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.)

40 thoughts on “Merced Police Kill 1 or 2 Injured Pets Per Month with 1 or 2 Blasts from a Shotgun

  1. At first I thought you may have made a typo with the state abbreviation. It sounds so much like GA, not CA. Either way, it is hard to believe they do this and this practice should be stopped immediately.

  2. Holy shit. If an animal is so injured that euthanasia is warranted, the *idea* of hauling that animal into a vehicle (what, pick it up by a leg? the neck? because you know they’re not being gentle or kind with something they’re just going to shoot anyway) and then driving it out to THE RANGE (for God’s sake!) and then hauling it out to…where? And then walking back (what, ten paces? WTF?) and THEN shooting it however many times it takes to kill the beast…

    Sounds an awful lot like sadism. And a means of getting around not being allowed to discharge your firearm in a residential area. We take them to the the range “for safety”. Uh-huh. No, you take them to the range because you a) don’t want people seeing you do this and b) get your jollies shooting pets.

    Does the range have security cameras? I wonder if there’s video of this “humane disposal” process?

    And – do the cops carry microchip scanners? Because my dogs wear breakaway collars FOR SAFETY. So yeah, if something happens, they may not be wearing their collars. But they’re always chipped. Tell me again why these guys are “professionals”?

    1. There was a reference in the article to microchip checking but it wasn’t clear enough to include in the post. Plus I can’t imagine them doing the kind of thorough scan necessary to find a migrated chip on an injured animal in the field. Yet another reason to drive the injured animals to the vet.

      On Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 10:27 AM, YesBiscuit!

  3. The behavior you describe is illegal in California. Peace officers in the state have a statutory duty to transport injured animals to a licensed veterinarian. The controlling statute in most municipalities is either Penal Code Section 597f(b) or 597.1(c):

    “It shall be the duty of all officers of pounds or humane societies, and animal regulation departments of public agencies to convey, and for police and sheriff departments, to cause to be conveyed all injured cats and dogs found without their owners in a public place directly to a veterinarian known by the officer or agency to be a veterinarian that ordinarily treats dogs and cats for a determination of whether the animal shall be immediately and humanely destroyed or shall be hospitalized under proper care and given emergency treatment.”

    Also note that Penal Code Sections 597f(g) and 597.1(e) (which you cite) permit in-the-field “humane destruction” only in the case where the animal is (a) too severely injured to be moved (thus foreclosing the option to transport the animal anywhere, least of all to a shooting range) or (b) no veterinarian is available to examine the animal. While the second option (b) might seem to be a loophole, it is specifically available only when in-the-field euthanasia is the “more humane” option. So peace officers have two clear duties to pursue the most humane outcome for any injured animal, even in the most extreme circumstances.

    The situation you describe would be a clear failure to carry out these important duties mandated by the people of the state.

  4. No words . . . just unbelievable! And what does that do to the police who are being trained by shooting injured animals? This whole thing is a clusterfu*k of gargantuan proportions. Anyone in that area care to take this on?

  5. cpmtact Kamala Harris about this.. State Attorney General of CA she has a FB page I posted a section of hte blog let’s make sure she knows about this and that it is illegal

  6. Somebody PLEASE forward this to the Governors office AND to the Ellen DeGeneres Show. She’s a major animal advocate and it WILL get major national airtime. Also the Dogington Post and Huffington Post. My laptop is down and the phone won’t let me do this.

  7. So an officer finds a feral dog hit by a car in the middle of the road at 2AM. All vet’s offices are closed. What are you people suggesting? Paying a vet (out of public funds) to be “on call” any time a feral animal is injured in the middle of the night? Someone has to pay for the vet, someone has to pay for the hospital visit, the medication, the services, the surgery, etc. And once all that’s done, you now have a feral dog that very well may never be adoptable. So what do you do with this now VERY expensive feral dog? Let him loose back in the wild again? I’m afraid you are thinking with emotion, rather than fact. They’re doing what they can, with the funds and equipment they have. Give ’em a break. I know lots of cops who are animal lovers.

    1. To even begin addressing your comments, one would have to put an estimate on the feral dog population of Merced. Which I notice you neglected to include. Seriously, even the lame-o police department didn’t attempt to play that card.

    2. My elder cat, as a feral kitten, was scraped up off the road by an ACO in the small hours of the morning on Christmas Day, and because none of those authorized to perform euthanasia were at the shelter at that time – an issue in itself – she was indeed taken to a 24-hour emergency vet. As it happened the vet decided she could be saved and took responsibility for her, but the county absolutely would’ve paid for her to be euthanized there if that hadn’t happened.

      Because that’s what civilized people do.

    3. Joe, tell me how an officer KNOWS the dog he encounters is feral? With an injured animal, it is *impossible* to tell. An officer must assume each and every time that the animal he encounters is SOMEBODY’S PET and act accordingly. Anything else is detrimental to the community and unethical.

      True story – a woman found a Boxer starved near death and covered in injuries. She took the dog to the vet, thinking that he was an abused and abandoned animal. The vet found the microchip, owners were contacted…turns out, the dog was desperately missed, the people had been actively looking for him for over two months with foot searches, rewards and posters, and online pleas. They were horrified that he was in such bad shape, but ten weeks lost had been very hard on him. They paid the substantial vet bill and took their much loved dog home and cared for him around the clock during his recovery. That dog looked like no one loved him. He looked stray and uncared-for and unwanted. And the cops in Merced probably would have shot him without a second thought.

      Always assume that the animal you find is wanted. Always assume it’s a pet with a home. Always. No matter what it looks like, no matter what it acts like.

      1. mikken,

        Well, that is part of the problem. There is no way that an officer can know with 100% certainty whether or not an animal is feral. A “command decision” must be made. Check for a collar, other ID, scan for microchip, check the lost animal reports, you do whatever you can. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but it all comes down to MONEY. It does not come down to “mean cops”—come on now, people. It’s a money issue, and if you’re not aware of this, then do some local research and find out for yourselves. I’m probably just as pro-animal as all of you other folks, but I’m also realistic. (I’m currently caring for a feral mama cat who strangely showed up at my front door two weeks ago and gave birth to SIX kittens. She disappeared with 5 of them somewhere—I’ve searched all over—and left one behind. We’ve been hand-feeding with a bottle the 6th kitten who is doing very well and seems super healthy. I also feed the mama cat EVERY day, and keep fresh water out there for her also. She comes and eats, then disappears again—-so NO, I’m not what some of you I know are thinking). Like I said, I’m being realistic. Now that we are dealing in reality, what do you suggest be done to fix it? Stay within the realm of reality, and not “we must save every living species on the planet”—because that is simply not realistic. Thanks.

      2. “A “command decision” must be made. Check for a collar, other ID, scan for microchip, check the lost animal reports, you do whatever you can. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but it all comes down to MONEY.”

        So…Joe are you saying that cops are making command decisions based on money, or based on ethics? Because if they’re making decisions based on money, I can tell you that a lot of cash can be saved simply by choosing which neighborhoods to patrol, which calls to respond to, etc.

        No, money is not the cops’ “command decision”. If you are serving your community, you must assume that every animal is a wanted pet. Because the first time you assume it isn’t and kill someone’s beloved animal, you’ve violated your oath (not to mention your soul).

        You also mention scanning for chips and checking lost animal ads – do you honestly think they’re doing this? While an animal is bleeding out on the street? Or has two broken legs? No, when an animal is injured, getting the animal to a medical professional capable of competently evaluating that animal is the only responsible course of action. A dog having a seizure on the street can look like it’s dying (when it may just be epileptic). A dog who can’t stand up may have broken bones, or may be arthritic and out in the cold too long or could have vestibular disease.

        Cops don’t get to make the call. They aren’t trained to medically evaluated a pet, they aren’t trained to euthanize a pet, and they sure as hell cannot in any way, shape, or form justify driving around with an injured animal in the trunk of the car to the firing range, hauling it out of the vehicle and then shooting it as many times as it takes for the animal to finally die.

        That is sadism and I seriously fear the people who think that it’s perfectly okay.

      3. mikken,

        Yes, I AM saying that it comes down to money. Again, you are welcome to walk into the world of reality at any time.

        Here is a hypothetical for you: It is 3AM. A police officer comes upon a deer in the middle of a rural, mountain highway. The deer has been hit by a car or truck, is severely injured, bleeding, and can’t get up. What should the officer do?

      4. The officer should immediately shoot the deer in the heart and offer the meat to the next person on the road kill list.

        The officer should NOT put the deer in his trunk, drive the deer to the firing range, haul the deer out to the target zone, then shoot it “one or two times” until it’s dead.

      5. mikken, Your suggestions on what to do are already being done. This is policy virtually all across the country as far as I am aware (and yes, I am very “tuned in” to these things). So then why is okay to dispatch the deer, but not a dog in the exact same situation? (Assuming, of course, all reasonable attempts have been made to see if the dog belongs to someone or is feral). Why the difference in opinion?

      6. You seem to think that I am against euthanasia. I am not. If a dog is so severely injured that euthanasia is warranted, I heartily endorse a police officer immediately pulling out his revolver and shooting that dog in a way that brings instant death. This is a good and kind thing and should be done in some cases.

        But this situation in Merced has cops who aren’t trained to properly handle an injured animal somehow getting that animal into their car, then driving that animal out to the firing range, then moving the animal into a shooting area. Then this cop who has received no instruction on how to fatally shoot a dog, taking a shotgun and shooting it possibly multiple times to try and kill said dog.

        This is intentionally causing pain and prolonging suffering and is NOT euthanasia. This is sadism and cruelty.

        If a domestic animal is capable of surviving a car ride, that animal should be driven to the vet for assessment. Cops should also be taught humane handling of animals, what types of injuries warrant a gunshot, and how to shoot an animal.

      7. You are assuming facts not in evidence, mikken. You say that “Merced cops aren’t trained properly”. How do you know this? Do you know where Merced is located? It’s in the Central Valley—the “salad bowl” of America. Most of the cops there probably grew up on farms, and know all about animals. Your assumptions are way off-base and most likely incorrect.

        Why do you have an issue with the animal being dispatched at the firing range? I think I am safe in assuming that the reason they do this is for the safety of the public. They don’t want an officer shooting an animal, and having that bullet land somewhere it was not supposed to (a passing car, kids playing, in someone’s house, etc, etc). Taking it to the range is actually a brilliant idea—-because the range is where you are SUPPOSED to fire your gun safely. You’d rather see them do it out on the street with civilians around? By the way, I’m sure the officers find no joy in dragging an injured animal into their patrol car (besides the horror of doing it, they have to clean up all of the blood and guts—who WANTS to do that???). I’m sure they would rather just dispatch the animal right there at the scene, pull it off to the side of the road, and tell Animal Control to come pick it up. So they are actually taking the extra steps to keep the public safe. As you may or may not know, an injured animal can be very dangerous to anyone who touches or approaches it.

        Additionally, there has been SO MUCH misinformation spread on this web page and nobody has actually quoted any department policy, nobody has interviewed the chief, and nobody has done ANY fact-checking whatsoever. It’s just “those sadistic cops” and “those poor animals”. Can’t you see how INCREDIBLY unreasonable you are being? I don’t know what Merced’s actual written policy is, but I’ll bet you that there is something in place about injured animals and what to do—and I’ll further bet that within that policy, there are instructions to take injured animals to the nearest emergency vet, unless certain circumstances exist.

        Now, does anyone want to speak about facts or would you just rather call cops “sadistic”?

      8. “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.” (from the original linked article)


        And now you want it both ways – too rural to have a dog be owned, but too populated to safely discharge a weapon? And you were right when you said that officers routinely kill injured deer right on the road – why not kill an injured dog the same way? Why drive it to the firing range? That is sadistic and cruel. It causes unnecessary suffering and distress.

        And IF an officer is going to drive a dog somewhere, WHY NOT DRIVE IT TO A VET? That way, you can get a proper medical assessment, get it scanned for a chip, checked for a tattoo, and medically treated or euthanized as is warranted. Hell, if the area is so damn rural, the vet may RECOGNIZE a missing pet and be able to facilitate a reunion.

        So yes, I would much rather see the cops kill an animal (any animal – wild or domesticated) that is irredeemably suffering on the side of the road in that moment than haul it who knows how far (and what happens if they get an emergency call while en route? Could that animal conceivably suffer for hours before the officer was free to drive it to the range to shoot it?), drag it out of the car for who knows what distance and then shoot it possibly multiple times to finally put that animal out of its misery. If it is not safe to dispatch the animal on the spot, then the animal should be taken to the vet for assessment.

        There is no reason to prolong suffering. There is no cause for cruelty.

  8. Kamala Harris
    California Attorney General
    Kamala Devi Harris is an American attorney. She is the 32nd and current Attorney General of California following the 2010 California state elections. Wikipedia
    Born: October 20, 1964 (age 48), Oakland, CA
    Nationality: American
    Office: California Attorney General since 2011
    Siblings: Maya Harris
    Education: University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1989), Howard University (1986)

    Mailing Address
    Attorney General’s Office
    California Department of Justice
    Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, CA 94244-255

    Public Inquiry Unit
    Voice: (916) 322-3360 or
    (Toll-free in California)
    (800) 952-5225
    Fax: (916) 323-5341

    contact he person who can do something about this.. it is despicable.. any wonder so many dogs are shot.. and I wold guess that many of these dogs are “pit bulls” so perhaps some sick people think “who cares’ because the media has “alinskied” these dogs

  9. Christopher McCall upthread is correct. This is illegal in California.

    It’s also all I can do not to vomit, because our dog Bertie was originally from Merced, and he was picked up off the streets starving and sick. We already knew we were lucky he was pulled quickly by the no-kill shelter we adopted him from, but we never knew this was a risk.

    Also, I agree with Mikken. Only a fool or a sadist would transport a severely wounded animal to a shooting range and then blast away at them with a shotgun and call it emergency euthanasia. I’m also betting from the description that some of these poor dogs were not that badly wounded. They were just targets.

    And now I’m going to hug Bertie and cry on him a bit.

  10. Joe, sorry, no, civilized people do not use badly injured pets for target practice. And when the Merced cops have the animals shot by young, inexperienced oificers, that’s exactly what they are doing: using them for target practice, not “humanrly euthanizing” them.

    These people are sadists.

    The injured deer you KNOW is not someone’s family pet. Also, they are not hauled off to a shooting range to be used for target practice by inexperienced cops. They are dispatched on the spot, as quickly as possible. Or at least that’s the case most places. God knows what the sadists in Merced do.

    1. Liz, Unfortunately you are acting a bit cuckoo. Take a deep breath, and come back down to earth, dear. First and foremost, you are completely making things up by saying that the officers are “sadists”. Additionally, you are making more things up by saying that the Merced police officers who do this are “inexperienced cops”. If you have proof of this, I’d like you to present it (but I know you don’t—you’re just shooting from the hip). Your comments mean nothing when you just start making things up. Do your research, THEN comment. Not the other way around. (Using them for “target practice”?? I think you live in la-la land).

      1. Linda: LOL!! Keep dreaming baby! Just bringing some common sense to some of these ridiculous comments. (I own my own Mac repair business, btw).

      2. Joe, you are the one living in la-la land, or, as Linda suggested, you are a Merced cop. The srticle plainly stayes that the department admits its cops are not trained to do this, and that it is not uncommon for it to take more than one shot.

        If the animal can be driven to the range, it can be driven to a vet where, if euthanasia is appropriate, it can be done appropriately. If that’s really impossible, and the animal needs to be shot, it can be done on the spot, as they do with deer. The car ride to the range to be shot by cops not trained in how to do a euthanasia killing, rather than doing it on the spot, is much crueler evev if the job wouldn’t be done any better on the spot. At least the intervening agony of being moved repeatedly would be avoided.

        Sorry, Joe, but anyone who willingly participates in this is a sadist–as well as breaking California law.

      3. Cuckoo—-some of you are completely cuckoo. Totally incapable of rational thought. And now you think I’m a cop. Oh wait, a MERCED cop. LOL!!! Don’t forget to take your meds tonight…..

      4. OK, I’ve finished reading now. Joe, since you feel everything written in this post is wrong and commenters here are crazy and incapable of rational thought, I know you won’t mind being banned. In fact, I’ll be doing you a kindness. Not the sort of kindness doled out by the Merced police department obviously…

      5. Joe,

        I haven’t finished reading all the comments on this thread yet but you are new so I’m going to straighten you out on something right now: We don’t call people “cuckoo” or any other names here. Different viewpoints are welcome, personal attacks are not. Stick to the topic at hand.

  11. gawd makes me want to turn in my Mac and never buy another Apple product again. Joe is a “baiter” a troll and he knows it.. ignore him so he can fix the latest crash with Adobe on a Mac..he is much better suited to stay in his hidy hole..

    1. LMAO @ Doug!!! You are a funny man. Can’t handle a discussion or facts, so you resort to name calling. You MUST be a liberal. You people keep me entertained.

      1. Oh and you must be a republican because your ability to shoot things comes before everything and everyone else. See how ridiculous that sounds? Thats how you sound.

  12. The fact that they take these animals to a shooting range is all the info I need…That means there is no way it is a mercy killing. If the animal is to horribly injured to be transported to a vet then it should be to injured to be transported to a range.????? I mean really come on guys. A mercy killing is to end suffering quickly not add to it with a car ride and then an officer that dont no crap about handling a hurt animal. I am thinking these animals even being thrown into the trunks of the car, cause if they are that badly injured I doubt they are gettting a nice soft ride in the backseat. It is so sad that this has to even be a point of arguement? It has nothing to do with animal advocates not educating the public enough, It has nothing to do with irrosponsible owners….It has everything to do with a creature in need of help and not recieving that help.

  13. Does that really shock anyone, nothing surprises me when it comes to the cops that are employed in the US. They obviously take pleasure in killing animals, which is one of the signs of mental health issues. Looks like you are being protected LOL by future serial killers. The lack of compassion and empathy that an person would have to have to take an animal out to a shooting range and probably make it a game like they are hunting is scary.

  14. Shirley, I really wish you would toss Joe on the “firing range” and blast him off here, permanently. He hasn’t added anything to the discussion except to show his ass, and frankly, it’s not a nice one and I don’t want to see it anymore.

  15. This just sounds disgusting. There are plenty of times with shelters where an animal isnt doing too well and needs euthanasia, but not at the greatest of time, and they dont take it out to a shooting range and kill it. This is just sadistic. I emailed AG Harris but I doubt it will do much good.

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