Captive bolt gun 'acceptable' way to euthanise dogs, MPI says
A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) inspection of Invercargill City Council dog pound's euthanasia facilities has left it in the clear.
The council had come in for significant criticism, both on social and in mainstream media, after a video showing apparent mistreatment of an euthanised dog came to light last week.
The video, obtained and released by animal rescue group Paw Justice, appeared to show a council staff member kicking a restrained dog's head moments after it was euthanised with a captive bolt gun.
In response to the public release of the video and resulting furore last week council chief executive Richard King disputed the dog had been "stomped on" – as claimed by Paw Justice co-founder Craig Dunn – saying instead the staff member was "disengaging the animal from the equipment".
That position now appears to have been backed up by ministry officials, who conducted an inspection of the pound on Tuesday.
"A MPI animal welfare inspector has discussed the video with the Invercargill City Council chief executive and viewed the dog pound," an MPI spokesperson said.
"The inspector is satisfied with the standards at the facilities. Overall, the council's procedures are acceptable and comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act."
The council had, however, been advised to consult a senior veterinarian on its use of captive bolt guns to euthanise dogs at the pound.
While the use of a captive bolt gun was a lawful method of euthanising dogs, it was not necessarily "best practice", MPI said.
"The use of a captive bolt gun doesn't breach the Animal Welfare Act, provided it is used correctly by a trained operator. The Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare 2010 recommends best practice for euthanising dogs is by a veterinarian using an intravenous injection."
Captive bolt guns were first used by the council in April 2016 following the approval of the method by elected council members.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the council said the devices' use had been cleared by the local SPCA as "humane", before being introduced.
Since the method's implementation, 122 dogs had been euthanised, although not all by captive bolt.
The total figure included dogs whose owners had chosen to have their dog euthanised by lethal injection – per MPI guidelines – at their own cost.
Dog owners could choose to have their dog euthanised by captive bolt at no cost.
The council did all it could to home unclaimed dogs, it said.
"Should council be unable to locate the owner, the statutory requirement is that the dog be held for seven days, after which time it becomes the property of the council. However, council often allows a further grace period to allow more time for the dog's owner to come forward before any further decisions are made."
Staff using the captive bolt method had been fully trained, with aggressive dogs sometimes also requiring a catchpole to "ensure safety of staff", the council statement said.
"In the video, the dog slumped against the loop of the catchpole, meaning the catchpole was caught between its neck and the frame. The animal control officer was then unable to disengage the catchpole from around the dog's neck because it was caught. The officer uses a foot to attempt to move the dog's head enough to release the catchpole's loop.
"The footage was filmed in the very early stages of council's use of captive bolt guns. Procedures have changed and further training has been undertaken."
Having passed its recent inspection, the council said it planned to continue with the method, as it was an improvement over earlier euthanisation techniques.
"The decision to use captive bolt guns . . . [has been] deemed safer for staff, less stressful for the dogs, and more cost effective."
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