Ottawa County asked to stop gassing dogs

12/11/2012
BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is targeting Ottawa County in the effort to stop gassing as a method of killing dogs. Hocking and Perry counties in southeast Ohio also gas dogs.
The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is targeting Ottawa County in the effort to stop gassing as a method of killing dogs. Hocking and Perry counties in southeast Ohio also gas dogs.

The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is targeting Ottawa County in an effort to stop the use of a carbon-monoxide gassing chamber to destroy dogs at the dog warden’s office.

Ottawa, Hocking, and Perry counties are the only counties in Ohio that gas dogs, said Teresa Landon, executive director of the society.

“In this day and age, there is no excuse for these counties to be operating like this,” Ms. Landon said. “There is just no excuse for the cruelty.”

According to the American Humane Association, animals killed in a gas chamber lose consciousness and brain function only after their vital organs shut down, causing prolonged suffering and distress.

Old, neonatal, and injured animals are often biologically unable to absorb the gas as readily as larger or healthier animals, which prolongs trauma and stress.

During death by injection, animals lose consciousness and brain function before their vital organs shut down.

Injection is the method preferred by the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and the Humane Society of the United States.

Ottawa County Commissioner Jim Sass said the commission was contacted by Ms. Landon’s group and in response was taking a look at switching to lethal injection.

The commision has asked area veterinarians to submit cost proposals.

Ottawa County Dog Warden Jo Lynn Hetrick, who returned to work Dec. 3 after a three-month leave of absence, said she was not familiar with the board’s exploration of alternative methods of destroying dogs.

She said the county had used carbon monoxide for the 26 years she has been dog warden.

She said she did not know how many dogs her department had killed so far this year, but she believed “only two” had been killed during her absence.

Mr. Sass said the pound now kills two or three a month.

The county’s annual report from 2011 shows that 92 were killed that year.

“We are trying really hard to find most of them homes, including working with area rescue groups,” Ms. Hetrick said. “Planned Pethood takes a lot of dogs from us.”

She declined to state which method of destruction she would prefer the county use.

“Whatever the commissioners decide, they are the boss,” she said.

The Ohio SPCA has written to the Ottawa County commissioners saying they are exploring legal action against the county if they do not stop using the gas chamber.

Mr. Sass points out that gas chambers are legal in Ohio.

The group also has a Facebook page that publicizes its efforts.

Mr. Sass said cost was a major factor.

He said the gas chamber is more economical than lethal injection.

But Ms. Landon cites figures from the American Humane Association Web site, which state that on average, gassing a dog costs $4.98 or $4.66. Death by injection costs about $2.29 an injection, depending on the weight of the animal.

Ms. Sass said he has witnessed a dog being killed in the carbon monoxide chamber and didn’t think it was inhumane.

He said the process took about seven or eight minutes.

Mr. Sass and Ms. Landon also disagree on the safety to humans of the two methods of death.

Mr. Sass said injection would put employees more at risk because the dogs would have to be handled more during the process.

Ms. Landon said that exposing employees to the gas chamber is dangerous.

Tennessee outlawed gas chambers after a pound employee died as a result of exposure to one, she added.

In 2000, a shelter worker in Tennessee died of asphyxiation while operating a faulty gas chamber, according to a report on the American Humane Association Web site.

“Twenty states have outlawed gas chambers, the most recent Pennsylvania,” Ms. Landon said.

“The dollar figures cannot be the excuse. Being poor is not an excuse for being cruel.”

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com, or 419-724-6066.