Ohio Court Bans Use of Gas Chamber

Gas-ChamberAn Ohio Appeals Court, the Fourth Appellate District, has issued an order requiring the Dog Warden of Hocking County to use lethal injection, not carbon monoxide gas, when euthanizing dogs. The Court ruled,”We find that the [County’s] carbon monoxide method of euthanasia as the standard method of destruction of dogs does not immediately and painlessly render the dog initially unconscious and subsequently dead and is not humane.

Therefore, we GRANT relator’s motion for summary judgment and issue a writ of mandamus compelling the respondent Dog Warden of Hocking County to euthanize dogs by injection as the routine means of destruction in ccordance with R.C. 955.16(F). We further issue a writ of mandamus compelling the respondent Board of County Commissioners of Hocking County to provide euthanasia by injection as the humane device and method for destroying dogs in accordance with their obligations under R.C. 955.15.” (July 14, 2014, “Decision and Judgment Entry,” at p. 21.)

Ohio Revised Code 955.15 basically requires the use of “humane devices and methods” for euthanasia. ORC 955.18(F) precludes euthanasia “by any method other than a method that immediately and painlessly renders the dog initially unconscious and subsequently dead.”

In this case the Ohio SPCA represented by attorney John Bell filed a petition for writ of mandamus which is, in essence, an order requiring a public official to perform a clear legal duty. ORC Ch. 2731 The petition requested the Court order the Hocking County and its Dog Warden, Donald Kiger, to carry out their legal duty to use “humane devices and methods for euthanasia pursuant to ORC 955.15 and also enjoin them from using carbon monoxide gas particularly in their homemade gas chamber which they argued was not humane because it does not “immediately and painlessly renders the dog initially unconscious and subsequently dead.” The petition sought to require the county and Dog Warden to use lethal injection for euthanasia or EBI.

In issuing its orders, the Court agreed that there was no genuine issue of material fact. The evidence could not be disputed by any material fact that use of carbon monoxide to kill dogs was inhumane. A former assistant Dog Warden and humane agent, Chris Vickers, testified that when they were in the gas chamber, he heard dogs “screaming like they had been hit by a car and injured”. Gassing took several minutes and was not alway effective in causing death. He would see dogs struggling, fighting, urinating and defecating on themselves. He routinely found blood, bite marks, feces and urine on their bodies when he removed them from the chamber after gassing.

An expert witness for OSPCA, Dr. Manuta, testified about whether the carbon monoxide gas chamber comports with industry standards as found in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, 2013 Ed. The AVMA Guidelines states CO gas is not recommended for routine euthanasia of dogs and cats. The preferred method of euthanasia for these animals, according to the latest AVMA Guidelines is EBI. He testified it can take 25-30 minutes for gas to render an animal unconscious compared to EBI which results in unconsciousness in 3-5 seconds.

Ohio animal advocates have battled county by county to end the use of cruel and inhumane gas chambers in the state’s shelters. Let’s hope this opinion shuts down the remaining gas chambers in Ohio.

Ohio’s Goddard’s Law

Goddard's Law dogGoddard’s Law, H.B. 274, is named after Dick Goddard, a beloved weather anchor for WJW Channel 8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many Ohioans see him as a hero willing to step up for the animals to strengthen Ohio’s weak animal welfare laws.

Under Goddard’s Law, it would be a felony of the 5th degree on the first offense for anyone to “knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal”. “Serious physical harm” is defined to mean “physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death”; “physical harm that involves either partial or total permanent incapacity”; or “physical harm that involves acute pain of a duration that results in substantial suffering or that involves any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.” It can be difficult to prove “substantial risk of death”, “substantial suffering” or “prolonged pain” when it comes to an animal.

Under current law for owners and caretakers other than dog rescues, and boarding and training dog kennel owners and employees, the knowing torture, torment, needless mutilation or maiming, cruel beating, poisoning, needless killing or other act of cruelty to a companion animal, is a misdemeanor of the first degree on the first offense and a felony of the fifth degree for each subsequent offense. Sec. 959.131(B). Under Goddard’s Law if the companion animal dies as a result of such abuse, the crime would be a felony of the fifth degree on the first offense.

Earlier this year Ohio enacted Nitro’s Law. Under Nitro’s Law it is now a felony of the 5th degree on the first offense for any dog kennel owner or employee to knowingly (1) torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill or otherwise commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal left in their care; or (2) deprive a companion animal of necessary and sufficient, good, wholesome food and water or access to shelter if the animal would reasonably be expected to become sick or suffer without it. A kennel owner or staff does not include high volume breeders, only dog rescues and boarding and training kennels.

Nitro’s Law also made animal cruelty, any act or omission that causes unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering to a companion animal a misdemeanor of the first degree on the first offense for dog kennel owners and staff. Unless the perpetrator is an owner, manager or other employee of a dog kennel, the crime is a misdemeanor of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on each subsequent offense.

Under Goddard’s law the felony crime applicable to dog rescues and boarding and training dog kennel owners and staff that was established under Nitro’s Law remains intact.

Goddard’s Law would amend the crime of negligence that is now applicable only to dog kennel owner and staff. Under Goddard’s law they could be charged with negligence in the event of deprivation of sufficient, good, wholesome food and water, or deprivation of adequate shelter if it can be reasonably expected the animal will suffer. The crimes would still be misdemeanors of the first degree unless the animal dies in which case the offender would be charged with a felony of the 5th degree.

Goddard’s law would otherwise amend Nitro’s Law to the extent it would be a crime for anyone to negligently “torture, torment, or commit an act of cruelty against the companion animal”, deprive the companion animal of good, wholesome food and water or deprive the companion animal of adequate shelter from the weather if it can reasonably be expected the animal would become sick or suffer. The crimes would be misdemeanors of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on each subsequent offense. If the animal dies, however, the crime would be a felony of the fifth degree.

Goddard’s law is another incremental step to improve Ohio’s animal cruelty laws, for companion animals, that is. Companion animal means any animal kept in a residence and any dog or cat regardless of where they are kept. (Goddard’s Law would clarify this includes dogs and cats held in pet stores.) Like most of the Ohio cruelty laws, Goddard’s law does not protect farm animals, horses and other equines, animals used for research, animals used by breeders other than dogs or cats, or even any dogs used for hunting or in field trials. Sadly, Ohio has chosen to protect only selected animals from cruelty.


Goddard’s Law, H.B. 274, is sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (Dist. 10) and Rep. Barbara Sears (Dist. 47). Find your Ohio state legislators here. Write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge them to support H.B. 274, Goddard’s Law, and offer amendments that would make the law applicable to all animals, not just certain companion animals.

Ohio’s Pet Protection Bill

dog.mamaAnother effort is underway in Ohio to pass a law that will allow judges to issue civil or criminal orders of protection for companion animals at risk in situations of domestic violence. The bills, H.B. 243, introduced by state Reps. Marilyn Slaby (Dist. 38) and Michael Stinziano (Dist. 18), and S.B. 177, introduced by state Sen. Michael Skindel (Dist. 23),follow on earlier legislative efforts to protect companion animals that may be victimized by domestic violence.

The House of Representatives version, H.B. 243, also requires a minor adjudicated as delinquent for cruelty to a companion animal, to undergo a psychological evaluation and, if recommended, counseling. Any adult felony offender not already in counseling must be sentenced to a period of probation supervision or intensive probation supervision.

A law allowing judges to issues orders of protection for pets was first passed in Maine in 2006, 19-A M.R.S. Sec. 4007; and since then a number of states Vermont, 15 V.S.A. Sec. 1103; New York, NYS CLS Dom Rel Sec. 240; Family Ct. Act Sec. 352.3, 446, 551, 759, 1056; California, Cal Fam Code Sec. 6320, Illinois, 750 ILCS 60/214; Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-15; Washington, RCW 26.50.060; Louisiana, S.B. 264 (2008), Hawaii, H.R.S. Sec. 586-4; Arizona, A.R.S. Sec. 13-3602; Colorado, C.R.S. 18-6-803.5; West Virginia, S.B. 490 (2010), Washington, D.C., D.C. Code Sec. 16-1005, and Maryland, S.B. 747, have passed similar laws.

It is well-established in domestic violence situations, the abuser will many times threaten or abuse animals to control the victim spouse or children. Many times abused spouses are too afraid to leave a situation of domestic violence because they fear harm will come to their animals they must leave behind.

In one study 71% of women in a battered women’s shelter reported their abuser either abused a household pet or threatened to abuse a pet. (Ascione, 1998)

In another study 88% of child abusers also abused the animals in the home. (Ascione)

In a study by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Public Health Department, the Johns Hopkins University from 1994 to 2000 in eleven US metropolitan cities, pet abuse was one of the four significant predictors for determining who was at highest risk for becoming a batterer. Many abused spouses delay leaving out of fear for their pets’ safety and because they have nowhere to take them.

In Ohio Lesley Ashworth, a Columbus City prosecutor noticed during her 27 years of working on domestic violence cases, that abused spouses often returned to the abusive situation because the abusive spouse threatened or harmed family pets. Her study of Franklin County, Ohio, revealed 17% of domestic violence victims reported in 2004 they could not leave the abusive home because no help or shelter was available for their pets.

Louisiana’s 2008 law, Senate Bill 264, is typical of these laws that allow judges to protect animals in domestic violence situations. Under that law the judge may enter a temporary restraining order giving sole custody and care of an animal to the victim or a third party and also direct the abuser to “refrain from harassing, interfering with, abusing or injuring any pet”.

In a twist on a pet protection order, Alaska made it a crime in 2009 in most instances to “knowingly kill” or “injure” an animal “with the intent to intimidate, threaten, or terrorize another person”. Click here for more on Alaska’s new law.

In Illinois, 510 ILCS 70/16.3 ab abuser may be liable to the abused spouse for acts of aggravated cruelty or torture or for injuries or damages incurred as a result of harming an animal, including veterinary expenses and any other costs incurred in rectifying the effects of the cruelty, emotional distress and even punitive damages limited to 25,000 per act of cruelty. An injunctive order can be obtained to protect the animal from further acts of abuse, neglect or harassment.


If you live in Ohio, find your state legislators here. Write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge them to support legislation to allow judges to issue orders of protection for companion animals, H.B. 243/S.B. 177. Also, the House bill, H.B. 243 is pending before the state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. Find committee members here, and write or call and urge them to pass this important legislation for animals. If a member is also your state representative, be sure to let him or her know you are a constituent.

Hearing to be held on Weak Proposed OH Puppy Mill Regulations

bigstockphoto_Puppies_62577Update September 18, 2013:A public hearing will be held on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus in Hearing Room 121 on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations for “high volume commercial dog breeders and retailers. Plan to attend! For more on these proposed rules and how you can help improve the rules for Ohio’s dog breeders, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update June 27, 2013: The Ohio Department of Agriculture has asked for public input on proposed regulations for “high volume commercial dog breeders and retailers. The regulations are proposed pursuant to O.R.C. Sec. 956.03 which was enacted last year. Animal Law Coalition opposed that law, known then as S.B. 130, on the basis it was unlikely to protect dogs trapped in Ohio’s prolific dog breeding industry. And with good reason, as it turns out.

A dog rescuer based near Columbus, Ohio and who asked to remain anonymous, decried the proposed regulations as “terrible”. She said until now she could at least complain that keeping dogs crammed into small cages 24/7 violated the state’s cruelty laws. “Now,” she said, “that IS the law.” It’s true.

Under the proposed regulations an unlimited number of dogs can be kept in a cage 24/7. The longest dog in the cage, for example, a 20 inch long dog, would have only 5.63 ft by 1 ft with each additional 20 inch long dog provided only 2.89 ft by 1 ft. The cage need only be 6 inches above the head of the tallest dog when standing. This is how dogs held by “high volume” breeders and retailers could be caged 24/7 in Ohio if these regulations are approved.

High volume breeders and retailers operating now with existing enclosures will not even be required to comply with these weak regulations until January 1, 2019.

Dogs are not required to have indoor shelter. If temperatures fall below 50 degrees, “[d]ry bedding or other methods of conserving body heat must be provided and dogs must be protected from “direct sunlight”, but otherwise provisions for temperatures, heating, cooling, humidity are vague and depend on the “health and welfare” of the dogs.

Wire flooring is permissible as long as there is a protective coating and some solid flooring that would provide a resting place for all the dogs at once.

A veterinarian is not required to visit more than one time a year though must conduct a physical exam of each dog then. There is to be a “written annual program” for exercise, but there is no requirement that the dogs actually be provided with exercise or time and space to get exercise except dogs over 12 weeks old which “do not have normal mobility or muscle tone development” or if they have even less space to live in than required.

Dogs are to be “monitored regularly” for disease, injury, dental problems, matting, excessive toe nail length, parasites and “abnormal behavior”. It is not clear what “monitored regularly” means, though. At least, “[c]orrective measures, under veterinary guidance, shall be taken when evidence is found of any of these conditions”.

There is mention of “human contact”, “socialization” “effective enrichment”, even a plan for “[b]ehavior and social needs”, but it is simply unclear as to what, if anything is required beyond the dog seeing someone drop off food or walk by the cage. Actual human physical contact is only required for dogs 16 weeks old or younger. Again, it is not clear that this means more than having someone briefly touch the dog from time to time.

A nutritional plan is supposed to be developed for each dog, but there is no requirement about following the plan or the amount or quality of the food that must be provided. Water can be limited to one hour twice daily.

Euthanasia is to be done under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian but any means is allowed if American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines are followed. AVMA allows gassing and heartsick, for example, as a means of killing.

There are no regulations for conducting inspections. The only penalty is a $100 fine for not having a license and $500 for each subsequent offense.

There are provisions for cleaning, disease prevention, ventilation, safety, whelping, minimal lighting, infestation control, transportation, record keeping, licensing and the like, all very similar to the standards under the minimal federal Animal Welfare Act. In fact, breeders already subject to the AWA will not be required to comply with Ohio’s law at all until 2016.

It is estimated Ohio has 3,000 kennels subject to the new law. Currently there are 5 inspectors, a veterinarian in charge of the new inspection program and an administrator.

The Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board has met once, on May 22, 2013, for organizational purposes.


Call and write (letters or faxes are best) the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Committee Chair, Ohio state Rep. Ross McGregor, by September 23 and ask for more space, limits on breeding and sale, and specific requirements for exercise, nutrition, socialization, and inspections; and penalties for violations of all regulations. Phone: (614) 466-4086; Fax: (614) 466-4068; email: jcarr1@carr.state.oh.us

Original report: Last December 11, 2012 Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law Sub. S.B. 130, to regulate the state’s “high volume” breeders and dog retailers, those that keep unspayed dogs that produce 9 litters of puppies each year and “for a fee or other consideration, sell” 60 or more adult dogs or puppies annually. For more on that law…..

Now the state veterinarian, Tony Forshey, has issued draft regulations that his office drafted along with various “stakeholders”. Read and download a copy of the draft regulations here.

The advisory board is scheduled to meet this week to consider the regulations. The advisory board is made up of the state veterinarian and 6 members appointed by the director: one representing a humane society, one who is a county dog warden, one who is a veterinarian, one representing animal rescues, one who is a breeder and one representing the public.

The inspection program thus far has employed 5 inspectors to report to a veterinarian, Terence Kline. The inspectors are not veterinarians. They will be responsible for annual inspections and investigation of complaints for over 3,000 dog kennels. In addition, Kline has said he intends to have the inspectors visit kennels ahead of inspections to let breeders know where they are out of compliance. That way they can remedy any potential violations before the inspection. The goal is clearly to support the breeding industry. And it is not clear how inspections, 6 a day on top of warning visits, will be other than very cursory.