March 17 (UPI) -- The shooting of a trainee bomb-detecting puppy at the Auckland, New Zealand, airport provoked surprise and outage Friday.
Animal rights activists and other dog lovers condemned the actions of police after Grizz, a 10-month-old border collie and German shorthair pointer cross, was shot and killed Thursday morning when he escaped his handler, Noel Thorburn, and roamed airport runways for three hours. Sixteen flights were delayed Friday as airport employees attempted to capture him. The dog, six months from training graduation and work with the government contractor Aviation Security Service, was on his first tour of an airport when he escaped. Airport officials asked police to shoot him after attempts to catch him failed.
The controversial decision angered some people in New Zealand, and some, including morning television hosts, asked why tranquilizers could not be used, One News channel said Friday.
"There just isn't ready access to tranquiliser guns and darts in New Zealand, and even if authorities did manage to get their hands on one in time, there are so many other factors to take into consideration, like how close the animal is, the animal's weight, age, and how much adrenaline was also running through the body," said Callum Irvine of the New Zealand Veterinary Association. "The bottom line is that probably no vet clinic in the country actually has or uses tranquilizer guns or darts anymore. The only place that you might see a tranquilizer gun used is in a wildlife park or in a zoo, and even then, very rarely. It's a fairly crude form of delivery of sedation."
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said the dog escaped from his handler at around 4:30 a.m., but the airport was dark and too large to quickly contain the puppy.
"[Grizz] was on an initial airport environment socialization program as part of his training. The Airport Emergency Operations Center was activated and a full search was commenced. We tried everything, food, toys, other dogs, but nothing would work. In these difficult circumstances the Airport's Emergency Operations Center team decided to have the dog destroyed," the unidentified spokesman said in a statement.
The son of the dog's handler called the incident a tragic accident. Speaking about his father, Nicky Thoburn told New Zealand's One News channel, "He has over 30 years' experience with dogs and they are his passion. His job is to serve and protect our airport, and people are disrespecting him for that."