Funky Cold Medina Co

At the time public pressure brought by an animal advocate forced the Medina Co pound in Ohio to stop gassing cats, it was believed that the shelter staff did an admirable job caring for dogs.  After all, the facility boasts a 92% live release rate for dogs.  But records obtained via FOIA request appear to show that many of the dogs who were euthanized last year at Medina Co received less than the amount of Fatal Plus indicated on the label.  For example, a 50 pound dog being euthanized by IV injection with Fatal Plus should receive no less than 5 cc according to label instructions.  But many dogs whose weights were recorded as 50 pounds by Medina Co received only 4 cc of Fatal Plus with one 50 pound dog receiving just 3 cc.  Several dogs weighing 60 pounds also received the 4 cc dose.  This is a serious problem according to an animal euthanasia expert in Ohio:

The Medina County animal control officers “need to be relieved of duty pending a thorough investigation of their qualifications and ability to do their jobs,” David Balz, Ohio-certified euthanasia instructor and director of the Wyandot County Humane Society, wrote Thursday in an email to The Plain Dealer. “I would not trust them to work in my shelter, in any capacity, under any circumstances, let alone that of euthanasia technicians.”

The state of Ohio does not specifically require that those qualified to euthanize animals do so only using the dosage on the drug’s label.  (The state of Virginia for example, requires exactly that.)  But Ohio code does include this:

Any agent or employee of an animal shelter performing euthanasia by means of lethal injection shall do so only in a humane and proficient manner that is in conformity with the methods described in division (A) of this section and not in violation of Chapter 959. of the Revised Code.

A humane and proficient manner.  In order to get a qualified opinion, I contacted David Balz myself. I asked him his view on whether using less than the label dosage, such as is evident in the Medina Co shelter’s drug logs, would qualify as performing euthanasia “in a humane and proficient manner”? He replied, in part:

I would say that it is certainly questionable. There is also the issue of using a drug “off label” in other words not following the directions or usage on the bottle. Only a licensed professional can do that. The rest of us have to use things as they are labeled. I may “know” that a particular drug will do something or that a different dosage would do a particular thing, but, not being a MD, DDS, DVM etc, I would not be allowed to do it any way except what is labeled on the bottle.

I also asked Mr. Balz to explain the concerns associated with using too little of a euthanasia drug. His reply, in part:

There are a number of problems associated with “underdosing” when using the drug for euthanasia. The most obvious is that, while the animal may literally go to sleep, it may also wake up. The problems with that are obvious. My worry about the workers in Medina is that if they previously had confusion regarding Intraperitoneal injections on cats and are now having problems with IV dosage calculations, then perhaps they also are not capable of establishing that the animal is dead before disposing of the body.

The other issue with “underdosing” is that at the doses we recommend you are basically “anesthetizing” the animal to the point where the base of the brain shuts down and the animal’s heart and lungs simply stop working – long after total unconsciousness which is the first effect. Picture the human operating room and the doctor asks the patient to start counting backwards from 100 – the doctor injects the drug and the patient says 99………and is unconscious. From that point on the level keeps deepening. Obviously in anesthesia we support the patient, but in the case of euthanasia they rapidly go into coma and then stop completely (at recommended doses they are unconscious in seconds and dead in 1 to 5 minutes). During this process there is an “excitement” phase where the patient/animal may flail about injuring themselves and others. When the animal is underdosed it becomes more likely that this excitement phase will occur or be extended. Thereby potentially being dangerous for the workers.

Public records obtained via FOIA request show that Medina Co shelter director Del Saffle, whose initials appear on all of the underdosed dogs, received training and certification in euthanasia practices in 1995. Although many shelters require their euthanasia technicians to continually update their training and certification, Medina Co apparently does not. Even without recent training, anyone performing euthanasia in an animal shelter should be reading and following the label instructions for the drug being used. No animal shelter employee should be underdosing animals with euthanasia drug under any circumstances.  If there is to be any deviation from the label instructions, it is always recommended to overdose and never to underdose animals being euthanized.

From the HSUS euthanasia reference manual:

Technicians can help minimize the chances of record-keeping errors by rounding up (never down!) to the nearest milliliter[.]
[R]ounding up and administering slightly more drug than technically needed is perfectly acceptable (it is never acceptable to use less than the label dose).

Medina Co reportedly places euthanized animals into an onsite incinerator.  The implications of the shelter’s practice of routine underdosing of dogs with euthanasia drug are obvious and disturbing.  Why was this practice ever allowed at Medina Co and when will the county put a stop to it?

16 thoughts on “Funky Cold Medina Co

  1. I truly appreciate getting your posts. I am not involved in the shelter industry but am concerned with functions and statistics thereof. Your education of good and bad things that go on at shelters (“pounds”) is invaluable to those of us who don’t have direct experience or time to get it, but who are concerned about animal welfare.

  2. The County Commissioners have stated that the four members of shelter staff who are certified euthanasia technicians will go for “retraining” this year to the certification classes. Color me not reassured.

    It has also come to light that all the weights used for euthanasia were guesses because the shelter HAS NO SCALE on which to weigh animals. $300,000 in the surplus fund and they never thought to buy a scale. Now that this has come out, they’ve decided that yes, they should probably purchase a scale.

    Keep in mind that these are the people who *fought to keep their gas chamber to use on cats* because stuffing them into the gas chamber was way easy for them. So easy, in fact, that they refused to market their cats at all (until FORCED to do it right at the very end), refused to have a stray hold time for cats (so they could put any cats they wanted straight into the gas chamber) and never contacted the local SPCA about sick/injured cats (although they would turn over sick/injured dogs, no problem) preferring to gas them, instead.

    So they *say* that they certify death before putting bodies in the incinerator. Unfortunately, I doubt both their competence and their veracity.

    1. Apparently live release rate alone does not tell a complete story. Personally, I would never trust pet gassers to do right by any shelter pets, regardless of their stats.

      1. And that’s it.

        I thought that they just hated cats. But once you have evidence of the attitude that casual and mass killing (any species) is … expedient, you realize that the mindset is pervasive.

        Which is why this shelter warrants diligent monitoring, despite the glittering numbers.

  3. How can this continue to happen in these facilities? There truly is a great deal of evil and cruelty in our world – and the innocents pay the price.
    I don’t trust these folks to do anything but what they can use for “positive PR” or what they are forced to do.
    Such a sad commentary on us human beings. Keep shining the light in these dark places . . .

  4. Wyandot has hugh problems itself. The dogs never even see the light of day. They are not walked and poop right in their cages. Balz certainly has a lot of explaining to do about the pound and what he’s going to do about Wyandot and their practices. It’s horrid to think about improper doses and those dogs being alive being thrown into a incinerator.

    1. Wyandot County Dog Shelter does indeed have problems. No volunteers permitted, dogs kept in cages 24/7, County Commissioners will not allow changes to be made to improve conditions…

      But Dave Balz is director of Wyandot County Humane Society, just to clarify.

      1. Is he a good director? Sorry for being suspicious but I’ve had too much experience with those who talk the talk, but it ends there.

    2. I firmly believe that these individuals will someday have to pay for what they are doing now (and have done). Perhaps that is rotting in the never-ending fires of h3ll. I don’t even want to think about what the cats have suffered, too. Surely they were not treated as well as the dogs!
      I don’t understand how the county commissioners can know this is going on and not want things to improve. What a black spot on their entire county.

      1. Just sent an email to the commissioners – we’ll see what happens. Probably nothing, but hopefully knowing that their dirty little secrets are seeing the light of day, there will be some positive changes.

  5. Last training in “95! Are those people still there or is a new crew? This is just sickening to read that those poor dogs were not fully dosed and then to read they are put into the incinerator immediately! I just have no words for the horror of that. I am speechless for once in my life. I hope that the entire staff there is gone. Those who didn’t do the deed still knew about it and said nothing. Sickening!

  6. Db, you asked if he’s a good director. Having never been to Wyandot, I honestly cannot say. He and I disagree on some things (like a no kill nation), but I can tell you that in his correspondence with me he has been very open, very accessible, and very helpful to the cause of improving the situation in Medina.

    His professional expertise has been invaluable.

  7. Arlene, the one with the training in ’95 is the Dog Warden in charge of the shelter. Apparently, there’s no policy that requires shelter workers to keep their training current.

    Also, let’s keep in mind that they were still using the gas chamber despite the fact that they had staff trained in EBI. They only stopped putting dogs in the gas chamber “a few years ago” (no one seems ready to say when that was) and only stopped using it on cats when we took cats away from them.

    1. Thank you Casey. It seems to me that there is room for much more improvement…beginning with the destruction of that gas chamber. Also it seems to me that the wise thing to do is have a requirement that staff is certified annually or bi-annually. The protection of the dogs is paramount to any difficulties staff have in having to be checked up on now and then. In a perfect world none of this would be happening at all.

      1. Agreed, Arlene.

        A local advocate continues to pressure the Board for the destruction of the gas chamber in Medina – she is showing up at every Board Meeting to remind them that she wants that abomination removed. Her concern that they may go back to using it as long as it’s there and functional is a valid one and one that I share.

        I have every faith that there will come a day when compassion is the baseline standard at all animal shelters across our nation. But we’ll have to fight for it, bit by bit.

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