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First Nome-ite in Years Licensed to Euthanize Pets Through Injection

Woman in maroon sweatshirt smiles while holding a puppy inside an animal shelter.
Nome's new Animal Control Officer holding a freshly bathed puppy at the City's animal shelter. Photo credit: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2017)

As of the beginning of this month, Nome’s Animal Control Officer is now certified to euthanize animals by injection.

It’s a service that has not been provided year-round in Nome since Dr. Derrick Leedy retired and closed the Nome Veterinary Hospital at the end of 2014.

KNOM’s Davis Hovey spoke to Nome’s ACO and some of her furry friends about her new license:

According to the State’s licensing database, Dawn Ubelaker is the first person affiliated with the City of Nome to receive a euthanasia by injection license, which is renewed every two years (biennially).

Ubelaker has been the ACO in Nome for over a year now, and during that time, she has only been able to euthanize pets through more jarring means.

“Up ‘till now, euthanasia through the City has been performed via gunshot with a .22. Euthanasia by gunshot is still technically considered a humane practice because it is instant and painless for the animal when it’s done correctly. That is what we have been limited to, since there hasn’t been anybody in town who has the euthanasia solution on hand and been licensed to administer it.”

Ubelaker estimates that she has had to euthanize ten animals using a firearm thus far in her role as ACO. Now she has the ability to use an injection, which she says has less room for error, is more peaceful, and involves a pre-euthanasia solution.

“Essentially what I do is make sure there are no other animals in here (City of Nome pound), there are no people in here, it’s just me and that dog or animal. There’s quiet music in here, lots of treats are involved, and it’s just a very peaceful atmosphere in here when the procedure is done. It really only takes a few minutes; the solution is very fast acting.”

Nome’s animal control officer, in order to be legally certified to provide euthanasia by injection services, had to go through what Patricia Lonergan, the Licensing Examiner, refers to as a two-step process.

“So the licensee first obtains a license from us and then sends in an application for a permit with the FDA. And to my knowledge, those were the only two steps that were done in this particular issuance of the license.”

Lonergan works for the Euthanasia program under the State of Alaska’s Division of Corporations, Businesses and Professional Licenses. Janey McCollough is the Director of that division.

“To qualify to obtain a permit, the agency shall certify that it will comply with applicable federal laws related to the use of the drugs, not permit an employee to administer the drugs unless the employee has successfully completed a euthanasia technician certification course approved by the National Animal Control Association, the American Humane Association, or the Humane Society of the U.S.”

In addition to meeting the State’s requirements for licensing, Ubelaker was also investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration office that handles Alaska and is based in Seattle.

“So because I am not a licensed veterinarian and because we are so rural, our situation was a little bit special. They, being the DEA, assigned an investigator to my application, and there were lots of questions to answer. In the end, we were able to successfully get approval from the DEA to be able to have those drugs on hand.”

Euthanasia by injection can be performed in Nome for a fee of $100 after filling out a form with the ACO. Ubelaker contracts with the City of Nome and can be reached via phone (907-443-8538) at any time for questions or emergency euthanasias if needed.

Through May 11th, there is also a vet clinic happening in Nome. Gil Van Sciver, DVM, will be here to offer veterinary services including (but not limited to): spay and neuter surgeries, dental cleaning (and extractions if necessary), lumpectomy surgeries, health exams (including extras such as vaccines, ear cleaning, etc.), and emergency services. Call Nome Animal House to schedule an appointment for your pet: 907-443-2490.

Image at top: file photo: Nome’s Animal Control Officer, Dawn Ubelaker, holding a freshly bathed puppy at the City’s animal shelter. Photo credit: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2017).

White van with side door opened, showing straw and pet carriers inside.
The van used for Nome Animal Control activities. Photo Credit: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2018)

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