Oklahoma Shelter (Legally) Euthanizes Dogs with a Pistol

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dogs in animal shelter

“We probably should have handled this with the vets involved, you know, instead of taking actions the way we had done,” Leonard Washington, mayor of Bristow, Okla., told Mashable today.

Just two days ago, the much less contrite mayor told The Daily Beast, “I don’t know why it’s a controversy … why such outrage now?”

In both cases, he’s referring to the shooting deaths of dogs in the Bristow Animal Shelter by its one animal control officer, George Moore. Over the past two weeks, Moore has taken three dogs to a pit behind the shelter, pushed them in and then shot them in the head. And these weren’t the only dogs at the shelter who have died in this cruel manner.

“This is something that’s been a practice for 40 years,” Washington told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know why it’s a controversy … why such outrage now?”

Why? Well, for one thing, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals recommends that killing an animal by shooting it should only be done in extreme circumstances, such as if the animal is attacking people, or is in extreme pain and a veterinarian is not available. In those cases, the shooting “should only be performed by highly skilled personnel trained in the use of firearms,” the AVMA states.

Moore has had no such training. The dogs had not been attacking people or in pain.

While Oklahoma law allows municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people to use “any humane method” to euthanize animals (Bristow’s population is about 4,000), it doesn’t define what those humane methods are. Therefore, Moore was not actually doing something illegal.

“We need to eliminate the practice of shooting these dogs in the head. It’s barbaric. It’s not up to the times. People are outraged,” local activist Beth Roberts told The Daily Beast.

Because the shelter is located on the property of a water treatment facility, it is not accessible to the public. Roberts only found out about the shootings after a shelter volunteer wrote about them in a private Facebook group. A city employee provided Roberts with more disturbing details, telling her he “was always the one to dig the holes and cover up the bodies when needed,” she told The Daily Beast.

Moore used a small, .22-caliber pistol to kill the dogs. Many of them were Pit Bulls, which he allegedly dislikes and would keep in the shelter for only a day or two before dragging them to the pit. The pistol is “not something that ends their life quickly,” Roberts added.

Washington blamed the shootings on the large number of strays entering the small shelter. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t have an overabundance of dogs in our dog pound because we can only have 10 at one time, so that’s a problem,” he told Mashable.

But Roberts and other local residents told The Daily Beast they’ve been trying for years to help get the dogs adopted, only to be turned away. One woman was banned from the shelter after she complained to the mayor that the dogs were being deprived of food and water.

The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals has created an online petition asking the Bristow Animal Shelter to only use a veterinarian for euthanizing animals, and to open the shelter to the public. It has more than 9,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

For now, euthanizations have been suspended at the shelter “so we can make sure that we do the process the way it’s supposed to be,” Washington told Mashable. Residents can adopt pets free of charge to clear more space in the shelter.

Photo credit: chrismetcalfTV