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Only one county animal shelter in Ohio is known to still use gas chambers for the purpose of euthanasia, but Rep. Dave Leland wants to ensure it never becomes widespread.
An Columbus representative is picking up where animal advocacy groups left off by rolling out plans for legislation that would prevent animal shelters from using gas chambers as a method of euthanasia.
Rep. Dave Leland, D-Columbus, said the measure is needed because, even though the practice is not as widespread as it used to be, there is always a possibility of gas chambers use returning.
“When shelter animals have to be put down, it should be done with the compassion we would expect for our family pet,” Leland said. “While the use of gas chambers in shelters has become a rarity in this state, we are one of the few that still allow it to happen at all. Passing this bill will demonstrate Ohio’s commitment to treating animals humanely at every stage of their lives.”
Only four states still actively have gas chambers in use for euthanasia, and 27 states have forbidden the practice, according to www.animalsheltering.org.
Teresa Landon, executive director of the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said her organization has been battling this practice for nearly two decades, with the assistance of Bexley attorney John Bell, who works pro-bono for the cause.
“We’ve been at this for 19 years and we want to finish it and be able to declare Ohio is a no-gassing state,” Landon said.
She said the use of lethal injections is preferable to gas chambers for euthanasia because injections successfully sedate and kill the dog quickly.
Only one county animal shelter in Ohio is known to still use gas chambers for the purpose of euthanasia: Erie County.
There used to be more counties that operated gas chambers for euthanasia — Hocking County was the target of lawsuits in 2013 — but opponents’ advocacy has cut that number.
The Hocking County lawsuit against the dog shelter’s use of gas chambers was a major victory for the case against the euthanasia method generally, Bell said.
He said he works to see the practice of gas chambers ended because he believes it to be a cruel and inhumane method of euthanasia.
Bell said it can take up to 40 minutes for a dog to die depending on the type of chemical used, and both he and Landon have seen evidence of dogs being piled on top of one another in homemade gas chambers in other counties.
“It’s animal Auschwitz,” Bell said. “How can we compare it? Because it’s exactly the same method used at the concentration camps in the Second World War.”
Barbara Knapp, the dog warden of Erie County, did not respond to requests for comment. She did, however, indicate to The Sandusky Register when similar legislation was introduced in 2018 that her office would adjust the euthanasia procedure if a stipulation for tranquilizer use was permitted.
Ohio law prohibits the use of certain tranquilizers on companion animals unless a licensed veterinarian is present, Bell said.
The Erie County commissioners office also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cole Behrens is a fellow at the E.W. Scripps Statehouse News Bureau.
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