Gas chamber goes

Worker Jesse Karns gives a whack to the gas chamber at the Athens County Dog Shelter. The chamber, which hadn’t been used to euthanize dogs since 2012, was removed from the shelter Wednesday.

The gas chamber was removed Wednesday from the Athens County Dog Shelter, the final chapter in a debate that led to a decision four years ago to discontinue use of the chamber.

In 2012, the Athens County Commissioners voted to switch from carbon monoxide gas to lethal injection as the method for euthanizing sick and unwanted dogs at the shelter. Friends of the Athens County Shelter Dogs and a group called Athens County Animal Advocates had been lobbying for the change, arguing that lethal injection was more humane. Those against use of gas wanted the chamber physically removed to prevent its future use, but it wasn't done at that time.

Although the change was made in how dogs would be euthanized, also changing was the number dogs meeting that fate. Increased adoptions and rescues from the shelter have resulted in a decline in animals being euthanized. The Messenger previously reported, for example, that 160 dogs were  euthanized in 2010. In 2015, the number was 15.

Recently, the county commissioners voted to remove the gas chamber, and they also plan to get rid of an incinerator that had initially been installed at the shelter to dispose of carcasses but had gone unused.

At Tuesday's commissioners meeting, Commissioner Chris Chmiel said the company that installed the incinerator has offered to try to sell it for the county. Commissioner Charlie Adkins suggested that Chmiel also check with Ohio University to see if it has any interest in acquiring it.

On Tuesday, the commissioners also authorized Dog Warden Shane Montgomery to put up "no trespassing" signs in an effort to prevent unauthorized access to the shelter property after hours.

Montgomery said there have been a couple recent incidents of people coming to the shelter after hours and leaving dogs in a fenced-in play area. In one case, the dog had earlier been stolen from the shelter while employees were busy. Montgomery said the perpetrator apparently feared he was going to be caught and returned to the shelter after hours and threw the dog over the fence.

Montgomery said having the signs will help if trespass charges are filed in the future.

Meanwhile, Chmiel said he is drafting a letter to send to area veterinarians regarding a proposal to add a spay-neuter facility to the dog shelter.

"We just want to make sure everybody feels included," Chmiel said Wednesday.

The Messenger reported previously that the idea is to have a veterinarian come to the shelter once a week to perform the operations, and that discussions had been held with veterinarian Josh Ervin.

Chmiel said he plans to present the letter to the other commissioners this coming Tuesday for consideration. Once it is sent out, then the commissioners could advertise for a veterinarian to contract with for the service, Chmiel told The Messenger.

"No question, I think it needs to be opened up to any Athens County vet," Adkins said at Tuesday's meeting.

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