The Ohio Battle to End the Use of Cruel Gas Chambers

gas chamberUpdate September 18, 2013: Since Animal Law Coalition last reported on the status of the use of animal gas chambers in Ohio, a number of counties have stopped using the medieval torture devices to kill shelter animals. Five Ohio counties still use animal gas chambers, however:

Knox (the county claims only to use the chamber on wild animals, but this is still inhumane and unnecessary)
Medina (the county claims the chamber is used only on cats, but still…)

On August 15, 2012, the Fairfield County, Ohio commissioners unanimously agreed to stop the use of the cruel carbon monoxide gas chamber to kill shelter animals. The county switched to humane lethal injection for euthanasia. The gas chamber has not been destroyed, however.

During a commission meeting prior to the vote the commissioners heard eyewitness accounts of dogs including puppies that were still alive after they were gassed in a CO gas chamber. Some were gassed again and others thrown into the incinerator still alive. It is clear that the workers using the chamber were untrained and did not comply with the American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for use of CO chambers. The AVMA has stated humane euthanasia by lethal injection is the preferred method of killling shelter animals. (In 2011 AVMA issued a draft proposal that would find use of CO chambers for “routine” killing of dogs and cats is unacceptable.The AVMA has never adopted this proposal, however.)

The Fairfield County Commissioners indicated cost of switching to euthanasia by injection or EBI was a factor. A 2009 study has established the cost of using lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital, than CO gas chambers. Regardless, the Humane Society of the United States offered to pay for the switch including the training of shelter staff to perform lethal injection and the necessary equipment and drugs.

Holmes County stopped using the gas chamber in April, 2012 and actually removed it. Brown County, Ohio also discontinued the use of its animal gas chamber in August 2012 and removed the device. In January, 2013 Ottawa County entered into a 2 year contract to have a veterinarian perform euthanaisa by injection and is reportedly no longer using the gas chamber. Athens, Clark, and Richland Counties have also recently discontinued the use of the gas chamber. In Trumbull, Licking, Highland, and Marion Counties the gas chambers were actually dismantled and removed.

This only happened because of the persistence of people who love animals; they contacted county commissioners and showed up at commission meetings, insisting not only on an end to use of gas chambers, but their removal as well.

It should be noted it is not known how many municipalities, breeders, trappers and others may use gas chambers to kill animals.


If you live in one of the five Ohio counties still using CO gas to kill shelter animals, contact your local county commissioners and urge them to stop using CO gas to kill shelter animals and when euthanasia is necessary, use lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital which when used by a veterinarian or trained personnel correctly, is humane and more cost effective.

Also, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that calls on states to ban the use of CO gas chambers. For more on that and how you can help pass it….. 

Ohio state law does not even regulate the use of this dangerous gas in shelters. Many states have banned its use, most recently Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and relatively few shelters in the U.S. still use this archaic, cruel method of killing animals.

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians has issued a statement that “the use of carbon monoxide for individual or mass companion animal euthanasia in shelters is unacceptable due to significant humane, operational and safety concerns…[C]arbon monoxide euthanasia should be banned in shelters.”

The ASV report elaborates, “[A]n acceptable method of euthanasia must be quick and painless, and should not cause distress.  Any gas that is inhaled must reach a certain concentration in the lungs before it can be effective (AVMA 2007).  The high gas flow rates necessary to achieve the recommended concentration of 6% can result in noise levels that frighten animals.  Placing multiple animals in the chamber may frighten and distress the animals and dilute the effective concentration of carbon monoxide that each animal receives, creating a haphazard euthanasia experience that can be prolonged, painful and ineffective.     

“Agents inducing convulsions prior to loss of consciousness are unacceptable for euthanasia (AVMA 2007).  Carbon monoxide stimulates motor centers in the brain and loss of consciousness may be accompanied by convulsions and muscular spasms (AVMA 2007).  One 1983 study of the effects of 6% concentration carbon monoxide on dogs could not establish the precise time that loss of consciousness occurred, and dogs were observed to be vocalizing and agitated (Chalifoux 1983). 

dog alive in gas chamber

“Carbon monoxide is extremely hazardous to human health because it is toxic, odorless and tasteless; it also has the potential to cause an explosion at high concentrations (AVMA 2007, NIOSH 2004).  The death of at least one shelter worker using carbon monoxide has been documented (Rhoades 2002, Gilbert 2000, HSUS 2009b, NIOSH 2004).  Chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can also cause serious human health problems (AVMA 2007). 

Use of carbon monoxide cannot be justified as a means to save money, take shortcuts, or distance staff emotionally and physically from the euthanasia process.  Studies have shown that carbon monoxide is actually mor expensive than euthanasia by injection (Fakkema 2009, Rhoades 2002).  It takes longer than euthanasia by injection and has not been shown to provide emotional benefits for staff.  Some staff have reported being distressed by hearing animals vocalizing, scratching and howling in the chamber, and by having to repeat the process when animals survived the first procedure.”     

In Sept., 2010, the National Animal Control Association issued its statement rejecting use of carbon monoxide gas chambers.


Call on your Ohio state representative and state senator to ban use of CO gas chambers on animals. Find your rep and state senator here.

Learn why the AVMA’s own Euthanasia Report supports an end to CO gas chambers. Contact the AVMA here and urge the AVMA to support an end to use of CO gas chambers to kill shelter animals. If you live in one of the Ohio counties that still uses CO gas for shelter animals, contact your local county commission and your veterinarian and urge them to stop the use of this cruel and inhumane means of killing animals.