Recently I introduced and cosponsored legislation to ban the use of toxic gas for euthanasia of any animals in the state of Michigan and allow only euthanasia by injection (EBI). I got involved with this issue through my friend Joe Sowerby, a passionate animal welfare and adoption advocate who worked to ban the use of gas in several prominent Michigan communities. He feels, as do I, that EBI is the only humane technique to use in the unfortunate situation when an animal’s life is ended. Currently, there are no laws regarding euthanasia of companion animals in Michigan.
The Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) immediately expressed opposition to our legislation in favor of their professional standards which do not preclude the use of gas but rather proscribe for its proper use. The Michigan Farm Bureau initially indicated support for a ban on gas if just limited to dogs and cats but after consulting with the MVMA voiced opposition as well. The MVMA is the voice of Michigan vets and, while respected, is not exactly a powerhouse in Lansing. The Farm Bureau on the other hand is the equivalent of an 800 pound gorilla so I knew we’d have to compromise a little if these bills were to ever see the light of the hearing room.
Compromise is a funny thing. We have heard that politics is the art of it and that people constantly express through opinion polls that they want their elected officials to work together and compromise. Yet when you give up some of your position to hopefully gain support, undoubtedly you disappoint those who started the process with you to begin with. Too often, YOU become compromised!
Facing tough opposition from some powerful legislative forces, we faced a choice. We could have given up hope of passing the bills without compromise and waged a media campaign, playing to the sentiments of pet owners and animal lovers throughout the state, which for politicians who love media coverage would have been advantageous. But our job as legislators, if we take it seriously, is to enact fair and just laws for the state and not just grandstand on popular issues. The choice was clear and we have begun working to craft a compromise toward these ends, even if not by the means we were seeking.
It is this middle ground that I was talking to a Free Press reporter about which became an unfortunate recent headline. The article leaves the reader with the impression that our legislation would weaken current law to allow euthanasia by gas, when in fact it is a practice that is currently in use in Michigan with no official guidelines on proper use. Though I wasn’t misquoted and the article is technically correct, it misleads the reader as to what our intentions are. While there are many issues that are involved (including public safety, shelter employee safety, feasibility, and cost, to name a few) for me it is a moral issue above all else. For now, I intend to keep working to find middle ground that ensures humane euthanasia in Michigan while respecting the many issues faced by the professionals who work with animals. I’ll do my best to keep you posted as developments occur.