Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Was deputy's shooting of dog legal?

The Gainesville Sun asks that question in this article. The story has evolved after a deputy shot a retired police dog named Kozar, stating that the dog was 13 and in declining health. The story also reports that "animal rights activists believe Florida statutes permit owners to shoot their pets only in emergencies" and discusses provisions of Chapter 828, Florida Statutes. The story also quotes Scott Heiser, a senior attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund:
Section 828.05 relates to situations in which a law enforcement officer can kill an animal that is so injured or diseased that it is imminently near death. It clears the officer of liability under certain circumstances.

The section states that an officer can kill the animal by shooting or with drugs if he has made a reasonable and concerted but unsuccessful effort to locate the owner or a vet.

The last sentence states that the section "does not prohibit an owner from destroying his or her own domestic animal in a humane and proficient manner when the conditions described in this section exist."

. . .

[O]thers contend that the statute refers primarily to emergency situations and that shooting should be only as a last resort and if a veterinarian could not be reached.

Among them is Scott Heiser, senior attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and a former Oregon prosecutor.

Heiser said he believes the statute requires the owner to try to get assistance from a veterinarian.

"The only way that last sentence makes any sense is if the owner is unable to seek the aid of a vet. Under standard canons of statutory construction, that is the only way you can give meaning to that sentence in this context," Heiser said. "You could read the statute two ways. One, the deputy is not entitled to the protections of an officer (because he was off-duty) and the last clause is also quite applicable. He should have used the services of a veterinarian."

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