Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, Winter 2001-Spring 2002, Vol. 11 No. 3-4
*************************

Guidelines for Police Officers When Responding to Emergency Animal Incidents

by
Paul M. Hanyok, Inland Corporal,
Central Region Office, Natural Resources Police, Maryland Department of Natural Resources,
3738 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills, Maryland 21117
[Editor's Note: The author is now a Sergeant.]


Originally published by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and reprinted with permission.

Abstract

Police officers, due to their numbers and availability, are the professionals most likely to respond to calls involving sick, injured and dangerous animals. In these situations where intervention is necessary, a correct response may call for euthanasia (painless and peaceful death) of an animal in order to preserve public safety or to end the animal's pain and suffering. For officers to make such a decision can be exacting, requiring them to consider the legal, safety, and ethical ramifications of their actions. If euthanasia is deemed necessary, officers must then be prepared to administer the proper technique for the animal species and circumstance at hand, and to carry through with it in a safe, compassionate, and skillful way. This study was undertaken to provide the guidance and training necessary to help law enforcement professionals successfully resolve emergency animal incidents. First, a questionnaire was sent out to Maryland Natural Resources Police Officers that solicited information about their experiences in animal emergencies. Their replies identified several major areas of concern. Next, a thorough review of reference material on currently accepted euthanasia methods was made and applied in a realistic way to the problems encountered by the law enforcement profession. From this, draft guidelines were established, then critiqued by an advisory committee made up of veterinarians, animal rights advocates, firearm experts, biologists, animal control professionals, and police officers. Their work resulted in a comprehensive set of guidelines that will help officers make proper decisions in animal emergencies and, therefore, lessen the officer's anxiety and the animal's suffering in the process.

Police officers face many challenges in the course of their duties. Sometimes these challenges require them to make important life or death decisions. Given this level of responsibility, it's no surprise that as a whole, the law enforcement profession is the one relied upon most often to respond to emergency situations involving sick, injured, or dangerous animals. When doing so, the law enforcement professional must consider the wants and needs of the public he or she serves. Undoubtedly, the public will want the animals treated in the most humane way possible. This means the officer's first thoughts of intervention should include the feasibility of relocating dangerous animals and treating and rehabilitating those that are sick or injured. Schmidt (1989) argued that the wildlife management profession (law enforcement included) should be greatly concerned with animal welfare issues and incorporate in decision-making processes a goal of reducing pain and suffering and causing no unnecessary deaths. Often though, in emergencies, the officer is left with no choice but to euthanatize the animal (take its life in a painless and peaceful manner) in order to preserve public safety or to end the animal's pain and suffering. This is never a welcomed task, but it is one that must be accomplished with compassion, courage, determination, and skill. While most of us would agree that these are qualities we expect in our officers, we should also understand that training is essential in applying them.

Over the years, the Maryland Natural Resources Police have received numerous requests from allied police agencies to provide the training necessary for handling emergency wildlife incidents. The agency's response was to first study the problems experienced by police officers in these situations and then to provide suitable solutions and training. It was learned early on that this study would be a precursory endeavor that would require the involvement of experts in many related fields. While much study has been put forth on these issues involving other wildlife professionals, such as veterinarians, biologists, and animal control specialists, very little of this effort was directed toward police officer concerns. The Maryland Natural Resources Police hope that this study will provide the guidelines necessary to help law enforcement professionals make proper decisions in emergency animal incidents and, further, help them justify their actions to themselves and to the public in a more informed and sympathetic way.

It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge the help given to me by a number of experts in the animal science and wildlife field who volunteered to be a part of an advisory committee for this study. Their sincere concern for animal welfare and realistic views regarding animal death were the enabling factors in the creation of this work. Many thanks are due to the following individuals and the organizations they represent for their review and helpful suggestions: Dr. Taylor Bennett, Director of Biological Resources Lab, University of Illinois; Stephanie Boyles, Wildlife Biologist, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; Bob Davis, Manager of Hunter Services, National Rifle Association; Tom Decker, Wildlife Technician, Wildlife Division, Maryland DNR; Ken D'Loughy, Central Region Manager, Wildlife Division, Maryland DNR; Dr. Cindy Driscoll, Veterinarian, Maryland DNR, Dr. Patrice N. Klein, HSUS Wildlife Veterinarian and Director, HSUS-WRTC; Mike Kreger, Animal Welfare Information Center, National Agricultural Library; Dr. Victor Nettles, Director, SCWDS, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia; Dr. Mark Pokras, Tufts University Veterinary School; Heidi Prescott, National Director, Fund for Animals; Carolyn “Nicky” Ratliff, Executive Director, Humane Society of Carroll County (Maryland) Inc.; Robert Schmidt, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University; and Laura Simon, Urban Wildlife Director, Fund for Animals.

Special thanks must also go to the officers of the Maryland Natural Resources Police who took the time to complete a survey about the current procedures they employ in emergency animal incidents. The information they supplied about their experiences proved to be invaluable.

[To Contents]

Preparing for the Response

Being prepared for emergency animal incidents greatly enhances the capabilities of the police department and the responding officer. Knowing who to call for help when needed and having the proper tools in hand will not only improve the effectiveness of the response but will ensure that the situation is handled in the very best way possible.

Police officers have always relied on other officers for backup, and rightfully so in law enforcement situations. However, when dealing with incidents involving animals, expertise and support may better come from others in related fields. Officers and their departments should develop partnerships with other agencies and individuals whose work involves animal care. A. list should be developed and kept at the police communications center, as well as in the patrol unit, that provides the names, addresses, and telephones numbers of the resources found in Table 1. The list should also include the type of assistance available. Most State Natural Resources/Fish and Game Agencies have already compiled this list.

Officers should also prepare themselves by assembling beforehand the tools and equipment necessary to handle emergency animal incidents. Examples of these can be found in Table 2. Once assembled, they should be kept in the patrol unit.

[To Contents]

Responding to the Scene

The majority of the emergency animal calls handled by police officers involve automobile collisions, power line collisions, window collisions, sickness, animal abuse or hunting recoveries. When responding to these incidents, the officer should gather as much information on the animal's location as possible. If the caller will not be on the scene, ask whether or not the animal is mobile. If the animal has moved from the scene, ask the caller to describe its direction of travel, the area it fled into, and the nature and extent of its injuries or sickness. Valuable time may be wasted if these inquiries are held until your arrival on the scene. Small wild mammals, birds, dogs, and cats are good candidates for rehabilitation and, if practical, this should be your disposition of choice. Further, pet owners will expect this course of action to be taken. Have ready your resource list of facilities and personnel that may be available to assist you.

[To Contents]

Arrival on the Scene

Upon your arrival on the scene and after providing medical care to injured persons, make an immediate effort to locate the animal. In the case of an automobile collision, traffic control may be necessary if the animal is on or near the road surface or there is a risk of it fleeing into traffic. If the caller is present, ask for assistance.

Question the caller or any other person on the scene about possible human or pet contact with the sick or injured animal. If the animal is later discovered to be rabid, those who were exposed to it will need to be treated. Rabies exposure has been defined by the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee as either: a) Bite Exposure - any penetration of the skin by teeth or b) Non- bite Exposure - scratches, abrasions, open wounds or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (brain matter and spinal fluid) from a rabid animal (Arguin, 1999).

In cases involving pets or livestock, every effort should be made to identify and locate the owner. They can supply the officer with valuable information about the animal, help make contact with a veterinarian, and give input into decision-making processes.

If the animal has moved from the scene, make an initial search while standing at the accident site or, in the case of a sick animal, the area it was last seen. Immediate tracking may cause the animal, especially a deer, to flee farther away without being detected. Using binoculars, carefully scan the area where the animal was last seen and in the direction it was headed. Often, the animal will be found standing or lying nearby.

[To Contents]

Tracking the Animal

If not located nearby and the call involves an automobile collision, start tracking the animal by carefully looking for signs of trauma around the accident site. Even though most of the trauma experienced by an animal in an automobile collision will be internal, there may still be blood or hair deposited at the scene from external wounds. These signs and any drag marks and tracks may give some indication of the severity of the animal's injuries, its ability to travel and the direction it is headed.

Now move slowly and quietly in the direction the animal is believed to have fled. Continue to search for signs such as animal tracks, blood and hair on the ground and on rocks, logs, bushes and twigs, and for trampled down grasses and broken twigs. Many times, mortally wounded or sick animals will seek sanctuary in thick cover, along stream banks, near fences, and in ditches. Their travel may be along established trails. Often, other animals in the area may give signals that indicate the presence of the animal you are searching for. Listen for such things as dogs barking, crows or blue jays calling, or squirrels barking. If cattle, horses or other livestock are in the immediate area, they may look in the direction of the animal. Always consider searching an area within 150 yards of an accident site. Your tracking effort may require greater distances on calls involving sick animals.

[To Contents]

Approaching the Animal

After locating the animal, move toward it slowly, quietly, and with caution, being ever cognizant that you may need to make an evasive maneuver if the animal charges toward you. Avoid making direct eye contact with the animal or loud and rapid movements. They could cause the animal to panic, making your job ahead much more difficult. They will also stress the animal and add to its suffering. Always make your approach from the rear and keep a safe distance away. Antlered or horned animals can cause serious harm if approached carelessly. Wild birds under stress may exhibit abnormal and aggressive behavior. The beaks, wings, feet, and legs of large birds, when used in defense, can be dangerous weapons. Some birds, like hawks and owls, are carnivorous and have sharp beaks and talons capable of wounding severely. These species should never be handled by an untrained person. Domestic animals must also be approached carefully. Dogs that have been severely injured may bite. Cats can be unpredictable. A sick or injured cat may turn hostile, using its teeth and claws against you. Horses may bite, kick, or press you against an object. Cattle rarely bite but will kick, butt with their heads, and press you against an object. Pigs will bite and their jaws are strong enough to crush bones. Sheep and goats will not bite or kick but will use their heads as a battering ram. Horned animals are especially dangerous. When approaching domestic animals, do not reach your hand out to them first. Sit or crouch down close to them and speak in a calm, soft manner. Sometimes this will have a calming effect. On the other hand, never speak to or make noises around wild animals. You will only alarm them.

[To Contents]

Intervening

Once the animal has been located and approached, the officer must then decide whether or not to intervene. He or she must be prepared to assess the animal's condition, then decide if the animal should be left alone, rehabilitated, or euthanatized. A general knowledge of animal injuries (Koeppl, 1998) and rabies-suspect behavior is essential when determining the type of intervention, if any, to take. Intervention guidelines are presented in Table 3. However, if the officer is unsure, he or she should consult their resources list and take advantage of the partnerships they have developed to ask for assistance.

Diseases such as rabies need to be recognized if the public's safety is to be ensured. Unfortunately, many people have been misinformed about signs and symptoms (Simon, 1999). While it is impossible to make an absolute diagnosis in the field, there are certain behaviors exhibited by rabid mammals that should lead an officer to suspect the virus. The more an officer knows about this disease and its symptoms, the more he or she will be prepared to properly respond. However, even the most knowledgeable person will have a difficult time ruling out rabies based solely on behavior or appearance. So when in doubt, use your resource list to seek assistance and always treat public safety as your top priority. Table 4 lists the most common rabies-suspect behaviors found in mammals.

Daytime activeness in normally nocturnal mammals is frequently misinterpreted as characteristic of the rabies virus. Many times this behavior can be explained as normal conduct in wildlife when foraging for food. Young mammals (raccoons, foxes and skunks) that have just been weaned or are orphaned will normally conduct food searches during daytime hours. They may appear tame, wobble, and make high-pitched noises. It's not uncommon to have the young of these species present in a homeowner's yard during daytime hours, sometimes right up to the front porch or door. Daytime food searches are also frequently conducted by females of these species when they are nursing. Too often these mothers have been needlessly euthanatized and their young orphaned because their daytime activity has been misinterpreted. Therefore, it is important for officers to realize that other rabies-suspect behavior be present before intervening in cases involving daytime activity.

If an animal's injury or sickness is found to be inconsequential, no further action is necessary. Examples of this may be a deer that is moving away to avoid contact or one that is merely in shock or unconscious and has no other apparent injuries. Deer in the latter categories may recover and move away within 30 minutes. Here, the officer needs only to confirm that the deer is breathing, then make a follow-up visit within 2 hours to see if it has recovered.

If rehabilitation of the animal seems possible, practical, and legal, some of the tools and equipment found in Table 2 will be helpful when attempting restraint and handling procedures. However, if the officer is untrained or feels uncomfortable with these procedures, he or she should consult their resources list and wait for trained assistance to arrive before intervening. Small mammals and birds are good candidates for rehabilitation, and if appropriate, this should be the disposition of choice. Adult deer with broken legs and other serious injuries are not. On the other hand, deer fawns respond well to medical attention and, in most cases, can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild without major problems. In many states, there are laws prohibiting the possession and rehabilitation of certain mammals. Check with the Natural Resources/Fish and Game Agency in your state. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits the possession and rehabilitation of migratory game birds and endangered species without a permit. Make certain that the rehabilitator has its permission and report the incident to the agency.

If the animal is a candidate for rehabilitation, it will need to be restrained and transported to an appropriate facility. This should be accomplished in such a way as to minimize additional stress and suffering to the animal. All persons involved in the restraint and handling procedures should wear protective gear, such as ballistic or leather gloves and goggles. A net and restraint pole do well when it is necessary to capture the animal before placing it into a carrier. Often though, all that is needed is a broom. It can be used to gently push or direct the animal into a container. Cardboard boxes or manufactured pet carriers make perfect containers for transporting animals. Pillow cases or canvas bags work especially well with snakes and cats. All containers should be covered or tied and of the appropriate size. If a cardboard box is used, it may need to be modified to ensure adequate ventilation. Once the animal is secured in the carrier, it should be placed in a safe, secure, and environmentally comfortable area of the patrol unit and transported to the rehabilitation facility without delay. During transport, darkness and quiet will be needed to calm the animal. Covering the carrier with a towel or blanket will help.

If the officer is unavailable to transport the animal, individuals found on the resources list may be able to assist. The officer should stay with the contained animal until help arrives. If the officer needs to respond to another call, the carrier or ventilated box should be identified with a tag and placed in a secure, shaded area, out of the weather. The police communications center should be made aware of the exact location of the animal and container so they can pass the information along to the rehabilitator and the person providing the transportation. The officer should make a follow-up visit within 2 hours to confirm that the animal was picked up.

Mortally wounded animals, those exhibiting rabies-suspect behaviors or those that cannot be practically, legally, or humanely rehabilitated, will need to be euthanatized. The euthanatizing methods presented below are based upon recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA,1993). Since most police officers have no means to administer euthanasia drugs, non-drug techniques are incorporated. None of the guidelines or recommendations provided are intended for use without first being tempered by professional judgement and common sense. It is important that the officer consider only the euthanatizing methods outlined below for the intended species and use them only in the order presented. All of the methods require proficiency and should never be attempted by anyone who has not received adequate training. Any incorrectly applied procedure will add greatly to the stress and suffering of the animal, as well as the person administering it.

OPTION #1: Secure the area, keeping the public at a safe distance and out of viewing range. Refer to your resources list and request the assistance of a trained and/or certified individual who can come to the scene and administer euthanasia drugs. Advise the individual, prior to making contact with the animal, of any suspicions of rabies. Have the individual administer the drug, if appropriate. If a trained and/or certified individual with euthanasia drugs isn't immediately available or cannot respond to the scene in a timely manner, proceed to Option #2 or, in the case of suspected rabies where a human or pet has been exposed, Option #6.

OPTION #2: (For deer and other large wild mammals) Shoot with a handgun, rifle or shotgun. If the approach can be made within 6 feet, the firearms of choice are handguns and small caliber rifles. Aim the handgun(.38 Special, .357 Mag, 9 mm, .40 caliber S&W or higher power) or small caliber rifle (.22 Mag or higher power) behind the ear toward the opposite eye so that the bullet passes through the brain. Or aim the handgun (.357 Mag, .40 caliber S&W or higher power) or small caliber rifle (.22 Mag or higher power) at the intersection of imaginary lines crossing from the ears to the eyes. The barrel of the gun should be inclined perpendicular to the skull front. Bullets fired at shallow angles may ricochet off the thick skull. When using less powerful handguns and rifles than those listed, the muzzle of the gun must be placed within 6 inches of the head at the exact location specified. If the animal has antlers or horns, use extreme caution. The long barrel of a rifle will allow you to place the muzzle closer to the animal's head while standing at a safer distance away. If the shooting must be done at a distance, the firearms of choice are shotguns and rifles. Shotguns (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with “O” or “00" buckshot may be used when shooting 5 to 15 yards from the animal. Aim at the animal's head, lower neck (spine), or directly behind the shoulder blade (heart/lung) to fell and follow up with a head shot as previously described. Shotguns (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with rifled slugs may be used when shooting 15 to 75 yards from the animal. Aim directly behind the shoulder blade (heart/lung) to fell and follow up with a head shot as previously described. Rifles (.223 caliber or higher power) may be used when shooting at distances from 25 to 200 yards. Aim directly behind the animal's shoulder blade (heart/lung) to fell and follow up with a head shot as previously described. Note: In the case of highly mobile animals, injuries are likely to be inconsequential, making these long shots unwarranted. Usually, long shots are only necessary when an obstacle prevents an officer from getting closer to an animal, such as a deer stuck in thin ice on a lake.

For small wild mammals

Shoot with a handgun, small caliber rifle or shotgun. If the approach can be made within 3 feet, the firearms of choice are handguns and small caliber rifles. Aim the handgun (.22 caliber L.R. or higher power) or small caliber rifle (.22 caliber L.R. or higher power) at the head so that the bullet passes through the brain. The brain mass of small mammals is very small, requiring extremely accurate shots. Get as close to the animal as possible before making your shot. The long barrel of a rifle will enable you to place the muzzle closer to the animal's head while standing at a safer distance away. Shotguns (12, 16 or 20 gauges) loaded with #6 to #2 shot may be used when shooting 5 to 15 yards from the animal. Aim at the animal's center of mass.

For birds

Shoot with a shotgun (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with #6 to #2 shot. All shooting should be done from 5 to 15 yards of the bird. Aim at the bird's center of mass. With larger birds, #2 shot may be necessary to penetrate the primary feathers of the wing. When shooting large birds with long necks (geese and turkeys), use #2 shot and aim at the head/neck area. Large, flightless birds (emu and ostrich) should be shot at a distance of 5 yards using #2 shot. Aim at the head. Take great care with them as they can run fast and deliver a lethal kick.

For dogs and cats

Shoot with a handgun, small caliber rifle, or shotgun. If the approach can be made within 3 feet, the firearms of choice are handguns and small caliber rifles. Aim the handgun (.22 caliber L.R. or higher power) or small caliber rifle (.22 caliber L.R. or higher power) behind the ear toward the opposite eye so that the bullet passes through the brain. Or aim the same handgun or small caliber rifle at the intersection of imaginary lines crossing from the ears to the eyes. The barrel of the gun should be inclined perpendicular to the skull front. The brain mass of small dogs and cats is very small, requiring extremely accurate shots. Get as close to the animal as possible before making your shot. The long barrel of a rifle will enable you to place the muzzle closer to the animal's head while standing at a safer distance away. Shotguns (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with #6 to #2 shot may be used to shoot small-sized dogs and cats. All shooting should be done from 5 to 15 yards of the animal. Aim at the animal's center of mass.

For livestock

Shoot with a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Whenever possible, the animal should first be restrained and tied to a tree or fence at a convenient location. Large animals, after being euthanatized, are difficult to move. If the approach can be made within 1 foot, the fire arms of choice are handguns and rifles. Aim the handgun (.38 Special, .357 Mag., 9 mm, .40 caliber S&W or higher power) or rifle (.223 caliber or higher power) so that the bullet passes through the brain. The muzzle of the gun must be placed within 1 inch of the animal's head with the barrel of the gun inclined perpendicular to the skull front. Bullets fired at shallow angles may ricochet off the thick skull. If the animal is horned, use extreme caution. The long barrel of a rifle will enable you to place the muzzle closer to the animal's head while standing at a safer distance away. If the approach can be made within 6 feet, the firearms of choice are shotguns and rifles. Aim the shotgun (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with rifled slugs or rifle (.223 caliber or higher power) behind the ear toward the opposite eye so that the bullet or slug passes through the brain. If the shooting must be done at a distance, the firearms of choice are shotguns or rifles. Shotguns (12, 16 and 20 gauges) loaded with rifled slugs and rifles (.223 caliber or higher power) may be used when shooting 15 to 75 yards from the animal. Aim at the middle of the animal's neck to fell and follow up with a head shot as previously described.

Note: Use only the firearms you are trained in and authorized to use. Before shooting, get as close to the animal as possible and only shoot at distances from which you are accurate. Never shoot at an animal lying on or standing near a hard surface. The bullet or shot may over-penetrate and exit the animal's body, resulting in dangerous ricochets. Free ranging bullets or shot pose a danger to people and property in the area. Ensure their safety by always being sure of your target and what's beyond. If firearms cannot be used safely to perform emergency euthanasia, proceed to Option 3.

OPTION #3: For animals too large to transport, calm the animal as much as possible. This can be done by placing a blanket over its head and quieting the surroundings. Then monitor the animal and refer to your resources list to seek the assistance of a trained and/or certified individual who is able to come to the scene and administer euthanasia drugs. For smaller animals that can be transported without risk of injury to yourself and extreme suffering of the animal, relocate them to a suitable location for gunshot euthanasia or to a facility where euthanasia drugs can be administered. The capture, restraint, handling, and transportation of the animal should be done in such a way as to minimize additional stress and suffering. The animal should be transported in an appropriate sized, covered container with adequate ventilation. Darkness and quiet will help to calm the animal. The officer should always wear protective gear such as ballistic or leather gloves and goggles before handling the animal. When appropriate and if it can be done safely, shoot the animal as described in Option #2 or if at an appropriate facility, have a trained and/or certified individual administer euthanasia drugs. If the animal cannot be transported and it meets the size and weight criteria presented below, proceed to Option #4.

OPTION #4: Small mammals (5 pounds or less) and birds (pigeon-sized or less) may be rendered unconscious by stunning and then euthanatized by decapitation (cutting off the head of the animal) or exsanguination (cutting the major blood vessels in the neck of the animal). This procedure should only be performed as a last resort when all other options of emergency euthanasia have been reviewed and either rejected or exhausted! The officer performing the procedure must be adequately trained in the method and proficient in its use. Before beginning the process, the animal should be placed in a plastic bag or covered with a bag, blanket, towel, cloth or newspaper. This will help to calm the animal, reduce any distress experienced by observers, and eliminate blood and body tissue contamination. A hole or opening should be made in the cover so that the back of the animal's head can be seen. The procedure involves two distinct and necessary steps. The officer must first render the animal unconscious by using a device, such as an ASP baton, that is capable of delivering a single, hard, fast blow to the back of the animal's head. The speed and intensity needed to achieve an effective stun is similar to that exerted when using a rolled-up magazine or newspaper to swat a fly. The effect of the stun will vary from a brief state of unconsciousness to death. After the animal is rendered unconscious, the officer must proceed quickly and euthanatize the animal by decapitation or exsanguination. A 4-inch bladed, razor-sharp edged knife may be used to perform either method. Game shears work well only when used to decapitate. After rendering the animal unconscious by stunning, uncover it and locate its neck. Then make a slit in the cover and replace it over the animal, positioning the slit directly above the animal's neck. A knife or shears may then be inserted through the slit. When using a knife or game shears to decapitate, the animal should be placed on its side, back or chest and then its head cut off or snipped. Death will be certain, even though the officer may observe some reflex twitching. When using a knife to exsanguinate, the animal should be placed on its back so that the knife can be used safely to cut into the front and one side of the neck, down to the vertebrae. Once done, it will take a short period of time for the animal to bleed out and die. Generally, no reflex movements will be observed with exsanguination. The “stun and euthanatize” procedure should be performed quickly and only by an experienced and trained officer. An incorrect or ineffective action will add greatly to the stress and suffering of the animal, as well as to the officer administering it. If the “stun and euthanatize” procedure cannot be administered correctly and quickly or the animal doesn't meet the weight or size criteria, proceed to Option #5.

OPTION #5: Calm the animal as much as possible by covering it with a blanket and quieting the surroundings. Then monitor the animal and refer to your resources list to seek the assistance of a trained and/or certified individual who is able to come to the scene and administer euthanasia drugs.

OPTION #6: If it is suspected that the animal is rabid and humans or pets have been exposed, emergency euthanasia must be performed by administering euthanasia drugs or by shooting with a firearm. When shooting, aim directly behind the shoulder blade (heart/lung) being extremely careful not to damage the brain. A gunshot to the brain may render the laboratory sample useless.

[To Contents]

Ensuring Death

Once the euthanasia procedure has been performed, check to make sure the animal's death is certain. Move to the upper side of the animal, above its back, staying clear of hooves, antlers, horns, teeth, claws, and talons. Look at and feel the animal's chest to check for respiration. If none, prod the animal's rear flanks with a long stick or similar object. If there is no movement, move carefully to the front of the animal and look at its eyes. If they are open and appear glassy, touch the eye surface and look for a reflex. If none, the animal is dead or unconscious and nearly dead. Closed or squinted eyes may indicate that the animal is conscious and still alive. Never touch or handle a sick or injured animal without wearing protective gloves and goggles. If the animal is not dead within one minute, repeat the emergency euthanasia procedure.

[To Contents]

Disposing of the Carcass

After emergency euthanasia, the animal's carcass must be properly disposed. This should be performed in a professional manner. If in public, avoid making inappropriate remarks or actions around the dead animal. Placing a cover over it until it can be removed demonstrates the sensitivity the officer has for the feelings of others. This action alone will be a big help if the incident becomes emotional.

If the animal is suspected of having rabies and there was human or pet exposure, laboratory testing of the animal's brain is required. In order to ensure a valid and definitive test, the carcass must be stored in a manner as to slow decomposition. Using protective gloves or a tool such as a broom, place the animal in a doubled plastic bag. By inverting the bags first, the carcass may be picked up without having to touch it with your gloves. Once the carcass is in the bags, tie the opening securely. The bagged carcass should then be placed in a refrigeration unit and transported to the Humane Society [shelter] or Health Department laboratory without delay. If a refrigeration unit is not available, a picnic cooler packed with ice or ice packs will do (Anonymous, 1998).

In cases where the animal has tested negative for the rabies virus but its behavior was abnormal or its appearance seemed unusual, a necropsy examination by a veterinary pathologist should be conducted. These carcasses should be submitted in fresh, refrigerated condition. If this is not possible, freeze it until it can be submitted. If it is determined that the animal was a carrier of another disease, public health and wildlife officials may need to be contacted. The information will also prove valuable in monitoring trends in wildlife populations and diseases.

If not properly disposed of, the carcasses of animals euthanatized by drugs will be toxic to scavenging animals. Deer or other game animals euthanatized by drugs and left in the open could attract hunters, leading to a potentially disastrous situation. These carcasses should be cremated in an approved incinerator or treated with quick lime and buried at least 3 feet in the ground. Do not simply place the carcass in a trash receptacle. It may take days before it will be properly buried at a landfill. In some states, placing carcasses in trash receptacles is illegal.

A carcass that is disease-free and drug-free should be removed from the public's view and left in an appropriate area where it can be a part of the food chain. Many states allow carcasses that are suitable for human or animal consumption to be donated. Check with your state's Natural Resources/Fish and Game Agency for direction.

Incidents involving the emergency euthanasia of federally protected species, such as migratory game birds and endangered species, must be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the incident involved a pet or livestock, its owner must be notified. Remember, most pets are considered part of the family, so be sympathetic during the notification process.

[To Contents]

Literature Cited

Andrews, E.J., B.T. Bennett, J.D. Clark, K.A. Houpt, P.J. Pascoe, G.W. Robinson, and J.R. Boyce (1993). 1993 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 202:229-249.

Arguin, P.M. (1999) Human Rabies Prevention - 1999. Recommendations of the ACIP. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. 15 pp.

Humane Society of Carroll County [Maryland] (1998). Rabies., NM. Publ. 38 pp.

Koeppl, M.A. (1996). What to do for Injured or Other Animals in Need. IVO 1 International, 7 pp. http://www.allanimals.org/newsletter/1301/injured-document.html

Schmidt, R.H. (1989). Animal Welfare and Wildlife Management. Trans. 54' N. A. Wild. & Nat. Res. Conf. (1989) 54:467-475.

Simon, L.J. (1999). Procedures and Guidelines for Wildlife Rehabilitators Who are Authorized to Handle Rabies-Vector Species. Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division. 65 pp.

[To Contents]


Tables

Table 1. Resource list of facilities and/or personnel available to police officers when responding to animal emergencies. The services normally made available by each are included.

  • 24-hour Emergency Veterinary Clinics - holding facility/treatment/euthanasia drugs/ necropsy examination
  • Local Veterinarian - holding facility/treatment/euthanasia drugs/necropsy examination
  • Natural Resources Biologists - handling/transportation/euthanasia drugs
  • Humane Society Workers - handling/transportation/holding facility/euthanasia drugs
  • Animal Control Workers - handling/transportation/holding facility/euthanasia drugs
  • SPCA Workers -handling/transportation/holding facility/euthanasia drugs
  • Local Wildlife Rehabilitators-handling/transportation/holding facility/rehabilitation

Table 2. Check list of items (and their uses) to have in the patrol unit when responding to animal emergencies.

  • Broom - fend off aggressive animal/push animal in carrier/gently pin animal on ground for examination or euthanasia
  • Restraint pole - restrain aggressive animal/restrain animal for examination or euthanasia
  • Cardboard pet carrier or box and pillow case or canvas bag - secure animal for transport
  • Flashlight - illumination
  • Cloth or Paper towels - provide a cover for small animals/clean up waste and body fluids
  • Blanket - provide a cover for large animals/bundle up and transport small animal Plastic bags - storage for animal carcass/cover for animal during euthanasia
  • Net - capture animal/restrain aggressive animal/restrain animal for examination or euthanasia
  • Firearm - euthanasia
  • ASP baton - stunning device to render small animal unconscious prior to exsanguination (cutting major blood vessels in animal's neck) or decapitation
  • Sharp knife (4 inch blade minimum)- device used to exsanguinate or decapitate small animal after it has been rendered unconscious by stunning
  • Game shears - device used to decapitate small animal after it has been rendered unconscious by stunning
  • Ballistic gloves - protection from bites, scratches, cuts and body fluids
  • Eye protection - protection from bites, scratches, cuts, foreign objects and body fluids
  • Cell phone - effective communication
  • Resources list - reference to consult for help when needed

Table 3. Intervention guidelines for injuries encountered during animal emergencies.

Leave Alone

Euthanize

Rehabilitate

Conscious and has normal movements and stance and moves away when approached and is in a normal environment

Crushed head

Cannot be left alone and injuries are not severe enough to euthanatize (When in doubt, and if practical, consult with a veterinarian) and size of animal and/or cost make it practical and species can legally be rehabilitated

Unconscious and there are no other apparent serious injuries (Make subsequent checks, if practical)

Evisceration

 
 

Severe bleeding from nose, mouth, and ears

 
 

Lack of eye response - blink reflex or pupil size change

 
 

Rigidity

 
 

Abdominal bloating

 
 

Cannot be left alone and size of animal and/or cost make rehabilitation impractical

 
 

Cannot be left alone and species cannot legally be rehabilitated

 

Table 4. List of rabies-suspect behaviors found in mammals.

  • circling *
  • Persistent high pitched screeching
  • Wobbling *
  • Lacking coordination*
  • Falling over*
  • Dragging rear end
  • Disorientation *
  • Depression (retreat to isolated places)
  • Self-mutilation (gnaw or bite their own limbs)
  • Puncture wounds, bites and scratches attributed to fights with other animals
  • Partial or full paralysis*
  • Abnormal facial expressions (sagging jaw or drooping head)
  • Unprovoked aggression (may attack stationary objects or other animals)
  • Uncharacteristic tameness

[To Contents]


This article appeared in the Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, Volume 11, Number 3-4, Winter 2001-Spring 2002

Go to:
Contents, Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin
Top of Document

The Animal Welfare Information Center
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Research Service
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351

Phone: (301) 504-6212
FAX: (301) 504-5181
Contact us: http://awic.nal.usda.gov/contact-us

Policies and Links


U S D A logo A R S logo N A L logo
June 18, 2013
This page's URL is http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/newsletters/v11n3/11n3hany.htm