MERCED (CBS13) — Animal lovers are questioning a policy where Merced Police officers take injured animals out to the police shooting range to kill them.
The penal code has been on the books for decades. Some officers say it's the most humane thing you can do, while others call it barbaric.
Officers use deadly force to save the lives of others, but what about shooting severely injured dogs or cats found on the street?
According to a California penal code, it's an officer's discretion, saying in part:
"...any officer... may, with the approval of his or her immediate superior, humanely destroy any abandoned animal in the field in any case where the animal is too severely injured to move or where a veterinarian is not available and it would be more humane to dispose of the animal."
"No one wants to see an animal lose its life, but if death is inevitable, and it's just being prolonged," said Sacramento County Sgt. Jason Ramos.
He says the sheriff's department doesn't have a specific policy for shooting injured animals, but his agency understands why an officer may be forced to.
"Sometimes in the middle of the night you don't have a vet available, you might be in an extremely rural area. Quite honestly, taking an animal's life might be the most humane thing to do under those circumstances."
Policies vary across the state. In Sacramento, officers aren't allowed to shoot animals.
Oakland changed its policy after the controversial shooting of a deer in someone's backyard.
And the Merced Bee reports Merced Police take injured animals to the range and kill them there.
"That sounds so archaic to me," said veterinarian Dr. Jyl Rubin. "What a crazy way of thinking, especially with all these rescue organizations."
She believes law enforcement agencies that still shoot injured animals should consider creating an alliance with rescue groups.
"All those organizations need to really come together. There needs to be something finite that way if an animal is injured you don't take it out on a range and shoot it."
Most vets we spoke to say if you find a severely injured animal on the street, it's best to call animal control or law enforcement.
Many police agencies call animal control to evaluate severely injured animals.
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