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Animal Activists Challenge Calif. Law Allowing Police to Humanely Kill Wounded, Suffering Animals

Some animal activists are challenging a longstanding policy which allows law-enforcement officers to shoot injured and suffering animals in the course of their duties, reports Brent McCluskey of

California penal code 597f (d) states, “… Any officer … may with the approval of his or her immediate supervisor humanely destroy and abandoned animals in the field in any case where the animal is too severely injured to move or where a veterinarian is not available and it would be more humane to dispose of the animal.”

The wording of the law is clear and practical — the discretion is initially contingent upon the judgment of the severity of the injury by the officer and consideration of whether an attempt to move or transport it would result in severe suffering; however, field dispatch of even a critically wounded animal also requires approval by a supervisor.

Sacramento County Sgt. Jason Ramos this code is to be used as the last resort, not the first option, according to CBS.

“No one wants to see an animal lose its life, but if death is inevitable, and it’s just being prolonged,” said Ramos.

Sgt. Ramos said that while the sheriff’s department doesn’t have a specific policy for dispatching wounded animals, his agency understands there are some situations where an officer may have no other choice.

“Sometimes in the middle of the night you don’t have a vet available, you might be in an extremely rural area,” he added. “Quite honestly, taking an animal’s life might be the most humane thing to do under those circumstances.”

While the state’s penal code offers the legal right for an officer to make such a judgment call, the departmental regulations throughout California vary greatly, the report states.

Sacramento’s policy states that officers are forbidden to dispatch wounded animals. Oakland previously allowed the practice of penal code 597 F (D), but changed their policy after officers shot and killed a deer in a residential backyard.

The report states that, according to the Merced Bee, Merced police officers take injured animals to their shooting range before killing them.

Veterinarian Dr. Jyl Rubin believes rescue groups should be contacted. He said there needs to be something finite, and there may be a better alternative than just shooting wounded animals. He suggests agencies still allowing that practice should consider liaising with rescue groups.

However, while some small animals may be picked up by rescues, this does not take into consideration other factors, such as:

- Many of these incidents occur in remote areas and at night.

- The animal may be too large to be easily moved.

- There are hazards in handling an injured animal.

- A struggling animal may incur even further injury and pain.

- The animal may be located where it creates a hazard, such as on a freeway or highway.

- There are potential dangers to public safety if an injured animal suddenly bolts into traffic or into an area where it could harm humans.

CBS Sacramento reported that most veterinarians they spoke to advised any citizen who finds an injured animal on the street to contact animal control or call the police. They also found that most police agencies first call animal control to evaluate severely wounded animals.

Source: Guns, CBS Sacramento


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