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.