April 17, 2014

Partly cloudy

Advocates: Don’t gas animals in Medina County

Some pet lovers want Medina County to stop gassing cats.

Medina is one of only five Ohio counties that use a gas chamber to euthanize animals.

A cat awaits adoption Monday at the Medina County Animal Shelter. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI)

Medina officials say they only use it for cats, but opponents call gas cruel regardless.

“I personally do not feel it is a way to humanely euthanize animals,” said Medina County SPCA director Stephanie Moore. “In my opinion, the state should outlaw gas chambers altogether.

“They’re putting a live conscious animal into a chamber and many times death is not instantaneous.”

County Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley defended using gas to euthanize cats, citing the safety of employees who must handle the feral cats that frequently are trapped and brought into the shelter.

“They’re very difficult to handle,” he said. “The problem we face is it’s either this or we end up like the 62 other counties that won’t take in cats at all.”

Hambley added: “I know there’s a lot of people that are emotional and have strong opinions that we shouldn’t do this. If SPCA wants to come in and do this, we would be fine with making the transition and letting them take this over.”

Medina County Dog Warden Del Saffle said the county’s animal shelter stopped using the chamber for dogs in 2011, but carbon-monoxide gas is still used to kill as many as four cats at a time, in separate boxes.

Last year, the shelter took in 455 cats and euthanized 248. The rest were placed in no-kill shelters or adopted out.

Saffle said kittens, injured cats, and those with respiratory problems — who may not inhale the gas completely — are euthanized by needle with sodium pentobarbital. Lethal injection is also used for dogs. Last year, the shelter put down 43 dogs out of the 525 it took in.

Saffle said gas is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. But that agency’s 2013 Guidelines on Euthanasia says carbon monoxide gas should only be used when “required conditions can be met.”

The report calls the method challenging and costly and possibly dangerous to employees. The report says gas “is not recommended for routine euthanasia of cats and dogs … alternate methods with fewer conditions and disadvantages are recommended for companion animals where feasible.”

The other Ohio counties that still use gas to euthanize strays are Knox, Hocking, Erie and Carroll counties, according to the Animal Law Coalition.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also decries the practice as cruel.

Their website says “old, young, and sick animals are particularly susceptible to gas-related trauma and will die slow and highly stressful deaths.”

Both agencies recommend lethal injection, specifically sodium pentobarbital.

The AVMA says “desirable barbiturates are those that are potent, nonirritating, long acting, stable in solution, and inexpensive. Sodium pentobarbital best fits these criteria and is most widely used.”

Medina officials said part of the problem is that the shelter is funded entirely by dog-related money and by law, the shelter may not use any of that money for cats.

All cats come with a $15 adoption fee or a $10 impound fee to keep the cat program self-sustaining.

Saffle said the county does not have a breakdown of euthanasia costs.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.

  • Tammy

    I’m interested to see what will happen. If the Spca doesn’t provide a better answer, they need to stay out of it.

  • Karlie

    The SPCA was asked to make a comment Tammy they didn’t just voice their opinions out of the air. Would you like the director to lie just to make people like you happy? You would complain about them no matter what stance they take because that is clearly your life’s new mission. I know this because I have seen first hand how you make up lies about the SPCA and their employees.

  • Lee5655

    Commissioner Hambley’s response to the SPCA is repugnant, and is typical of an entrenched official who regards the expressed concerns as trivial. It seems to me that he is the one who is “emotional,” and who feels the need to resort to psychological power plays (not take cats in at all, or turn it over to the SPCA) as a way of dismissing the legitimate concerns of animal rights advocates. In addition, given that nearly all of Ohio’s counties have obviously found a way to handle feral cats without gassing them, his claim relative to protecting county employees by continuing to use gas is specious.

  • Tammy

    Karlie, people don’t always have to give their opinion even when asked. And about lies? I have hard copies of everything I have ever talked about.

  • Karlie

    Tammy you go to great lengths to condemn the SPCA for certain issues yet you strongly support other organizations that have the same practices. Seems to me you just have an ax to grind because they rescued your dog that was being neglected. You have a personal vendetta to bring these people down and it’s sad. Regardless of how you feel personally about some of their workers, have you gone into their shelter to see the faces of the hundreds of animals they have saved? So you don’t like them….big deal. They still do great work and without them your dog and thousands of others would have just been thrown in the gas chamber at the Medina County Shelter and would have missed out on medical care and loving homes. I have no doubt you are the same Tammy that owned the dog that had the horrible tumor on his behind that is pictured on the Medina SPCA’s facebook page. If I remember the story correctly your dog first ended up at the Medina County shelter and had no ID’s on him (so you broke the law by not licensing your dog right). Now had the SPCA not been in existence and since your dog was a stray with a HORRIBLE growth on him, I have no doubt that dog would have seen the inside of that gas chamber more quickly than others. THANK GOODNESS the Medina County Animal shelter recognized he needed immediate medical attention and called the Medina SPCA to save him. I’m finishing my last year in college and can’t wait to move back to Medina county where I now know I will go to volunteer!

  • Tammy

    Whoa girl!

  • Sheryl Henry Homonai

    Tammy won her case, correct? Not guilty? Correct? You can’t save them all. Start euthanizing the cats (Stephanie does know how) and the immediate problem goes away. THEN, start the education part of the S.P.C.A. n Flood mailboxes with information for low cost or free spaying/neutering. No matter how many laws are passed, now matter how many people are prosecuted, this will always be an issue. Until people become responsible for their own actions. And you can’t force them. Laws against driving drunk/impaired/ovi? We have them. And yet people still drive and still kill. Everyone knows texting and driving is dangerous, and yet they still do. I see it every day. n The issue with the S.P.C.A. goes way beyond Tammy’s court case. It centers around hypocrisy. I too have hard copies (police reports) of everything Tammy alleges. It’s the hypocrisy that doesn’t sit well.

  • Sheryl Henry Homonai

    And for the record. her dog was on her property. An over zealous volunteer coaxed it off of her property. Again, she was found not guilty.

  • Karlie Freeman

    Coaxed him off of her property? And you would know this how? Were you there when it happened? Did you see this volunteer COAX the dog off the property? You know for a fact he was in the yard? Bet not or this dog wouldn’t have ended up at the shelter. And not sure how any of this article has anything to do with the HYPOCRISY you are talking about. Just 2 bitter old ladies update a dog was medically cared for. That’s all I see here.

  • Sheryl Henry Homonai

    Speaking of sounding bitter…..don’t bother to post anything else, I won’t waste anytime reading it.

  • Sheryl Henry Homonai


  • turtlerescue54

    The fact is that Ohio’s “county shelters” are prohibited by state law from accepting cats due to the fact that operation of these facilities are mandated by law from “dog and kennel fund” monies. These funds cannot be utilized for cats(or any of the other species that the public complains about daily to our local facility). Most counties have no government agency to deal with the ongoing cat issues, and cannot legally offer any assistance in these matters. There are private nuisance trappers who should be the ones who deal with such problems. They are private business entities who specialize in the trade of trapping animals, and they are licensed by the state.

  • Lee5655

    Really? Since you know this, please provide the exact citation in the ORC that prohibits county animal shelters from taking in and dealing with cats.

  • got2bjennyg

    ORC 955.19 and 955.20