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Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall is calling for the animal shelter serving his city to become a no-kill facility in three years.
In his State of the City address on Wednesday, Wall said the West Valley-Taylorsville Animal Shelter could reach that goal with the help of volunteer groups.
"I want to use this forum to challenge our city and West Valley City to seriously consider alternate solutions to animal euthanasia of any type, except when it is absolutely unavoidable," the mayor said. "To that end, I would propose that we commit to certification as a no-kill animal shelter by the year 2015."
Since a cat named Andrea survived two attempts this fall by shelter workers to gas her, animal advocates have been lobbying for a ban on the carbon monoxide chamber. They argue that an injection of sodium pentobarbital is the humane method for euthanasia. Some also have asked for the shelter to become no-kill.
No-kill actually means low-kill because all shelters put down animals that are dangerous, gravely injured or too sick to recover.
Wall said Taylorsville is helping animals by educating the public about adoption and sterilization.
"But we need to find better ways to deal with animals that have been cast off by their owners and are left to our care," he said.
Shelter officials dispute that the gas chamber is inhumane and have said the method can be the better one for animals who are dangerous or difficult to inject. The shelter took in approximately 5,000 animals last year and put down about 1,550 cats and dogs. Most of the euthanized animals were sick, injured or not adoptable because they were vicious or feral, officials said.
The carbon monoxide chamber is used in 51 percent of the shelter's euthanasia cases.
Layne Morris, director of the West Valley City Community Preservation Department, which operates the shelter, said the use of the term "no-kill" is misleading and that the standard for determining whether a facility is no-kill can be arbitrary.
Salt Lake County Animal Services considers a no-kill shelter to be one that euthanizes fewer than five animals for every 1,000 population it serves. In 2011, the shelter's number was 4.4.
The No-Kill Communities blog which tracks open-admission shelters that are obligated to take in strays and cannot limit their intake defines no-kill facilities as ones where 90 percent of the animals are released to their owners, to an adoptive home or to a rescue group. No-kill also has been defined as not putting down healthy or treatable pets due to a lack of resources.
If not for the approximately 750 feral cats taken in each year, Morris said, the West Valley-Taylorsville shelter might qualify as no-kill. However, the facility does not have the funding to trap, neuter and release all of them, which would eventually reduce their numbers and the shelter's population, he said.
"Our stated goal is to euthanize as infrequently as possible," Morris said. "That's everyone's goal."