The Ohio Senate unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit animal shelters from using gas chambers as a way to euthanize animals.
The bill, Senate Bill 164, sponsored by Sens. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, and Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, still needs to be voted on in the House.
The bill would change current law to prohibit animal shelters from destroying animals using carbon monoxide gas. It also increases penalties in animal cruelty cases.
The bill lowers the mental state of the violator from knowingly to recklessly in cases where caregivers do not provide food or water, making it easier to prosecute these case.
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. With the crime being called a violent offense, the judge can impose prison time and the charge would not be expungable from the violator’s record.
“(The bill is) the next step to protect not only, you know, our pets, our companion animals, but also I think it really does serve as a significant protection against future crimes against humanity as well,” Hottinger said.
It’s not clear how many people are prosecuted for animal cruelty each year. Columbus Humane reports their organization investigates around 6,000 cases of animal abuse annually.
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Hottinger had already been planning on introducing harsher penalties for those connected to animal abuse when Yuko began working on legislation to outlaw gas chamber euthanasia. The two decided to work together to create a bipartisan bill.
“Too many times we look the other way because they’re animals,” Yuko said. “But to those of us who have pets or have had them in the past, it’s a lot more than that.”
Teresa Landon, executive director of Ohio’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said there are currently no animal shelters using gas chambers that the organization has been made aware of. The last of Ohio’s animal gas chambers was removed from Erie County in 2021.
“This bill basically makes sure that history doesn’t repeat itself,” Landon said. “But it’s unlikely that any county would attempt to purchase a commercial gas chamber again anyway, they’ve all switched to lethal injection.”
The House is currently out of session and likely won’t be back in session until the end of the year.
The bill comes as the next iteration of animal protections in Ohio. In 2013, Nitro’s law was passed which made abuse from an animal clinics or caregivers a felony. In 2016, Goddard’s law was signed into law and made it a fifth-degree felony to abuse or neglect animals. In 2017, Ohio outlawed bestiality, a bill co-sponsored by Hottinger.
“(Pets) become part of our families,” Yuko said. “If someone abuses a member of our family, we certainly want them to pay for their improprieties and we want the same thing for our pets.”