At the end of July, two big, expensive Tibetan mastiffs owned by Senator R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls) got loose, biting a female pedestrian and a police officer. The woman went to the hospital. The policeman shot twice at the dog that bit him but missed. The animals were apprehended and taken to the pound.
That Sioux Falls paper reports that the owner (the paper does not name Senator Curd) chose not to keep the animals, which city ordinance would have allowed him to do under certain conditions. The city thus killed the dogs.
SFPD spokesman Sam Clemens tells the paper that Sioux Falls police do not have authority to kill vicious animals:
“We don’t have the authority to euthanize vicious animals,” Clemens said in an email. “We will work with people who are trying to decide if they want to keep the animal or give them time to meet all of the stipulations. In cases where they do not want the animal, the animal is then euthanized” [Katie Nelson, “Police: Dogs Involved in July Attack Were Euthanized,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.09.16].
That’s not quite accurate. Ordinance 90.003(f) says, “Any vicious animal not in compliance with this article shall be seized by the animal control officer or any police officer and impounded. If the animal cannot be captured, it may be destroyed.” That wording suggests Sioux Falls police must first attempt to capture the vicious animal but may kill the beast if capture isn’t working. The ordinance does not specify how long a police officer must try to capture the creature, so I would assume that had the Sioux Falls officer who was bitten hit his target on the dog’s second attack, this ordinance would have given him cover for his on-the-spot euthanization of the attacker.
Besides, state law says police really do have authority to euthanize dangerous critters:
Any peace officer, officer or agent of a humane society, or agent of the board may use all necessary means to control a dangerous animal so as not to immediately jeopardize the health or safety of themselves or others. Any officer or agent of a humane society, agent of the board, or peace officer may enter, search, and investigate premises, take testimony from owner and witnesses and seize, impound, or euthanize a dangerous animal [SDCL 40-1-24].
Rapid City police apparently have a better grasp of that statute and better aim:
Authorities say a Pennington County sheriff’s deputy and an animal control officer were trying to catch the dog that had escaped from Morrow’s house on Wednesday. They say it lunged at them and that the deputy was forced to shoot it five times.
…Capt. Jay Evenson, with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, said his deputy acted responsibly because the dog resisted every attempt to be captured without violence and had to be shot after it charged at the deputy [“Deputy Shoots Pit Bull in Rapid City; Owner Mad,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2015.09.12].
Related Legal Reading: State law makes clear that police may kill a dog that is attacking big game, and any person may kill a dog that attacks domestic animals. Plus, our animal cruelty laws specifically exempt “any reasonable action taken by a person for the destruction or control of an animal known to be dangerous, a threat, or injurious to life, limb, or property.”