Sarge was considered family by many in the community.
An animal control officer who killed a pet in a case of “mistaken identity” has resigned from Gisborne District Council, “burdened by the weight of the mistake which led to the untimely death of a much-loved family dog. An error that I will forever regret”.
The Gisborne family dog, Sarge, was “mistakenly put down” on Friday, September 22, a bolt gun was used, rather than lethal injection, said Gisborne District Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann.
Sarge’s owners meanwhile are “beyond devastated” and still in shock as to how something “so unjust could happen to our boy”.
“He was our world, and now he has gone, and nothing we say or do will bring him back.”
Council has now appointed private investigator Kate Wallingford, of Owl Investigations, to undertake “an independent inquiry into the incident to understand the process, verification and compliance procedures from the moment the dog was picked up,” said Thatcher Swann.
She now had confirmation that Sarge was on the road when another Animal Control Officer picked him up.
“Sarge had both a tag and microchip. The Animal Control Officer was able to identify Sarge from his tag and he was taken back to his address on a lead. This is our normal practice when dogs are picked up and we are able to correctly identify them.
“Unfortunately, no one was home at the property and the owners were unable to be contacted.”
Sarge was taken to the pound and the officer left a message for his owner to pick him up.
“What happened next is under review. However, it appears that what occurred was a terrible, regrettable mistake and a case of human error by another officer that was not involved in picking Sarge up earlier in the day,” said Thatcher Swann.
Sarge’s whānau were still too “traumatised” to talk, but issued a statement to Stuff:
“Our dog Sarge was taken from our property by a Gisborne District Council dog ranger and put down. His family had no opportunity to speak to anyone before he was killed. We were advised of this horrible ‘mistake’ late Friday afternoon, a mere seven hours after he was taken.”
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Town and Country vet Roger Bay and his team euthanise a growing number of animals at home, where the pet’s last memory is of its happy place.
The officer involved also issued a statement, saying the mistake was his.
“Gisborne District Council has processes in place, which I unfortunately did not follow. I want everyone to understand that one individual’s error should not be a reflection on the entire Council and its staff who work hard for the community. No one else should be blamed for my mistake.”
He wanted to make clear that the other animal officer who found the dog on the road “acted according to the rules,” and was not involved in putting down the dog.
Given the seriousness of my failure, I have decided to resign from my position at Gisborne District Council. I believe in taking ownership for my actions.
He would cooperate with the investigation, and made a direct apology to Sarge’s family.
“From the depths of my heart, I seek your forgiveness. And while the pain might not subside, I hope that in time, healing will begin.”
Council boss Thatcher Swann confirmed that Sarge had been killed by a “captive bolt gun”, a firearm operated by explosive charge, compressed air or spring powered. She acknowledged it was a method disapproved of by SPCA, but Gisborne council had “used that method for a number of years”.
The SPCA opposes the routine use of captive bolt guns for the euthanasia of dogs in pounds or shelters.
“In most situations, the best method of euthanasia for dogs is by a veterinarian using lethal injection, where possible (and sedation if required to reduce the stress of handling prior to euthanasia),” SPCA policy says.
After animal welfare group Paw Justice complained about the use of the method in 2017 at Invercargill council, the Ministry of Primary Industries told Stuff at that time that use of a captive bolt gun was not “best practice” under animal welfare law, which recommended intravenous injection by a vet.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and the government’s 2018 code for “commercial slaughter”, there are legal obligations which must be followed, and failure to do so may result in prosecution.