A former dog warden, along with a successor and his assistant, were charged Friday in Gallipolis Municipal Court with 57 counts of animal cruelty that took place at the Gallia County Animal Shelter.
Dog warden Paul L. Simmers faces 32 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty, while his former assistant Jason Harris is charged with 12 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty in connection with the Feb. 14 deaths of several dogs at the Gallia County Animal Shelter. Former dog warden Jean L. Daniels was also charged with 13 counts of secnd-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty in connection with the investigation.
They are charged with negligently causing unnecessary pain and suffering to dogs being euthanized at the animal shelter in the 100 block of Shawnee Lane. They allegedly didn’t follow the correct procedure during the euthanasia process, which caused the animals to suffer unnecessary pain.
According to Adam Salisbury, Gallipolis city solicitor who investigated the case for possible misdemeanors after Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins found no felony violations, the Ohio Revised Code includes guidelines for euthanasia of companion animals with the goal of a fast and painless procedure.
“These guidelines are similar to the procedures that many animal welfare groups have approved, including the American Humane Association and the Humane Society of the United States,” he said in a press release. Salisbury is employed by the Gallipolis City Commission and the Gallia County Commission to prosecute misdemeanors in Gallia County.
The preferred method of euthanasia, he said, is an intravenous injection of a solution of sodium pentobarbital, a Schedule II controlled substance. In correct doses, he said, the drug causes death by respiratory arrest.
The case gained a full head of steam shortly after Feb. 14, when the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals said it planned to “fully investigate” the deaths of 11 dogs at the Gallia County Animal Shelter. The Ohio SPCA cited the concerns of the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, a rescue group whose members said all of the dogs killed were vaccinated and in the process of being adopted.
The dog killings have since been a weekly topic at Gallia County Commission meetings, with members of the FGCA in attendance seeking answers from commissioners, who oversee the animal shelter and its employees. The only action the commissioners took during the investigation process was reassigning a county employee from the animal shelter to a maintenance crew at the Gallia County Courthouse.
FGCA members also wanted to know why a procedure called a “heart stick” – the injection of sodium pentobarbital directly into a chamber of the animal’s heart — had been used on the dogs. Salisbury noted as part of his investigation that although a “heart stick” procedure is approved by the Ohio Revised Code, it is a less preferred method of euthanasia and can “only be performed on a heavily sedated or unconscious animal.”
“I’m shocked that they did this,” said Theresa Landon, executive director of the Ohio SPCA in Grove City. “I haven’t been impressed with the way cases have been handled down there in the past. The last information we received was (the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office) didn’t find a problem. We are very pleased (Simmer, Harris and Daniels) have been charged.”
The charges allege Simmer injected sodium pentobarbital into animals’ muscles – in the shoulder or hip areas – to sedate the dogs, then euthanized them with the “heart stick” method.
“When administered directly into the muscles of an animal, sodium pentobarbital is widely believed to cause intense pain,” Salisbury said. “The practice of injecting this drug into the muscles of an animal is specifically labelled an ‘unacceptable practice’ by the American Humane Association.”
Salisbury said Simmer, Harris and Daniels each attended a training session sponsored by the American Humane Association and earned a certificate allowing them to euthanize animals by injection. Harris earned his certificate April 12-13, 2007, in Altoona, Pa. It is not known when or where Simmers and Daniels earned their certificates.
The charges against Simmer, Daniel and Harris range from March 16, 2012, to Feb. 14, 2014. Each charge, Salisbury said, is punishable by up to 90 days incarceration, a $750 fine, five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service.
If convicted, Simmer faces almost eight years in prison and $24,000 in fines. Harris faces almost three years in jail and $9,000 in fines, while Daniel faces slightly more than three years in jail and $9,750 in fines.
All three are scheduled to appear in Gallipolis Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. March 25.
Gallia County Commissioner Brent Saunders said the commission will release a statement Monday detailing the employment status of both Simmers and Harris.