SAN ANTONIO - The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has instituted a new policy to avoid having deputies shoot injured animals, but it relies on help from the thinly-staffed Bexar County Animal Control Services.
Whereas BCSO policies used to allow deputies to request permission to kill an animal that appeared to be mortally wounded, a new Sheriff's Directive dated Sep. 5 requires Bexar County Animal Control Services be notified when a deputy comes across an injured animal whose owner can't be determined or found.
Under the new directive, the responding animal control officer, or ACO, would determine what needs to happen with the animal, including calling for assistance from a veterinarian.
Bexar County spokeswoman Monica Ramos said, however, there are only four ACOs who work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and they rotate on-call duty for the weekend and overnights.
When asked whether Animal Control would actually be at BCSO's disposal at all times, Sheriff Javier Salazar said his office was still going to call them.
"If they can make it out, great. If they can't make it out, then that's -- that's going to be something we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to. But we're certainly going to make the call, and we're certainly going to do everything in our power to keep from having to destroy that animal on the side of the road," Salazar said.
The policy does not rule out having to kill an injured animal, noting that "in some cases, a roadside euthanasia may be necessary." It also requires deputies to stay at the scene with the ACO and a veterinarian or veterinarian technician until the animal is removed.
When asked about deputies potentially having to wait long times before an ACO even arrives, Salazar said the department is asking deputies to wait "a reasonable amount of time."
"So what we're asking deputies is to 'Look, exhaust other means if able, and if not, then we may have to make that ultimate decision,'" Salazar said.
Ramos said the county's Animal Control would try out this new plan with BCSO for a few months and see if there is, indeed, a need and if they need more staff. Its continued response, though, would depend on if Animal Control decides it's needed.
Salazar said avoiding euthanizations by deputies has been a concern that came up during discussions with "several folks from the animal rights community" over programs BCSO is looking to implement.
"I'm an animal person myself, so I could see where we'd want to exhaust other means before resorting to a roadside euthanasia situation," Salazar said.
In March, KSAT reported on the story of an owner who was upset a deputy had euthanized her dog without notifying her. Salazar said he couldn't point to any single precipitating incident, but said it's always an "upsetting situation."
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