ACT News

Police mercy killings on animals a grim part of the job

There have been 162 incidents over the past five years where an ACT police officer had to fire his or her weapon.

In 159 of those incidents a Glock pistol was used to kill an animal.

Police have used their guns 159 times in the past five years to put down injured animals, including kangaroos.
Police have used their guns 159 times in the past five years to put down injured animals, including kangaroos. Photo: Jay Cronan

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said the most common circumstance would be a kangaroo, being humanely put down, after being hit by a vehicle.

It is a grim and little known part of a police officer's job. But an unavoidable one.

Police have also had to put down livestock.
Police have also had to put down livestock. Photo: Nicolas Walker

Australian Federal Police Association chief executive Dennis Gellatly said it was not a daily occurrence but it did happen and police could be affected by such incidents.

"I recall the first time I had to shoot an animal," Mr Gellatly said. "It was a kangaroo. It was difficult as the animal was moving around a lot which made it a particularly difficult shot.

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"You also have safety considerations regarding those around you, which direction you are going to shoot, that is, not toward houses, and whether there is the possibility of ricochet off the road surface."

He said in his case the kangaroo was badly injured and the decision to shoot was quick.

Occasionally even cows and horses needed to be shot by police, he said.

ACT Policing did not provide details on other animals that were shot.

"We do not have a breakdown on types of animals," a spokeswoman said.

However ACT Policing did provide information about the use of force on two dogs.

One incident last year involved a police officer using a chemical spray on a dog that was tied up, while in 2013 a dog was tasered.

"The use of the conducted electrical weapon was on an attacking dog," an ACT Policing spokeswoman said. "As per the AFP Commissioners Order on Operation Safety (use of force), a member may use a conducted electrical weapon to deter an attacking animal."

Although permitted to use a baton to fend off an attacking animal there were no recorded incidents where a baton was used.

Categories for use of force in dealing with people are broader than those for dealing with animals. For people the use of force can include use of a firearm, a baton, a chemical agent, a taser, handcuffs, a police dog or kicking in a door. For an animal it is the use of a taser, firearm, chemical agent or baton.

ACT Policing members are governed by AFP Commissioner's Order 3 (CO3) in the application of force.

In the 2013-14 ACT Policing Annual Report there were eight breaches established in relation to use of force.

Five of those breaches were classified as of a "non-serious nature" while three were of a "serious nature."