More humane care

In the wake of 30 people helping with the demolition of a gas chamber at the Medina County Animal Shelter last week, local humane societies are sharing euthanization rates and methods, and say great improvements have been made.

There was a public demolition of the chamber in Medina, after public outcry that the method was still being used to euthanize cats.

Steve Herron, executive director for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley (HSOV), said that he was glad to see the gas chamber decommissioned.

“It’s a good thing that the gas chamber was taken away,” he said. “I thought that had stopped years and years ago…It’s a good thing they stopped gassing (animals). It’s a horrible thing.”

Like Herron, Kelly Brown, manager of the Parkersburg Humane Society, said it was a good thing the chamber was demolished but that the method is not illegal.

“It’s banned in many states, but I believe there’s still a few out there,” she said.

Locally, Herron said the HSOV does not use a gas chamber; euthanizing animals is done by an injection.

“Basically the chemicals used allow (the animal) to fall asleep and they just don’t wake up,” he said. “Compared to gassing an animal, you’re putting them in there and waiting until they suffocate. The chemicals (we use) put the animal to sleep and stops the heart after they fall asleep. There’s no more feeling of pain, no gasping for air; they’re not aware of the death.”

Herron said the HSOV uses the same thing as what a veterinarian’s office will use.

“This is what the veterinarians use, it’s what I use,” he said. “This is the most humane way to do it…There is no other way that is considered humane to do it.”

According the Humane Society of the United States, animal shelters across the country care for 6 to 8 million dogs and cats every year. Of that number, around 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

The Monroe County Humane Society does not euthanize animals on-site. Treasurer Marcia Stalder said they take the animals to a vet.

“We don’t euthanize at our shelter unless medically necessary, or if (the animal) is aggressive and we can’t train them,” she said. “We take them to the vet and they do that.”

Stalder said she has been working at the shelter for many years and she only remembers maybe five animals that have had to be euthanized.

“We don’t do it unless we have to,” she said. “We’re basically a no-kill shelter.”

Likewise, PAWS Inc. Humane Society of Noble County does not euthanize animals.

Board President Chandra Ontko said there has been only one instance since PAWS started that an animal has had to be put down.

“We’ve only had one case that we have done that since we started in 2010 and that was a rather serious case where it was a cat underneath a bus,” she said, adding that the veterinarian said there was no choice in the matter.

“Our board is throughly against the euthanization of animals,” she said.

Brown said animals are euthanized at the shelter just like they are at the HSOV.

“It’s an injection, right in their vein,” she said.

From January to present, the Parkersburg Humane Society has taken in a total of 422 dogs and 223 cats. Of those, 25 dogs and 55 cats have been euthanized.

Herron said from 2007 to 2013 euthanization rates at the shelter have decreased significantly. In 2007, the shelter took in 1,451 dogs and euthanized 451, a rate of 31 percent. The shelter also took in 1,463 cats and euthanized 961, a rate of 66 percent. As of 2013, the shelter took in 1,276 dogs and euthanized six, a rate of 0.21 percent. A total of 1,421 cats were taken in and 223 were euthanized, a rate of 16 percent.

“If we took the feral population (of cats) out of that, I would have only had to put down 145, which would have dropped to about 8 percent,” Herron said.

He said in addition to adoption, there are other ways animals can make it out of the shelter before they are euthanized: fostering and animal rescues.

Herron said the success of the decline in euthanization rates is in part due to new procedure and also partly because of the community.

“When we need things…the community is very responsive,” he said. “If it weren’t for the community, we wouldn’t be able to produce those numbers.”