Shoot to kill - humane?

A little while ago I heard about something I couldn't quite believe. Yet when the story was investigated it was true.

Here's the exchange of emails...

Hi, a while ago I spoke to you re a story I had been told about the RSPCA shooting dogs in Wales, well at long last I have their reply. Anyway thought I would keep you up to date...

Thank you for your enquiry. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We receive a very large volume of enquiries here and have to prioritise to deal with urgent animal welfare issues first.

There has been some misinformation posted with regard to this case. The facts are as follows:

We received a call on 23 June this year from a member of the public relating to 10 German Shepherd dogs at an address in Pontardawe, in south Wales. The caller said the dogs owner, a relative, had died and the dogs had been living on their own.

An RSPCA inspector visited the premises that day and assessed the animals. The inspector took the decision that none of the dogs were at all suitable for rehoming due to concerns about their aggressive behaviour and lack of socialisation with people. The dogs were also suffering from a severe skin condition.

We explained the next-of-kin that they should contact other rescue groups for help. The next-of-kin were made fully aware that if the RSPCA became involved, the dogs would be euthanased.

The owners next-of-kin later contacted the RSPCA again and said they had been turned down by other charities who were unwilling to take on the animals and they signed over the dogs, fully aware of what would happen.

It is the RSPCAs raison d'etre to prevent cruelty to animals, and it was decided this sad, but ultimately necessary, outcome for the dogs was the best way to prevent the animals any further suffering. The decision was not made lightly and, as always, it was made with the best interests of the animal at heart.

Thank you again for contacting the Society.

Kind regards
RSPCA HQ Advice Team

Our contact then asked if the dogs had been shot...
Thank you for your further enquiry.

Yes, they were. A decision was made following a discussion between eight RSPCA officers that the most humane form of euthanasia would be to use a captive bolt. This would minimise distress to the dogs, while also being the safest method for those people responsible for dealing with the animals. Restraining the dogs and then shaving a limb to prepare for a lethal injection would have caused these animals unnecessary suffering, due to the animals suffering from a severe skin condition.

Thank you again for contacting the Society.

Kind regards
RSPCA HQ Advice Team
I have to say I am stunned by this story. Now some people I've told this to have been less so - maybe I'm a bit of a softie...

"When people commit suicide, how do they do it? A bullet to the brain most of the time. A captive bolt is the same as that, and how we kill most farm animals. It is not an unethical way to die, provided the person knows what they are doing. I am a practiced killer, and a blow the brain does the job as quick and painlessly as possible. I do not object to a blow to the head. In fact, I think I object to dying almost any other way. "

But then again another contact said:

"Re- captive bolt, use on dogs, personally I'm against it, as dogs have large frontal sinuses and if they move their head you can miss the cranium! So in my opinion on welfare grounds the dogs should have been sedated first, in which case you could then use euthatal injection anyway. Even if you can't dart them all, you could sedate in food. The restraint needed to hold the dogs still would still have been terrifying I would think!..."

and then again...

"I think a captive bolt, properly administered, is a very immediate way to die. And they were killed on their own premises – which is arguably kinder, too. None was killed in front of any of the others."

What do you think? A very upsetting story whatever your view.


Anonymous said…
My first thought was shooting would be less traumatic for unsocialised dogs than being restrained for euthanisia. Reading on it looks like the dogs would still have been restrained for the captive bolt.

I would expect shooting to be quicker than an injection which from personal experience takes a minute or two or even longer (depending on reason for PTS).

Do we think an injection is kinder because it seems more peaceful?

Recently I read a fictional book based around the death penalty by lethal injection. What I read was very distressing to me when thinking about my own pets, it mentioned research about how the injection can cause great pain (feeling your blood boiling in your veins) but the body being unable to respond.

I've been too afraid to google research into.
Anonymous said…
I'm sure that the RSPCA would've used what they deemed the most humane method, I just hope that the gunsman was accurate.

Re pain from lethal injection, I'm dubious about pain felt if it's in a vein and think that was probably just fiction to enhance the story. I've read some information on euthanasia and whilst the solution is painful if injected outside a vein (which is why vets often insert a catheter into the vein first), it's not if it's inside the vein, as far as I'm aware. Since there aren't any nerves inside veins I don't see why it should be.
Tottie Limejuice said…
There are a few other points of concern surrounding this story. Firstly one wonders how long these dogs had been living in unacceptable conditions and why nothing had been done about them before.

On the face of it, it would seem possible that the skin condition may have pre-dated the owner's death - had they been on their own since the death one wonders if they would have survived long enough for a skin condition to become so severe.

Again one is inclined to wonder why one person was keeping so many large dogs in one establishment and for what purpose?

And then there is the blind faith of people whose attitude seems to be "well the RSPCA said it was ok so it must be." That is not necessarily the case, and if we all constantly allow such things to go unchallenged, we risk handing over tremendous power to an organisation without question.

I recognise that the RSPCA does a great deal of very valuable work. But there are a great many of their policies with which I heartily disagree, and for that reason I no longer support them in any way, financially or otherwise.

They may very well be right, it may be that they took the most humane, and indeed the only course of action open to them.

But I would still like to know why nothing had been done to prevent such a tragic end to the lives of 10 dogs.
alfmcmalf said…
I don't know enough about the captive bolt kit to comment on how humane this approach was in truth.

But like the many stories I read about social services and the wrongs and rights of the tragedies that have ensued with regard to child protection I do think there is a moral question higher up the food chain before the authorities are blamed for everything.

None of us knows when sadly our own dogs may have to be fostered or rehomed. Any of us can experience life changing circumstances that might force a rehome. And to that extent I feel we all have a moral duty to ensure our dogs are cared for and socialised to the max. Thus making a good rehome very feasible for them. There have been several cases recently where fostering and rehome have been rendered extremely difficult because the dogs in question have serious issues. I would like the keepers of those dogs to reflect on what they could have done differently in the first place before we start blaming the officials who are there as a last resort. And we should all reflect on the dilemma of how we may be contributing to an uncertain future for our own dogs if we don't do what is right by them.
Claire M said…
I would imagine the dogs were restrained in a manner which minimised the risk of injury to the persons involved eg by use of a dog catcher (a noose on the end of a long pole - the noose is slipped over the dog's head and then pulled relatively tight from the opposite end of the pole). Very different from the close contact required to euthanase a dog by injection - one hand holds the dog's head close to the person's body and the other holds the dog's foreleg in an extended position and completely still. The dogs could have been sedated (injection into the hind leg), but this results in a dramatic fall in blood pressure, which can make finding the vein in the foreleg very difficult. Without knowing all the details, it sounds as if the RSPCA probably took a realistic decision. NB A very thought-provoking previous comment.
Anonymous said…
I cannot see in the information printed that at ANYTIME did the RSPCA actually try to assess the temprement and behaviour of the dogs so they could of been rehomed, did they take them into a kennel and feed and care for them for at least 7 days? so they could then make a proper assement of their behaviour and temprement? the consulationof the next of kin must of taken some time, so what happened to the dogs during this time or wasit the standard RSPCA annswer "to drop food through the letter box!!" The RSPCA have a great deal of money to use in such cases to have provided vet care to have treated the animals but againit seems they are too stingy to do so...........I wonder what MArke Evans wouldof said to the National Press to defend such a vet surely his first duty is of care and protection of life? The RSPCA shoots dogs is not a head line they or he could defend!!!
In the pink said…
Geographically I'm sure this is a 'hotspot' for incidents which makes it all the more alarming that the RSPCA with all their funding could not deal with this in a more considerate way. Sad to think not even one of those dogs could have the chance of a better life.
Mina said…
Having seen a 'healthy' dog being euthanased for aggression problems I would say it's not always a kind method. The dog was in a lot of distress, and even after the first injection he cried and cried and appeared to be in pain. It seemed to take a very long time and I had to leave the room because I couldn't stand and watch any longer - I was obviously bringing no comfort at all to the dog. If I could have snatched him and run off with him, I would have.

I had a rabbit that had to be euthanased due to a parasite in his brain. He seemed to just nod off into a gentle sleep. Why it was so difficult for this dog I don't know, but any method of euthanasia should be INSTANT. Not prolonged as was that poor dog. If these GSDs were shot and it was instant, that must be better than taking so long to die with the injections?
Anonymous said…
IF they could get close enough to use a bolt gun they why could they not sedate the dogs with a dart gun (like they do at zoo's etc) and then administer a lethal injection????
Anonymous said…
If they couldof got close enough tohave used a bolt gun they could of got close enough to have sedated them and then asses AND TREAT them.....but it seems the RSPCA dont have welfare at heart ......they talk the talk but dont walk the walk..............would they have done this when Annimal Hospital was on tv??......I doubt it...... From the original post you can see that the RSPCA just tried to fob the person off who asked what had happened they dont ever admit to things unless. Would love for BC to find out from Mark Evans just why they could ot be treated .........or is he too busy flogging his latest project, to actually work as a vet for the RSPCA .......the job he very very well paid to do!!!
cambstreasurer said…
Dogs that have been owned by a single elderly person and never socialised to other people can be an absolute nightmare to rehome - this does NOT mean that the elderly person has been neglectful or cruel. Such dogs may end up extremely nervous and timid simply through lack of experience of normal things like traffic noise and other dogs.

A big dog like a GSD is potentially highly dangerous and requires a very experienced new owner who is willing to accept quite a restricted lifestyle and who is physically capable of controlling the dog in an emergency.

I have experience of unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate dogs like this which ended up with them having to be put to sleep (by injection at the decision of the new owners) and it was very upsetting for everyone concerned.
Anonymous said…
Cambstreasurer yes a valid point but YOU gave THAT dog a chance, the RSPCA did not give these dogs ANY CHANCE, they took a decision with out making ANY effort to treat the dogs, or evaluate them in ANY MANNER. They have more money than most other rescue organisation and yet they appeal everytweek for millions more, yet they are not prepared to even TRY and save the life of just ONE of these dogs. Do you not think could of at least tried???
jo siemieniowski said…
Sorry but I think this is barbaric!
Eric Sullivan said…
I suggest that the RSPCA looks up the WSPCA's guidelines on euthanasia for cats and dogs and undertakes a full review of its methods.
Altie said…
Unfortunately there has been much hysterical comment posted, I suspect, by people who have little or no practical experience in dealing with difficult animal situations.
If the use of the captive bolt gun is thought to inhumane then why are many hundreds of thousands of food animals legally killed by this method in the UK?

Popular Posts