The decision by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners to adopt a different euthanasia policy at the dog warden department is being lauded by an animal advocacy group that has been pushing for reform of county dog shelters for more than 10 years.
The commissioners recently approved a two-year contract with Oak Harbor Veterinary Services for euthanasia services by lethal injection instead of continuing to use a carbon monoxide gas chamber. The contract includes a cap of $30,000.
Commissioner Jim Sass said the board had been reviewing other options to the chamber and said the change will avoid a lawsuit from the Ohio Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which had been pressuring the county to change its euthanasia procedure.
“We still feel we were within the law,” Sass said, adding the commissioners had consulted with the county prosecutor’s office while reviewing the procedure.
He said dog warden’s staff routinely tries to find homes for the animals and euthanasia was the “last resort” at the dog shelter.
Teresa Landon, executive director of the Ohio SPCA, welcomed the decision to change the policy.
“We are pleased to hear that the Ottawa County commissioners have decided to contract with a veterinary clinic and remove the gas chamber from their county dog shelter,” she said.
According to the county’s 2011 annual report, 242 dogs were impounded that year. Of those, 92 were euthanized, 65 were adopted and 85 were recovered by owners.
The figures were similar in 2010 when 244 were impounded, 94 euthanized, 52 adopted, and 98 recovered.
Landon and Sass still have differing opinions on which procedure is more humane,
Sass said he witnessed a dog being euthanized last month in the gas chamber and has had a dog he personally owned put down by lethal injection.
“I think it (the chamber) is less stressful. That’s just my opinion,” he said. “It’s also less stressful for the employees. Obviously it’s not something they relish doing.”
“Most people prefer to be with their pets in order to hold them during the final moments,” she said. “Why should it be any different for a shelter dog?’
She said the Ohio SPCA is requesting the county’s gas chamber be dismantled and scrapped.
Sass said there has been no decision yet on what to do with the chamber, which was commercially-built.
The county’s dog shelter is self-supporting, operating on users’ fees, fines and penalties.
The Ohio SPCA in 2002, when it was known as the Ohio Humane Education Association, began investigating the conditions of county dog ponds, offering assistance and submitting proposals for change.
“As a result, guns were silenced; the use of engine exhaust ended, and gas boxes and gas chambers dismantled. Some of these counties have made progress, while others still need pressure from a caring public,” its website says.