PORT CLINTON — Rather than face a threatened lawsuit by an animal advocacy group, Ottawa County has opted to stop using its carbon monoxide chamber to euthanize dogs at the county pound.
Commissioners voted unanimously last week to approve a contract with the Oak Harbor Veterinary Hospital for services to be rendered to the county dog warden. The term of the contract is through Dec. 31, 2015 and is not to exceed $30,000.
The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been targeting Ottawa County in an effort to stop the use of carbon-monoxide gas chambers to destroy dogs at the dog warden’s office.
The county’s chief dog warden recommended the new contract, under which dogs to be killed will receive a lethal injection instead.
Ottawa, Hocking, and Perry counties are the last Ohio counties to use carbon monoxide as their sole method to kill unwanted dogs, said Teresa Landon, the society’s executive director. Several other counties alternate between the gas chambers and lethal injections, but are phasing out their gas chambers.
Steven M. Arndt, president of the Board of Ottawa County Commissioners, said the decision was a difficult one because he is not convinced that killing a dog by lethal injection is more humane and less stressful than the gas chamber.
“This was not about the money,” Mr. Arndt said. “$30,000 is not going to break our bank. The problem for me is the stress on the dog and on our employees.”
Mr. Arndt said there were no calls or comments from Ottawa County residents expressing concern about the gas chamber; all of the criticism came from outside the county.
“We decided it was best to just do this and move on,” he said. “We have more pressing issues that we need to focus on.”
The commissioners put out a request for proposals to area veterinarians and only the one office responded, Mr. Arndt said.
The contract, under which the vet will euthanize dogs at the dog warden’s facilities, took effect immediately upon its Jan. 29 approval.
The Ohio SPCA filed a gas-chamber lawsuit Jan. 9 against Hocking County, and expects to file one against Perry County, Ms. Landon said, adding that the group is not done with pressuring Ottawa County.
“We are pleased to hear they have contracted with the veterinary clinic, but what we are waiting on now is for them to put a written policy in place and to remove the gas chamber,” Ms. Landon said.
Mr. Arndt said county leaders are still considering what to do with the gas chamber. Options include selling it for scrap or dismantling it and selling it to another county, he said.
The SPCA lawsuits contend the gas chambers violate an Ohio Revised Code provision dictating that “no person shall destroy any dog … by any method other than a method that immediately and painlessly renders the dog initially unconscious and subsequently dead.”
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