian were on animals put down due to health issues. Most of the other euthanasias which were performed fall under the heading of “aggression” or “behavior” and were done by individuals who lawmakers believe are not veterinary technicians.
At least 65 of the 200 cats were put down for either “aggression” or “behavior” problems and 126 of the 165 dogs were put down for either “aggression” or “behavior” problems, according to the spreadsheet.
Dr. William Bryant of the Connecticut Humane Society said 50 percent is the national average for shelter euthanasia, but the CHS’s rate is down from 20 percent a few years ago to 8 or 12 percent. While he didn’t have the statistics in front of him, Bryant said 10 percent is “probably the best we can do.”
Frustrated with the allegations, Bryant said if the coalition of legislators wants to help, “they should work at helping us get these animals adopted.”
“It’s all a bunch of nothing at this point,” Bryant said Wednesday.
But Urban doesn’t believe it is a bunch of nothing for an organization with a $53 million endowment.
“By releasing these euthanasia records, we hope that they will cooperate more fully with the legislature as we seek legislative solutions to what is clearly excessive euthanasia,” Urban said.
Last month, the Connecticut Humane Society said most of the animals in its care are put down for health or medical issues, not behavioral issues. However, that statement doesn’t seem to jibe with the spreadsheet lawmakers handed out Wednesday.
Bryant defended the euthanasia rate and said he takes very seriously his responsibility to make sure animals are adoptable. He said the last thing he wants to do is place an animal that becomes a danger to the family that adopted it.
Every euthanasia, which requires the use of sodium pentobarbital, is done under Bryant’s license to obtain the drug. He said he monitors the reports on a weekly or monthly basis done by the organization’s various shelters.
Lawmakers said the law was changed in 1981 to allow personnel at the Connecticut Humane Society who aren’t veterinarians permission to euthanize animals. It was becoming too costly to have a veterinarian perform the euthanasia and the organization asked the legislature for an exemption, which passed unanimously through both the House and the Senate at the time.
Urban suggested the legislature may need to reconsider this law and see about more regulations regarding the use of sodium pentobarbital by lay persons.
Meanwhile Urban urged the public to get involved.
“When you’re giving to Connecticut Humane those are your dollar votes,” Urban said. “People can stop donating and send a very strong message to that organization.”
“I sincerely hope the board of directors takes a clear look at what’s going on,” Urban said.
But even finding out who is on the board of directors has proved challenging for the Office of Legislative Research. Urban said they’ve been asked three times for the information, but have been unable to get it.
Chris White, the current Connecticut Humane Society president, wrote Urban about a week after the first press conference to let her know they received her letter and would be happy to meet with her. The letter written on Life Publications letterhead, also addresses her previous request to put a moratorium on behavioral euthanasia.
“We feel it would be unethical to comply with this request,” White wrote. “As you may know, we have formed Euthanasia Committees at each of the three shelters to decide when behavioral euthanasia is necessary.”
Karyn Cordner, a Connecticut Humane Society district manager, said last month that 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 decision to euthanize an animal is an incredibly difficult one for all concerned, but it is sadly part of our humane mission,” White wrote in his letter to Urban.
Asked about the committee process, Urban said that’s a new procedure the organization recently put in place. In his June 23 letter to Urban White confirms this by writing it’s been in place for three months and during that time only 30 animals were put down.