After New Hampshire dog’s death, an effort to ban guns to put pets down

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The death of a brown-and-white, mixed breed named Bruno on the northern fringe of New Hampshire’s White Mountains has sparked an angry response from animal rights activists who want to ban owners from using a gun to “put down” old, sick or dangerous dogs.

“It was done in such a cruel manner. The dog was shot multiple times and left to die,” said Katie Treamer, one of the founders of Justice For Bruno, a group lobbying to make it a felony to shoot a pet to death in New Hampshire. “In this day and age, it’s just not a responsible way to euthanize a pet.”

A humanely placed bullet is a generations-old method of dispatching pets in rural parts of the country where a veterinarian’s syringe can be expensive and hours away. And even those angry at how Bruno died say outlawing the practice isn’t likely because it is so deeply ingrained in the nation’s agrarian traditions, where farmers and ranchers have long put down domestic animals with a gunshot.

New Hampshire is among 27 states plus the District of Columbia that have no laws governing “emergency euthanasia,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Justice For Bruno has contacted state officials and its petition has more than 36,000 signatures in support of a new law.

State Rep. John Tholl, who lives in New Hampshire’s north country and chairs the House public safety committee, said a ban on shooting a pet as a form of euthanasia faces long odds, especially in rural states.

“It’s been common practice for people up here to put down their animals – not just dogs – because they’re hurt in such a way that they can’t be saved or they’re so old that they need to be relieved of suffering,” Tholl said. “And the cost to do that through a vet is quite expensive.”

The dog whose death prompted calls for new legislation, however, was not injured.

Bruno was found shot four times in September in the former timber city of Berlin. Bruno’s owner, Ryan Landry, said in a Facebook posting he was forced to put down the year-and-a-half old dog because it had bitten his children. Landry declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press.

Treamer said Landry had other options, including returning Bruno – no questions asked – to the shelter where he was adopted. If the dog truly was dangerous, then medical euthanasia administered by a trained professional would have been the preferred way to end Bruno’s life, she said.

State laws restricting emergency euthanasia vary.

Maine’s law is explicit: “An animal may be shot if it is restrained in a humane way, it is performed by a highly skilled and trained person using a weapon that will produce instantaneous death by a single shot.” Several states allow law enforcement, veterinarians or animal welfare workers to shoot a pet if the animal is injured, sick or dangerous. In New York, “no person shall euthanize any dog or cat by gunshot except as an emergency procedure for a dangerous dog or a severely injured dog.”

Tholl also says shooting is humane when done right.

“Let’s face it, there are people who are qualified to put down an animal with one shot,” he said.

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