Animal shelter gas chambers will be banned under Ohio bill

The Ohio Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would ban animal shelters from using gas chambers as a means of euthanizing animals.

The bill, Senate Bill 164, sponsored by the senses. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, and Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, are yet to be voted on in the House.

The bill would change current law to prohibit animal shelters from destroying animals using carbon monoxide. It also increases penalties for animal cruelty cases.

The bill lowers the mental state of the offender from knowingly to recklessly in cases where caregivers fail to provide food or water, making it easier to prosecute those cases.

It would also classify causing physical harm to a pet, which is already a fifth degree felony, as a “violent crime”.

Hottinger said animal abuse can be indicative of future crimes, such as domestic violence or murder. Since the crime is classified as a violent offence, the judge can impose a prison sentence and the charge cannot be erased from the offender’s file.

“(The bill is) the next step to protect not only, you know, our pets, our pets, but also I think it really serves as an important safeguard against future crimes against humanity as well. “Hottinger said.

It’s unclear how many people are prosecuted each year for animal cruelty. Columbus Humane reports that his organization investigates approximately 6,000 cases of animal abuse each year.

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Hottinger had already planned to introduce tougher penalties for people linked to animal abuse when Yuko began working on legislation banning euthanasia in gas chambers. The two decided to work together to create a bipartisan bill.

“Too often we look away because they are animals,” Yuko said. “But for those of us who have pets or have had pets in the past, it’s so much more than that.”

Teresa Landon, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Ohio, said there are currently no animal shelters using gas chambers whose organization has been informed. The last of Ohio’s animal gas chambers were removed from Erie County in 2021.

“This bill basically ensures that history doesn’t repeat itself,” Landon said. “But it’s unlikely that any county will try to buy a commercial gas chamber again anyway, they’ve all switched to lethal injection.”

The House is currently out of session and will probably not be back in session until the end of the year.

The bill comes as the next iteration of animal protection in Ohio. In 2013, Nitro’s Law was passed, which made it a crime to abuse an animal clinic or caregiver. In 2016, the Goddard Act was enacted and made it a fifth degree felony to mistreat or neglect animals. In 2017, Ohio banned bestiality, a bill co-sponsored by Hottinger.

“(Pets) are part of our families,” Yuko said. “If someone abuses a member of our family, we certainly want them to pay for their wrongdoing and we want the same for our pets.”

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