(WJW) — It’s now illegal in Ohio for animal shelters to euthanize pets using gas chambers, though the practice already appears abandoned in the state.
Ohio Senate Bill 164, an enhancement to Goddard’s Law that took effect Monday, April 3, also allows judges to consider prison time for the most violent offenses against companion animals, and bans pet food from containing the remains of euthanized pets.
The bill categorizes the fifth-degree felony offense of knowingly causing serious physical harm to a companion animal as an offense of violence. That applies when the animal is put at risk of death, is permanently incapacitated or endures “substantial” or protracted suffering.
Sharon Harvey, president and CEO of the nonprofit Cleveland Animal Protective League, said the bill “strikes an appropriate balance between enhancing the ability to prosecute the most egregious acts of animal cruelty and allowing judges to align sentencing with the severity of a crime,” in her November testimony before the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.
She recounted a “horrifying” 2019 incident in which a dog was trapped in a crate that was doused in accelerant and lit on fire. The dog later had to be euthanized.
Though Goddard’s Law was in effect, the felony offense was not categorized as a violent offense, so though the offender was convicted, they were merely fined and sentenced to probation — “a slap on the wrist,” Harvey said.
The new law also makes it a misdemeanor offense for animal shelters to euthanize pets using carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide gas chambers or any other non-anesthetic inhalant, unless approved by state regulators due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs.
“To my knowledge, there are no gas chambers currently being used in the state, but it is critical that we codify this prohibition to prevent them from ever being reinstated,” Harvey testified.
Prior to SB 164, the remains of euthanized dogs and cats were able to be used as an ingredient in pet food, a FOX 8 investigation uncovered.
“Not only is this act morbid, it’s injurious for pets to consume,” former state Rep. Thomas Brinkman said at the time. “The animal remains still contain the chemicals contained in euthanasia, causing pets to ingest these harmful chemicals.”
The new law also outlaws pet food that is “adulterated” by containing the remains of euthanized animals or of any dog or cat, regardless of how they were killed.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Jay Hottinger, a Republican, and Kenny Yuko, a Democrat, both of whom retired prior to the new General Assembly.
Goddard’s Law, first signed into law in 2016, is named after former FOX 8 meteorologist Dick Goddard, a longtime advocate for companion animals.