2010-04-17 / News

Gas chamber ban sought

By Scott Rawdon

About 200 protestors turned out last Saturday to urge county officials to completely abandon use of the gas chamber at the Licking County Animal Shelter. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon. About 200 protestors turned out last Saturday to urge county officials to completely abandon use of the gas chamber at the Licking County Animal Shelter. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon. HEATH – Nearly 200 people, many from other communities, turned out late Saturday morning in front of the Licking County Animal Shelter to protest its use of a gas chamber to euthanize non-adoptable animals.

In March, Licking County Commissioners said the shelter would severely limit its use of the gas chamber. They say the shelter is already doing so and the protest is a day late and a dollar short.

“We’re looking for overall reform,” said protest organizer Shelly Myers. Calling the protest “Woofstock,” protesters are looking to change procedures and management of the shelter. They want to eliminate the gas chamber, using lethal injections exclusively; they believe that some animals that are not aggressive are being euthanized; they said some staff members are rude to the public; and they’re calling for upper management replacement.

“I think the demonstration was very effective,” said BARK Animal Rescue activist Bonnie Mansfield. She believes positive changes can happen at the shelter as long as public awareness is maintained and Licking County Commissioners are constantly reminded. “If we draw back, so will they,” said Mansfield. She said “baby steps” were taken to make people think change would occur, but she believes that the shelter soon returned to “mismanagement, rude behavior, and the mistreatment of animals,” she said.

Mansfield doesn’t think anyone was at the protest to represent a particular group. “There were probably more than 200 people there, mostly from Licking County, but a few came from Washington Courthouse and Cincinnati,” she said. “Everyone was there on behalf of the animals at the Licking County dog pound. We want Licking County, Ohio to have an animal shelter that all of Ohio can be proud of, and we won’t settle for less.”

Licking County Commissioners strongly disagree that the shelter is mismanaged or inhumane, and said they have the statistics to prove it. “In my view, we’re already doing the right thing,” said Commissioner Tim Bubb. “Honestly, we can’t do any more than we are to make it a great place.”

Bubb said he was a little confused about the timing of the protest because the commissioners distributed a press release in March stating the shelter would only use the gas chamber for extremely aggressive animals that pose a clear threat to employees. Otherwise, lethal injection would be used. He said the shelter is following through with its promise and is already doing most of what the protesters want. “We’re taking a good shelter and making it better,” he said.

Bubb said the Licking County Animal Shelter only euthanizes 13.5 percent of the animals it accepts. “That’s an excellent rate,” he said.

Commissioner Brad Feightner said the state average for euthanasia is roughly 40 percent.

Bubb said seven animals were adopted at the shelter Saturday despite the protesters. “I applaud our staff. They have a tough job,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of (telling) half-truths.”

Commissioner Doug Smith said the shelter euthanizes 3.7 animals per week on average. He said in the week ending March 30, no animals were euthanized, the week ending April 3 three animals were euthanized, and there was only one the week ending April 10. He said if people believe it’s a high kill facility with numbers like those, “I’ll debate them. I’m not willing to apologize for those kinds of numbers. We’ve made progress, but there’s still work to be done,” said Smith, adding that the county will continue its efforts to improve the shelter.

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