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Killing dogs

Andy Ouriel • Oct 16, 2014 at 10:47 AM

An avid pooch lover, Erie County Dog Warden Barb Knapp despises putting dogs down.

But she’ll hate the morbid process even more if forced to conform with a new, publicly mandated killing procedure.

A proposed federal resolution spearheaded by a Virginia congressman calls for a ban on gas chambers used to euthanize animals at public dog pounds and other shelters.

Click HERE for adoptable dogs at the Erie County Dog Pound

Knapp said the resolution could be implemented as soon as this year. It’s unknown when, or even if, the resolution will be approved by federal officials.    To kill animals and dogs, the resolution recommends lethal injection, a process in which officials administer deadly shots. Any gas chambers at public facilities would effectively close, according to the resolution.

In terms of quantity, dogs are put to death in gas chambers much more often than most other animals. The resolution, then, would impact dogs more than any other animal.

About half of all states, including Ohio, still allow dogs to die in gas chambers.

But more animal handlers throughout across the country have recently trended away from killing dogs in gas chambers, opting instead for lethal injection.

Even in Ohio, where gas chambers remain legal, many animal handlers favor lethal injection over gas chambers when euthanizing animals.

Case in point: The Erie County Dog Pound is one of just a handful of public animal facilities in Ohio killing creatures using gas chambers. Most other Ohio pounds and shelters kill dogs and other animals with shots.

A gas chamber deploys deadly doses of carbon monoxide until a dog succumbs.

“Dogs just fall asleep,” said Knapp, a dog owner herself. “I don’t see a problem with carbon monoxide. It’s painless. It’s odorless. It’s tasteless. We use it correctly, and it is an approved way of euthanizing, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association”

But several national veterinary organizations and humane societies slam gas chambers and consider lethal injection “the most humane way to euthanize pets”

“Most shelter workers wish to hold and comfort a frightened animal in its final moments of life,” according to a statement from the American Humane Association. “That act may be the only kindness the animal has even known. In contrast, even with vigilant oversight, euthanizing any animal by means of a carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide gas chamber is inhumane to all animals”

Knapp said the association is flat-out wrong, dubbing lethal injection as violent, brutal and stressful — for dogs and humans.

Lethal injection requires several people to kill one dog, Knapp said. This would include at least one person restraining a dog while another administers a shot.

“I don’t like needles myself, and I’m not going to like to find a vein in the dog and injecting them,” Knapp said.

Additionally, Knapp said most animals will struggle and resist needles rather than accept death.

“The carbon monoxide places less stress on the animal and on my people,” Knapp said. “There are people out there who think dogs suffer (in gas chambers). My personal opinion is, in my 39 years of doing this, I want the best and most comfortable way to put down dogs, and this is it”

Dr. Marianne Socha, a veterinarian who’s also the owner of Huron-based Firelands Animal Hospital, stands by Knapp’s stances.

Lethal injection “makes it more dangerous for the workers, and it is worse for the psyche of the animal,” Socha said. “Injection is a frightening experience for the animal. I would hate for them to completely get rid of the gas chamber. Some of those workers are going to get bit and mauled by lethally injecting dogs”

Erie County Dog Pound workers put down dogs for many reasons, including their temperament, if they have an incurable disease or sickness, if the dog is aggressive toward other dogs or humans, or if the dog can’t be placed with a human after several months of staying at the pound.

On average, for every 13 dogs handled or coming into the dog pound, Erie County officials euthanize one.

“If they’re adoptable, they’ll go out,” Knapp said. “We are here to serve the public and make sure it’s safe by putting some of these dogs back on the street and not putting some back”

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