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Toledo Legal News - News Bill an effort to make shelter animal euthanasia more humane


A bipartisan bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives last week seeks to remove the Buckeye State from a list of four U.S. states that may euthanize unwanted shelter animals in gas chambers.

Filed as House Bill 551, the legislation not only would prohibit shelters from using a gas chamber to euthanize an animal, but would make changes to the law governing euthanasia of animals by lethal injection.

"When shelter animals have to be put down, it should be done with the compassion we would expect for our family pet," said Rep. David Leland of Columbus, the Democratic joint sponsor of the bill. "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."

Ohio shares the distinction with Mountain states Utah and Wyoming and Missouri, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Specifically, the activist organization noted that in these four states no ban exists, while use of gas chambers is either suspected or has been confirmed.

Twenty-two states have bans on the books. Another 19 have no ban nor any suspected use of gas chambers, the organization's data provided.

Under the best circumstances, the lawmaker said, it takes minutes before an animal loses consciousness inside a gas chamber. If the chamber is not well-maintained or if the animal is very young, very old, ill, injured or stressed, it can take much longer.

Worst case scenario: The animal remains conscious while its vital organs begin to shut down, he added.

HB 551 includes dog pounds and the offices of county dog wardens in its definition of animal shelter.

The bill stipulates that no animal shelter shall destroy a domestic animal by the use of a carbon monoxide gas chamber, carbon dioxide gas chamber or any other non-anesthetic inhalant, except for instances in which the state veterinary medical licensing board, in consultation with the state board of pharmacy, declares a shortage of approved lethal injection substances.

Leland said animals may survive in a gas chamber as long as 25 minutes.

He reckoned the bill would go a long way to improve the quality of life of the state's unwanted animals even at the end of their lives.

"Passing this bill will demonstrate Ohio's commitment to treating animals humanely at every stage of their lives," he said.

Rep. James Hoops, R-Napoleon, has jointly sponsored the bill, which awaits committee assignment in the House.

In addition to the national group, the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals supports the measure.

Leland announced his plan to introduce the bill during National Justice for Animals Week last week.

Fifteen fellow House members have signed on as cosponsors of the measure.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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