No Charges for Law Breaking Police Officer in NE

The parents of a Nebraska veterinarian had an outdoor cat named Larry who went missing in mid-January.  Larry was a neutered 2 year old male who was current on his vaccinations, per the vet.

Bloomfield police officer Wally Holz trapped Larry less than 50 feet from his home, shot him to death and dumped his remains behind a city maintenance shed downtown.  City code requires that stray animals be sheltered for 5 days in order to give owners a chance to reclaim them.

Bloomfield city council voted to issue a written reprimand to Officer Holz for his violation of city code.  The thought that someone charged with upholding the law violated it in order to inflict the ultimate form of violence against a trapped pet is chilling.  The notion that he is still on the job and still armed is downright terrifying.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Merced Police Department Changes Policy Regarding Injured Pets

Effective immediately, the Merced police department in CA will no longer drive injured stray animals to the shooting range for killing.  The change was announced by Lt. Bimley West during a news conference on Tuesday.

“Our citizens have stated the times have changed and it’s time that we make a change,” West said Tuesday. “They have spoken. We have heard them clearly, and we have made a change in our policy.”

While this policy change is welcome news, there are some remaining concerns.

The only time officers will shoot animals is if they are being attacked, West said.

Historically, police officers nationwide have used questionable judgment in determining when lethal force is required against a pet.  And I’m being generous with the term questionable judgment.

I am also concerned that the new policy is impractical in that it requires officers to call a local vet to come to the scene of every injured animal, evaluate the pet and euthanize by injection if warranted.  The city has no vet contracted for this work and finances are a concern.

“I hope we can get vets to do that and work out an agreement to minimize costs,” [Merced Mayor Stan] Thurston said.

He hopes.  Isn’t this the sort of thing that should have been worked out before the policy was changed?  It seems far more realistic to my mind that vets might be willing to help if the injured animal is transported to their clinic, where they will have access to the equipment, staff and supplies needed for evaluation.  I can’t help but wonder if the Merced police department is setting itself up for failure with this policy change which would give them an opening to return to the decades-old practice of driving pets to the shooting range for killing.  Hey, we tried to stop shooting pets to death but we couldn’t get vets to drive out in the rain in the middle of the night to examine injured pets in the road.

I would rather they apply (the dreaded) common sense and figure that since their officers have been driving injured pets to the shooting range all these years, they are capable of driving them to the vet for evaluation.  Vets will surely charge less for services rendered at their own clinics than those rendered in the field on an emergency on-call basis.  And it would seem to be a far more reliable method of obtaining veterinary services in a timely manner.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Merced Police Kill 1 or 2 Injured Pets Per Month with 1 or 2 Blasts from a Shotgun

In Merced, CA, police officers are tasked with picking up dead and injured pets in the road. What they do with those animals has recently been made public by the Merced Sun Star:

  • Dead pets over 35 pounds are taken to Merced County Animal Control for disposal
  • Dead pets under 35 pounds are placed in a dumpster
  • Injured pets are left to the officer’s discretion: The officer may choose to drive the pet to a veterinarian for assessment and treatment or, if the officer believes the injured animal has no owner, he may choose to drive the pet to the shooting range.

For those pets whom officers opt to take to the shooting range – about one or two per month – they are shot with shotguns by officers with no training in animal euthanasia. Merced police chief Norm Andrade says pets die with one or two shots from the shotgun.

The officers use “common sense” and get approval from their supervisor before shooting the dog, [Andrade] added.

In addition to this horrifying threat of “common sense”, the Merced police department seems to be laboring under the impression that state law allows for these killings:

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.

My layman’s interpretation of this is to allow for on-the-spot euthanizing of gravely mangled stray animals who are still alive but suffering and can not reasonably be moved to a vehicle for transport to a vet. Merced does not seem to fall under the “no vet available” provision. If my interpretation is correct, any stray animal who can be moved to a vehicle for transport should be taken to a vet, not a shooting range.

But that’s just the law. More importantly, there are animal advocates to be blamed:

“They’re very quick to point the finger on what law enforcement should or shouldn’t do,” Andrade said. “I challenge them – if they want to do something about this problem, why aren’t they out there having numerous meetings with the public about how to care for their animals?”

Hells yeah. If you finger-pointy animal advocates aren’t conducting NUMEROUS MEETINGS with the public about pet care, you have no right to complain about pets being taken to the shooting range for killing by untrained police officers. It’s so obvious! One follows the other. Unquestionably.

Merced does have an ACO licensed to euthanize animals by injection, but he’s all blame-the-public-y:

“If we had more responsible owners keeping their dogs in, this wouldn’t be an issue,” [Merced ACO Kim Herzog] said. Stressing the importance of proper identification tags for dogs, he said, “That’s why I always tell people: Put a collar on your dog. That is your dog’s trip to the vet.”

And if the ID falls off or for whatever reason isn’t on the pet at the time he most needs the kindness of public servants, that’s his trip to the shooting range.  You irresponsible bastards.

I don’t want to be overly morbid but I keep coming back to the logistics in my mind.  Once the officer arrives at the shooting range with the injured animal, what happens?  We know the officer has not been trained in animal euthanasia and we know he’s using a shotgun that doesn’t always kill after the first blast.  Do they drape the injured dog over some kind of target or WTF?  I can’t wrap my head around it.  And the fact that the city’s only trained ACO defends the practice and blames owners is mind boggling.  I feel so sorry for any pet owners living in Merced.  May your pets never fall into the hands of these sadistic people.

(Thank you Arlene for alerting me to this story.)

Police Kill Family Pet and Ticket Owner on Christmas Eve

Since two inmates from a federal jail in Chicago escaped last week, authorities have been tracking down various leads.  Police in Hazel Crest, IL suspected one of the escapees might be hiding in a home next door to Chanette Weaver.  They apparently searched the home early on December 24 and found nothing.  Ms. Weaver had let her obedience trained dog Kobi out into her fenced backyard while police were at the neighbor’s house.  Suddenly, Ms. Weaver received a knock on the door from police advising her Kobi was dead.

Someone had apparently tampered with the gate to Ms. Weaver’s backyard that morning, although police say it was not them.  A police report indicates Kobi came onto the sidewalk and growled at the officers, one of whom shot him three times.

Ms. Weaver suspects the officers had opened the gate to her backyard that morning after coming up empty in their search for the fugitive next door.  She suspects they failed to secure the gate properly.  And she finds it hard to believe Kobi made the officers fear for their safety to the point where lethal force was required.

“What’s the protocol? I mean, to shoot a dog three times? What about mace? It just doesn’t make sense,” Weaver said.

Hazel Crest police gave Ms. Weaver the bad news about Kobi along with a ticket for having a loose dog with no tags.  Kobi’s Christmas present was wrapped beneath the tree.  Watch the video at the link to see a clip of the family singing Happy Birthday to Kobi in September.  The family has retained the services of an attorney in the matter.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me this link.)

Shelter Cats at Grave Risk if Determined Feral

Today is National Feral Cat Day.  One of the many risks that cats face from shelters is the risk of being determined feral.  In too many shelters, this is an automatic death sentence.  Truly feral cats should not be impounded by animal control unless it is for neuter and vaccination with the intention of prompt return of the cat to the area where he was trapped.

One of the numerous problems associated with the impound of trapped cats is that the shelter takes on the responsibility of categorizing the cat for disposition (feral, semi-feral, friendly).  There are no nationally accepted standards for making this determination and practices vary from evaluation by shelter staff after an adjustment period to immediate disposition decisions made in the field by the officer on call while the cat is still in the trap.

From a 2010 paper entitled “A survey of the methods used in shelter and rescue programs to identify feral and frightened pet cats” and published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery:

When any cat enters an unfamiliar environment such as an animal shelter or other welfare agency, however, it is prone to displaying fearful behavior. Even well-socialized pet cats can become fearfully aggressive or motivated to withdraw or escape. As a result, it can initially be very difficult to accurately determine which cats are feral and which cats have the potential to be reclaimed or adopted as a pet. There are currently no validated methods of differentiating the various categories of cats upon intake to animal sheltering or other welfare agencies.
[...]
While fearful pet cats can, upon shelter intake, experience high stress levels and, therefore, appear behaviorally similar to feral cats, they may begin to display more characteristic behavior after several days or weeks in the shelter when their stress levels begin to subside.
[...]
Of the 288 respondents [of the roughly 500 total] who indicated that a cat they previously thought to be feral was subsequently found not to be feral, this discovery was most frequently cited as due to: the cat’s behavior changing after it had time to settle in or acclimate (mentioned by 144 or 50% of respondents), the cat began to display tolerant, social or affiliative behavior in response to human contact or handling (65 or 23%), the cat began to offer social behavior when humans were nearby (vocalization, blinking, solicitation, approach) (56 or 19%), and the cat’s behavior was different when it was assessed in a quieter, less stressful or more familiar environment (40 or 14%).

The problem with a policy of death for all feral cats at a shelter is that it violates the cat’s most basic right:  the right to live.  The problem is compounded when friendly cats are incorrectly identified as feral when they are behaving normally in response to the stress of being trapped and impounded.

Cat ID #09122012-256, Tag #193, at the Columbus pound in Georgia.

Cat ID #09122012-256 was trapped and impounded by animal control in Columbus, GA on September 12.  While the pound claims to follow the 5 day stray holding period law, it was determined within 24 hours that this trapped cat was too aggressive to live, despite a volunteer describing him as “easy to pet”.  He was killed on September 13 for exhibiting typical behavior seen in trapped cats.

Records on cat ID #09122012-256, Tag #193 at the Columbus pound, obtained via FOIA request. (click to enlarge)

Two months ago in South Dakota, an owned cat named Poobs was trapped by a cat hating neighbor.  She was healthy and current on her vaccinations.  But she was understandably upset in the trap.  The officer who picked her up from the cat hating neighbor determined on the spot that she was too aggressive to live.  He shot her to death in the trap.

Last month, a municipality in PA hired an ACO to trap feral cats for killing.  Area cat owners began noticing their pets going missing.  Apparently the ACO was killing all cats caught in traps, including residents’ pets.  Outraged owners attended the Borough Council meeting for answers but the ACO was a no show, which was fine with community leaders:

“I had asked him to come and he declined his appearance,” said Christine Cardinale, the North Charleroi Borough attorney. “He’s not here tonight.”

Instead of discussing the fact that both feral cats and owned pets have the right to live, the council appeared defiant when faced with angry cat owners:

“If you were so interested, you would have found out about why we’re starting to trap,” said one council member.

As a compromise, the council said it will pass an ordinance giving owners 10 days to reclaim their pets.  But that does not address the fact that feral cats have a right to live nor does it address the ACO’s apparent lack of interest in even attempting to determine whether the cats he’s trapped are feral or owned pets.

Cats deserve better.  Any cat brought to a shelter in this country should be afforded basic protections – including protection of the right to live.  Decisions on whether to designate an impounded cat for TNR or adoption should be made only after the animal has had sufficient time to adjust to the shelter environment.  Not every cat in a trap is feral but every cat deserves to live.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me links, as always, to Stefani for alerting me to the cat killed at the Columbus pound and to Vox Felina for the study on identifying feral cats in shelters.)

Case Update on VA Police Officer Who Beat Cat to Death

The Harrisonburg VA police officer who clubbed an injured cat 20 times with his baton has been charged with animal cruelty and placed on administrative leave.  In addition, he has finally been named:  J. N. Snoddy.  The charge is a misdemeanor.  Watch this space for updates.

VA Police Officer Beats Injured Cat to Death

A good Samaritan in Harrisonburg, VA picked up an injured cat on the road on November 11 and took him home, contacting authorities.  A police officer responded to the call and told the good Sam he had two choices – let the cat suffer and die or let the officer kill the cat.

Unless this officer is also a veterinarian who travels with diagnostic testing equipment, I don’t know how he determined that the cat was medically hopeless but that’s what reportedly was said.  I doubt the officer had a microchip scanner either to see if the owner had permanently identified the cat in case of emergency.  But I guess, you know – meh.

The good Sam chose to allow the officer to “euthanize” the cat:

“I told the officer I didn’t have the stomach or nerves to put an animal down,” [the good Samaritan] said. “The officer said he would take care of it. I went inside and braced to hear a shot.”

Instead, he looked out the window and saw the officer drawing his baton. He said he went to the kitchen so he wouldn’t see what was about to happen. He estimated that the officer struck the cat 15 to 20 times.

By the time the brutal killing was over with, the good Sam had tears in his eyes.  He looked outside to see blood everywhere and damage to the siding on his home.  I assume the baton wielding was so violent that the officer could not control the weapon and caused damage to the siding.  The good Sam was so upset, he could not stay in his home that night.

I’m not trying to be morbid here but just close your eyes for a minute and picture an injured cat in need of help.  Then count to 20.  It’s unbearable.  I can not fathom the level of barbarism required to commit such an atrocity, let alone get my head around the notion that we are talking about a police officer, sworn to protect and to serve the community.  This cat may have had an owner but the officer apparently didn’t bother to check.  If the cat had no owner or his owner was unknown at the time of the call, he was a community pet.  Serve.  Protect.

The officer has not been named and the department will not say whether he was disciplined.

Ohio City’s Policy on Handling Stray Pets Comes Under Scrutiny

A Lebanon, Ohio couple’s cat, named Haze, didn’t come home last Friday.  On Saturday, unbeknownst to the owners, Haze turned up in a neighbor’s yard and appeared to be sick or injured.  The neighbor planned to knock on doors in the neighborhood to try and find out where the cat lived but before she could do that, another family member called the local police.  An officer responded to the call, shot Haze to death in the neighbor’s yard and the family member dropped him in the garbage can.

When the owners, Dori and Randall Stone, found out what had happened the next day, they rushed to the neighbor’s house:

“We love our cats, do you know what it was like to pull your pet out of the garbage can and then pull him out of the garbage bag and his head is bloody with a bullet hole in it?” [Mrs. Stone] said. “It’s so violent that they did this to our animal and made no effort to call the humane society or find his owners.”

The city not only stands behind the actions of the police officer, a spokesman says the brutal killing complies with departmental policy:

The police policy manual states that the animal will be destroyed where it is located if it is safe to do so and under no circumstances is an officer to transport the animal in a city vehicle.

The JournalNews reports that the policy appears to be illegal:

The policy, however, appears to violate Ohio Revised Code. Cats are one of a number of animals protected by the code that says no one shall “maliciously, or willfully and without consent of the owner” injure animals. The violation is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Haze’s owners would like to see the policy changed:

“Something needs to done, if this is common practice it needs to be changed,” Dori Stone said. “My husband and I have not eaten since Sunday morning. We are just sick. We close our eyes at night and see his little face and to think as good of care we took of him for almost seven years, these were his last moments and that was the way he had to die, it’s unbearable.”

There is a county humane society and a county dog warden but neither respond to calls about stray cats.

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