Katherine Heigl Wants to End the 'Barbaric' Use of Gas Chambers to Euthanize Shelter Animals in Utah

"It's such an antiquated and, quite frankly, sadistic way of euthanizing," the actress tells PEOPLE about the practice some Utah animal shelters use to put down pets

katherine heigl
Katherine Heigl. Photo: NBC/Getty

Katherine Heigl is speaking up for shelter animals.

The Firefly Lane actress and mom of three is busy advocating for Utah State Legislature to pass a bill that would end the use of gas chambers as a means of euthanizing shelter animals in the state — something Heigl, 43, says "just seems like it should go without saying, quite frankly."

"It's preposterous and pretty mind-blowing, actually," the star tells PEOPLE of the issue. "Utah, sadly, is one of three states that still does this. It's such an antiquated and, quite frankly, sadistic way of euthanizing. There's a million reasons the bill should pass to end it. I can't think of a single reason why it wouldn't, except if our elected officials have a sadistic streak, and that cannot be condoned on any level."

"I have said this before, and I'll say again: The mark of a civilized society is how you treat the voiceless and the innocent among us," adds Heigl.

Heigl — who has six dogs and three cats and runs The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation with her mom Nancy — says there's "literally no reason" the "barbaric" practice should still be in use.

She became aware of Utah's use of gas chambers for euthanizing animals last year when she encountered an ailing rescue dog who could not get adopted, so he wound up back in the shelter. The pet was set to be put in a gas chamber until Heigl intervened and sought a more humane way to help the canine.

Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl. Michael Tran/FilmMagic

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"I have to say, Utah is beloved to me; it is one of the most beautiful, most sacred places I have found in the world. I am very grateful to live there," Heigl says. "To me, this is this a horrible black mark on this really special place. I would never have thought they would do this. We had to fight and get lawyers involved in order to get the dog out and take him to our vet to have him be humanely euthanized because none of us could bear the idea of this dog's life ending this way."

"We should be raising our voices more," she adds about how others can help. "We have become a bit complacent, and these are our elected officials. They work for us, and we need to tell them what we are okay with and what we are not okay with. The use of gas chambers to euthanize the pet population in shelters is inhumane."

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