ANAHEIM (AP) — The Orange County district attorney’s office is investigating a complaint that animal care officers cruelly slit the throat of a four-point buck, allowing it to bleed to death without anesthesia, after it was found with its leg impaled on a wrought-iron fence in the upscale Anaheim Hills neighborhood.
Veterinarian Kathleen Johnson reported the animal cruelty, alleging OC Animal Care officers intentionally and maliciously slaughtered the male deer on Sept. 29.
OC Animal Care director Ryan Drabek says Officer David Serrato and Sgt. Juan Orozco have been on paid leave since Oct. 1 while the agency investigates.
“OC Animal Care takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and expects all members of our agency to act in accordance with established policies, procedures and standards,” Drabek said. He said the agency is looking into how the buck was euthanized.
The district attorney’s office has so far concluded the action wasn’t criminal.
“Whether you agree with what they did or not, it’s not a crime,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the district attorney’s office.
Johnson, a veterinarian at Yorba Regional Animal Hospital, said she and her husband were walking their dogs at 9:30 p.m. when they heard rustling in the bushes and Johnson shone her flashlight, illuminating a buck thrashing with its leg impaled on the top spike of a fence.
She called 911 and when animal control officers arrived Johnson introduced herself as a veterinarian and said she’d assessed the deer. She said it was impaled through its leg muscle and could be lifted off the fence and then rehabilitated by a wildlife veterinarian.
The animal control officers said the buck should be euthanized; however, they no longer had drugs to administer in the field. Johnson offered to get some from her home nearby but officers told her not to interfere.
She watched the officers struggle to put a towel over the buck and hog-tie his hooves as he thrashed still upside down. He was too heavy to get off the fence.
An officer pulled out a knife to cut off the buck’s leg and untangle it, but Johnson said that would be inhumane. “The officer told me, ‘What does it matter, he’s going to be euthanized anyway?” Johnson recalled.
The officers told Johnson to leave, and once she did, they cut a 5-inch slit in the deer’s neck and let it bleed to death.
County Supervisor Todd Spitzer has been investigating the incident.
“County training does not authorize the slitting of an animal’s throat so it can bleed out slowly,” Spitzer said. “It’s inhumane and unconscionable with folks we want in the county dealing with animals.”