SEAL BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Demonstrators protested at the Seal Beach Pier on Sunday against city officials who have approved the killing of coyotes in gas chambers.

The demonstration was organized by the group Empty Cages Los Angeles (ECLA) to protest against the “horrific treatment” of these animals and demand a humane and nonlethal plan to address the surge in coyote sightings.

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According to members of the In Defense of Animals (IDA) organization, a pest-control company named Critter Busters was hired on Monday to catch coyotes in live traps and transfer them into mobile chambers filled with carbon dioxide.

“The city council’s eye for an eye coyote killing program is an ill-conceived overreaction,” said Anja Heister, IDA Director of the Wild and Free Habitats Campaign.

Members of IDA, an international animal protection organization based out of San Rafael, said the coyotes are likely to struggle for several minutes gasping for air before losing consciousness.

This practice has been outlawed for dogs and cats in 19 states, including California, according to IDA members.

“We are hoping to open a dialogue with the city of Seal Beach about a long-term, sustainable and non-lethal way of addressing the issues with the coyotes. We want to work towards creating a solution that is beneficial for the residents of Seal Beach, their animal companions and coyotes alike,” ECLA activist Shannen Maas told CBS2/KCAL9.

City officials said they approved the coyote-gassing after several residents recently complained that coyotes had killed their dogs.

Authorities said residents have seen a jump in coyote sightings, some even in broad daylight, since Aug. 20.

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Residents organized a town meeting on Sept. 10 to discuss the issue and experts suggested the drought might be the reason coyotes were infiltrating their community. They said the animals were getting so brazen and aggressive that many are afraid to walk alone at night.

On the Facebook page Coyotes Are A Problem For Seal Beach  a resident uploaded video of a Chihuahua mix named “Trixie” being attacked by a coyote. Seconds later, Trixie’s friend a Rottweiler named “Happy,” arrives on scene to run off the coyote, saving Trixie’s life.

“I’ve been here five years, and I used to be able to walk at night with my dog,” resident Kathe Ballestrari said. “Now, I can’t. Every bush, I’m afraid of. There could be a coyote behind every bush. I’m carrying an air horn, I have a whistle, I have a stick.”

Officials said the animals the scarcity of food and water may be driving the animals into more-populated areas.

“Their plan fails to take into account reckless human behavior, including people leaving food sources outside and residents apparently feeding coyotes,” Heister said. “Eliminate the reasons the coyotes are coming into town and the coyotes won’t be an issue.”

The Seal Beach City Council, which initially approved these trappings, will revisit the issue at next week’s meeting.

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