Warning: Bad language ahead.
These words are featured prominently on the Medina County Animal Shelter brochure:
We are proud of our department and want to keep up our good image and public relations.
The Ohio shelter has indeed been very public about its better than 90% save rate for dogs. But the shelter’s “good image” and “public relations” have both been on the ropes recently.
Local pet advocate Casey Post wrote the county commissioners in July about the disappearance of the shelter’s Facebook page where people had been clamoring for photos of cats – the majority of whom are killed at the Medina Co facility – so they could network them. She received a response from county commissioner Steve Hambley in which he indicated he had spoken with dog warden Del Saffle about the yanked Facebook page. Mr. Saffle advised that using Petfinder alone is sufficient as far as online marketing goes and “that our successful adoption rate provides evidence that is is still a very efficient and effective tool for encouraging placements.” In other words, killing more than half of the cats who come through the front door is so fabulous, why try harder? In fact, why even maintain the current level of effort? Let’s yoink the Facebook page and get rid of all those comments from pesky animal advocates in one stroke.
Then on September 23, Plain Dealer reporter Donna Miller showed up at the county commissioners’ meeting to ask for specifics about the pound’s little known gas chamber. Mr. Hambley admitted the county had modified the killing protocols for dogs to allow for injection only but that cats were still being killed in the gas chamber. He used the go-to excuse relied upon by every gasser in the country – the fact that the AVMA still endorses it as a killing method. He touted the county’s high adoption rate – which is for dogs, though he failed to mention that. And in typical killing apologist fashion, Mr. Hambley attempted to turn the tables on the person questioning the killing by asking if she had ever handled feral cats. Not only is that question irrelevant, it implies that every cat killed in the gas chamber is feral which is baseless and unjustifiable even if it was accurate. Most importantly, the question is nothing more than a diversion tactic used by those who know what they’re doing is wrong.
Mr. Hambley noted that feral cats are going to be stressed out with any sort of handling. So I guess what the heck, stuff them in the gas chamber, amirite? He also pointed out that he has done some checking and that the only alternative for handling feral cats is to “take a giant fork and pin the cat down.” So again, gas chamber, obviously. And the coup de grace from Mr. Hambley: He noted than many counties in Ohio won’t even accept cats so Medina is completely awesome for opening its (gas chamber) doors to the beasts.
Three days later. Donna Miller published an article in the Plain Dealer exposing Medina County’s filthy secret: The animal shelter which brags about its canine save rate without ever mentioning what it does with cats is in fact stuffing more than half of its cats into a gas chamber:
The Medina County Animal Shelter used carbon monoxide to euthanize 247 cats last year and 221 cats so far this year, shelter records show. It is one of four county kennels in the state still using a gas chamber to kill unwanted pets.
The other 84 county kennels are using sodium pentobarbital injections, which is recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the U.S., American SPCA, National Animal Control Association and Association of Shelter Veterinarians as the most humane way to euthanize pets.
And the money quote:
“The cats killed in Medina County’s gas chamber were healthy,” said Dog Warden Dell Saffle, who runs the kennel.
I swear to popsicles these people do not even hear themselves anymore. Where is my giant fork?
After learning that her local shelter, the one she thought needed some assistance in cat marketing, was actually gassing the cats they were failing to market, advocate Casey Post again contacted county commissioner Hambley. This time, she wasn’t encouraging him to reconsider networking pets on Facebook. Ms. Post flat-out told the commissioner the pound needed to stop accepting cats immediately and that the gas chamber should be dismantled. She suggested the Medina Co pound sell its cat cages and supplies, using the proceeds to fund lifesaving efforts as a dog-only shelter. From her letter:
To continue to accept cats under current circumstances is both unethical and contrary to the will of the community.
Ms. Post, who has adopted from the Medina Co pound herself, wrote to me about her cat Clifford:
I see my sweet Clifford. My perfect little grey cat who gets along with everyone, who is super adaptable and completely inoffensive, who was described to me by the shelter worker as “doesn’t like to be held”…and knowing that if I hadn’t taken him that day, he would have been fucking stuffed in a fucking gas chamber?
I get it Casey. We all do. There are such things as monsters in this world. But there are also compassionate people willing to put themselves into uncomfortable situations and fight for what is right. There are more of us than there are of them. And we have sweet souls like Clifford to motivate us. That’s how I know we can’t lose.
Keep going. Let us know if you need help.