According to California Penal Code 597.1, any peace officer can “humanely destroy any stray or abandoned animal” if it is too severely injured to move or where a veterinarian is not available.
However, officials from the Humane Society of the United States said if an injured animal can be moved, it needs to be taken to a veterinarian – not the shooting range. “The law does not permit the officer to move the animal to the shooting range to be put down,” said Eric Sakach, senior law enforcement specialist with Humane Society of the United States. “If they find an injured animal that can be moved, they’re only allowed to transport the animal to a veterinarian and they make the determination.”
Sakach said dispatching animals is allowed in “rare instances” when injured animals cannot be transported — and only by trained officers.
“Most officers are not trained on how to properly dispatch an animal with a gun,” he said. “Dogs have different bullet-point areas in the head that have to be shot to make it a humane dispatch.” Andrade said the department does not provide training on how to dispatch animals, but officers use a shotgun to put the dogs down in one or two shots.*
[HSUS has a published book on how to kill almost any animal–maybe HSUS should give these people a free copy?]
Kim Herzog, Merced police animal control officer, is the only person on the staff certified to euthanize by needle. She said the officers dread dispatching an animal, but it’s a requirement of the job.
“Believe me, our guys don’t like shooting dogs,” Herzog said, adding that it happens once or twice a month. “You kind of have to make a determination if the animal is going to survive. The city’s not going to pay to do all of this extensive medical treatment.”
The Police Department spent $1,500 on veterinary costs last year, according to Andrade. The department paid $85,686 to the county’s animal control for disposal, euthanasia and other fees. Animals over 35 pounds must be taken to Merced County Animal Control for disposal; under 35 pounds can be put in a dumpster.
So what’s cheaper: The needle solution, or the bullet?