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Dear Sheriff Manfre: Why Are Deputies So Quick to Shoot Animals–and Leave Them?

| April 11, 2013

The raccoon that a Flagler County Sheriff's deputy shot and killed at 10:30 a.m. today (April 11) was then disposed of and left in a lot at the intersection of Rickenbacker Drive and Rippling Brook Drive, where it remained late this afternoon. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The raccoon that a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed at 10:30 a.m. today (April 11) was then disposed of and left in a lot at the intersection of Rickenbacker Drive and Rippling Brook Drive, where it remained late this afternoon. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies on regular occasions respond to complaints about animals in neighborhoods, especially raccoon, deer and opossums.

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Deputies shoot and kill the animals when they are judged to be sick or ailing, though it isn’t always clear how that judgment is reached. Deputies fill out reports of the incidents, especially since they have to account for the firing of their department-issued Glock firearm, but the reports are brief and to the point: where the animal was found, whether it looked sickly, and how many rounds were fired to kill it. At times, Palm Coast’s animal control is called in either to tend to the animal or to dispose of the carcass. At times, the carcass is left in empty lots. The practice has on occasion raised questions among residents and people concerned about animal welfare, who see and hear how animals are killed then disposed of.

One such case unfolded today in Palm Coast’s R-Section. At 9:50 this morning, sheriff’s dispatch received a call about a sick raccoon on Rickenbacker Drive off Royal Palms Parkway. The notes of the call to dispatch refer to a “sick raccoon,” “possibly rabid.” At 10:10, a deputy located it and reported it to be “sick and lethargic.” The raccoon was “put down,” according to the dispatch notes, at 10:30 a.m. The notes conclude: “Raccoon appeared to be sickly and injured and needed to be put down. Animal put down and body was relocated to a wooden lot nearby.”

Lynn Gussman, a neighboring resident, was disturbed about the handling of the matter, and evaluated it differently in a letter to Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, which he received earlier this afternoon and referred to a watch commander for review. The letter touches on several issues that have been of concern to residents regarding similar dispositions of animals, and may inform the sheriff’s office’s ongoing, comprehensive review of its policies and procedures. The letter is reproduced below in full. The Sheriff’s Office’s answer is here.

Dear Sheriff Manfre,

Lynn Gussman. (© FlaglerLive)

Lynn Gussman. (© FlaglerLive)

I am writing to you out of concern for the welfare of both wild and domesticated animals in Flagler County. It seems that every week, there is at least one incident of an animal being shot by one of your officers. The official report is usually that the animal was “sick or injured.” However, there seems to be an unusually high number of animals being shot by law enforcement in this area, and that should be evaluated.

One such incident happened in my neighborhood today. A neighbor called the police simply because he or she saw a raccoon out during the day. Of course, this fact alone does not warrant the assumption that the animal is rabid. My husband happened to see this raccoon on his way to work. It was eating something along the side of the road. It did not appear to be either injured or ill. Other neighbors, who had seen it that morning, including my tenant, also did not see any signs of illness or injury.

When the officer responded to the call, he shot the raccoon to death. When my tenant asked the officer why he shot the animal, he told her that it was “rabid.” However, the officer then simply picked the raccoon up and threw it into the woods. Obviously, this is not a responsible way to dispose of a potentially rabid animal.

When my husband and I phoned the sheriff’s office, we were told the official report filed by the officer listed the animal as both “sick and injured,” but said nothing of it being rabid. However, if the officer did in truth consider the raccoon to be sick, then he had a responsibility to have it tested to determine if it was in the early stages of rabies. Throwing a “sick” raccoon into the woods is completely irresponsible and unacceptable. Since many witnesses saw the animal in apparent good health, a reasonable person would have to wonder if the officer shot the animal simply out of cruelty and boredom.

I hope that you will evaluate the number of similar cases in this county. Shooting domesticated or wild animals because they present a clear and present danger to human life or to put a dying animal out of its misery is a sad reality. However, shooting any animal should be the absolute last resort in responding to these types of calls. Officers shooting animals appears to be a cavalier routine in Flagler County.

Sincerely, Lynn Gussman

Note: see the Sheriff’s Office’s answer here.

Lynn Gussman is a science teacher who lives in Palm Coast. She can be reached by email here.

43 Responses for “Dear Sheriff Manfre: Why Are Deputies So Quick to Shoot Animals–and Leave Them?”

  1. Rod says:

    Your worried about the cops shooting animals when almost every week there is a shooting of a house bound mentally disabled human by these officers. Hey, these guys need practice on living things just as much as our elite seal teams do. Stop complaining and just don’t act too “crazy” or you may be the next target.

  2. Samuel Smith says:

    I wouldn’t trust a flagler county officer enough to enforce the law, let alone judge the well-being of wildlife.

  3. Reality says:

    Oh come on, people. Quit being so sensitive, especially to raccoon’s and opossums. Really? Officers, please continue shooting these vermin.

    • Teed Off says:

      Are You for real!!!!They are living beings and have every right to live too.Maybe next time you feel a Little off a deputy can come by and put a round in you your D@@@B A##..People lets give nature a little respect.How about slowing down when we see deer near the road or a squirrel trying to cross a road.There is way too much road kill in this area.I applaud all the people I see saving a turtle crossing the road.I could go on on this subject for days.I am sad to hear our Deputies can’t determine a sick animal from normal one.I hope they can make the right decision when dealing with people.

  4. The Truth says:

    The sad realty in this case is an un-informed person who knows nothing of law enforcement. Police get called to a possible sick or injured animal, they arnt there to babysit the animal, animal control won’t respond, so what are they to do? The writer speaks of getting the animal tested for early stages of rabies, does she know that in order to test for rabies, the scientists need the brain in tact? So killing the animal by shooting it anywhere but the head will cause it to bleed out and suffer. The humane way is to shoot it in the head, killing it instantly.

    Another thing, boredom. Seriously? If she wants to do something about it, then create a business to come out and pick these animals up and deliver them to the proper facilities before they have to be put down instead of complaining about law enforcement.

    • Teed Off says:

      You got to be kidding me.You think the Flagler county deputies are experts in determining if a raccoon is rabid.You live in another world.I think they just want to shoot something.So lets just call the sheriffs office every time we see a raccoon or other wild life so they can shoot it in the head so you feel safe.

  5. anonymous says:

    They left a deer carcass in the lot next door to mine not even a month ago!!

    • Niihau says:

      Depending on where you live… You can call Public Works for either the County or the City of Palm Coast to remove dead animals like that.

      The Truth speaks that actual truth. Call either animal control in this county and they will tell you that they only respond for DOMESTICATED animals (I.E. PETS). The only time I’ve ever been able to get animal control to respond to a sick raccoon was when they had a distemper outbreak a year or so ago and they needed to keep a count of how many verified sick raccoons there were. AND I used to work at the Humane Society many moons ago, and was bit by a dog in quarantine. The only way to test for rabies is to euthanize the animal and remove the brain intact. Either way… the animal dies. ALSO Fish & Wildlife Conservation (FWC) will not respond for a sick raccoon either.

      Keep in mind that deputies are humans too. They don’t enjoy shooting small helpless animals.

      You want to help? Do what The Truth suggested. Start a business that responds 24/7 to retrieve these “sick” animals and deliver them to a facility that can accommodate them.

      Rod, I think you need to check your facts. There is not an officer involved shooting almost every week in Flagler County. Second, if you come at me wielding a weapon I’m going to defend myself as well. These officers are trained to handle situations you could never imagine or personally handle on a daily basis.

  6. fla native says:

    How does one “judge” whether of not an animal is sick? I guess if there’s any doubt just shoot it. Sad commentary.

  7. confidential says:

    So sad. Lets have respect for our wild animals and domestic pets as well. I put my confidence that Sheriff Manfre will end this practice, if unjustified killing by shooting takes place. Also the manner of that dead animal disposal is totally incorrect. I have raccoons roaming my property at night and all walk kind of funny because that is the way they walk, hunched and just erratically, but I do not call law enforcement to shoot them as sure the invaders of their territory are us, not them that were here first. I see them around when sometimes our dog barks or our motion detection lights get triggered by them and there they are foraging for whatever munchables may have fallen in the grass. They are cute to watch from a distance and in 21 years I lived in Palm Coast never caused us any problems. C’mon people do not call the cops in just roaming wildlife…they were here first. Also keep your garbage cans lids shut tight so they are not attracted to your discard. One persons garbage, is a hungry displaced wild animal treasure. Lets live and let (wild life) live.

    • reader says:

      I agree. Once they have been called on scene those are the only options they have. Put yourselves in the deputies shoes.

  8. Geterdone says:

    I would hope there should be criminal charges filed against officers who practice cruelty to animals by shooting them when there is no confirmation of animal illness; police,officers are not above the law. If this specimen is not preserved for testing after this was promptly brought to the Sheriff’s attention, then I would question if the Sheriff should be investigated for malfeasance. I’m really looking forward to more investigative reporting to come out regarding this type of activity.

  9. Deep South says:

    Excuse me but this is a little ridiculous. People will complain about anything. In a couple of hours that raccoon will be a meal for a couple of Turkey Buzzards.

  10. You Know What says:

    Just because a raccoon comes out in the day time doesn’t mean it is rabid. The officer didn’t call animal control, and he should have. If the animal was rabid, it should have been confirmed so we citizens would be alerted. This behavior is wrong, and just changing policy doesn’t get it. This should be criminal!

  11. reader says:

    Seriously?? To all you who are so quick at bashing law enforcement, please go do a ride along with them. They are constantly putting their lives at risk to protect others, they have wives/husbands, mothers/fathers, children, grandparents, sisters/brothers… Talk to anyone one of their relatives and hear the true stories, the dark sides of what they have to deal with. Put yourselves in their shoes…

  12. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    I find it weird that the Deputies have to called before Animal Control or the Humane Society the latter are brought to the scene in situations like this only after the Deputies show up.

  13. Alice says:

    I would like to know more about this topic. How many animals are shot by Flagler County deputies each year? How does this compare with the number of animals killed by police in surrounding counties? These reports are a matter of public record and should be accessible. What are the specific guidelines that Flagler County deputies following when responding to animal nuisance calls? My gut feeling is that most of these animals that are shot and thrown into empty lots are not sick or injured, they are simply nuisances. If residents complain about an animal, the simplest, laziest way for police to respond is to shoot it and throw it into a nearby empty lot. This brings the complaints about that animal to a halt. I do know that it is a felony to kill an American alligator. When residents complain about an alligator, do the officers notify fish and wildlife to relocate the animal or do they just shoot it? This warrants some investigation.

  14. brewhaha says:

    Why are people even calling the cops when they see a raccoon outside? Beyond that, that woman was right to alert the Sheriff’s office about this incident. If this officer shot this allegedly-rabid raccoon, then picked it up and threw it into a wooded area nearby, he is amazingly untrained for something so basic, that any reasonably-intelligent law enforcement officer in a suburban area with a lot of forests surrounding it should have a half a clue about. This is grade-school Outdoors 101. He or she risked contracting rabies themselves! Where do these people train?

    Rabid animals should be carefully identified by an Animal Control officer or a trained veterinarian. The AC in Palm Coast (in my experience, anyway) respond appropriately when it’s actually warranted. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they have to regularly wade through a boatload of nonsense calls from busybodies who go around peeking out their windows every 15 minutes and call AC any time they see an actual common, native animal walking around their neighborhood in broad daylight. People just don’t use their heads anymore.

  15. jespo says:

    According to the Department Of Environmental Conservation the rabies virus survives only a few hours in warm non freezing temperature so pet owners chill out. Aren’t you supposed to be abiding by the law and not letting your animals run loose or are you so distracted that you can’t see your beloved pet gnawing at a dead carcass? It’s not the job of the Sheriff’s Office to care take wildlife…that’s the job of FWC and they won’t respond to non nuisance wildlife including gators under 6ft long let alone your furry wittle raccoon.. Bears and panthers are protected as well unless they’re a nuisance…kind of trumps coons. Animal Control handles domesticated animals. If you want them to respond then pay more taxes to fund them or shut up. This is Florida. It has an abundance of wildlife in whose habitat you’ve built your homes. Deputies don’t handle dead carcasses as well and I agree they shouldn’t throw it into the woods but it’s the job of Public Works to pick the carcass up, not the deputy. People need to get a grip on facts before they spill their hearts. Question is…..where did YOU build YOUR house and why do you think it’s law enforcement’s job to deal with wildlife? Wildlife dies sometimes. It gets sick sometimes. It gets in your house sometimes. What would you like the deputy to do when you call for help and where would you like him to take the poor animal? FWC won’t respond. Animal Control won’t respond. What’s the guy to do? Take it home? You’re looking for what makes you comfortable without real resolution and I say that’s sad and selfish. I think you need to go to a county/city meeting and voice your concerns to them and not the Sheriff’s Office.

  16. r&r says:

    Why is it they can hit a small animal and they can’t hit a large fleeing crook or a crimal who they let get away.

  17. B says:

    I had a very sick raccoon in a vacant lot next to my home. I called animal control who informed me it would cost $150.00 to come out and take care of the animal. Turns out our animal control’s only task is to make sure our dogs get licensed. Maybe instead of planting flowers every other month on Belle Terre we could get a real aminal control department. The deputy put the animal down and did wrap the body up and take it with him.

  18. there are three sides to every story says:

    Please thank the sheriff for quickly responding and handling the situation by shooting the animal and getting it out of the way. He was doing his job and protecting the people in the area rather then waiting for the animal to bite someone creating an whole different situation

  19. Gia says:

    If this deputy was a smart guy he would have call animal control.

  20. Raccoon/Wildlife Observer says:

    Raccoon facts
    1)Expectant raccoon mothers, new mothers and up to 1 yr old kits look for food in the daytime. They are not sick because they’re out in the daytime. Every time I hear someone say “the raccoon has rabies or is sick becase its out in the daytime” makes me sick.
    Mothers with kits should never be approached. They will defend their babies.
    2) A raccoon that is stumbling, slow and clearly out of it may have distemper or rabies.
    I have seen raccoons with a form of palsy that are perfectly healthy but their leg are deformed.

    I live in an area where there are plenty of raccoons. They’re intelligent, funny, family oriented, mischievous little animals. There is no need to be afraid of them unless you see a mother with her kits. Otherwise, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. I have one raccoon in the woods near my house where she has had 7 litters in 6 yrs.

    From what I understand about possums, they cannot and do not transmit rabies.who ever heard if a rabid possom. That would be scary!

    I don’t even put my garbage out until its garbage day. You’re tempting them by leaving your cans out.

    I think FCSO has better things to do than to respond to a sick raccoon call. Leave it alone and it will die peacefully in the woods.

  21. Raccoon/Wildlife Observer says:

    Opossum Fears & Fables
    A lot of people who call the hotline have the wrong idea about opossums. No, they do not have rabies. In fact it is EXTREMELY rare if even POSSIBLE for opossums to get rabies because their body temperature is too low for rabies to survive and replicate well. The usual reason people think they have rabies is the drooling that opossums do when approached and scared. For the most part though, opossums are all bark and no bite.

  22. Red says:

    Coming to contact with wildlife every once in a while is part of living in Florida. Unfortunately, this is part of “Old Florida” that is slipping away. Shrinking wildlife habitat and more people means these creatures either become roadkill or are reported as a “nuisance”. I agree – there needs to be more respect for wild lands and wild creatures.

  23. PalmCoast Parent says:

    The Deer could have been a gift. Once they shot it, its legal to dress and keep it! Tell me you didnt leave the deer to rot!

  24. confidential says:

    No sufficient and proper animal and wildlife protection and control services why? Because sure we pay enough taxes for that service…What is taking place here is that the conservatives that many vote for, keep squeezing the taxes we pay for the services they do not longer give us in order to have the hundreds of millions of our hard earned taxes to give away to the billionaires Daytona Nascar France family or the Aronson’s for the Dolphin Miami stadium and other very profitable sport entities while taking away from our services, like local animal control and wildlife protection officers and further more from disadvantaged families and their children. Come and talk to me about distortion of capitalism as welfare for the wealthy for the past 40 years at least and getting worst in the last 14 years thanks to the GOP Congress and Senate. We need to clean up Tallahassee and the nation in 2014 and ed the welfare for the rich and foreign countries.

  25. Whodat says:

    For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to
    be most vividly, most perfectly alive.

    — David Herbert Lawrence

  26. Palmcoast citizen says:

    Local animal control addresses your pets. Making sure they have their rabies vaccinations, by licensing them. Florida fish and wildlife is set up to take care of wildlife. It isn’t the FCSO fault that the state does not respond. Public Works will remove dead animals from roadways and the right of ways when they see it or when notified. Some comments say leave it alone to die. When a deputy does that and then it comes into contact with you, your child or pet then what would you be saying? You’d be saying its the deputies fault because he didn’t take care of the animal when the deputy was called out. Animal control does not deal with wildlife. They used to pick them up and the humane society would put them down. The humane society no longer put wildlife down. Distemper goes around in raccoons often. You can tell by watching an animal for a few minutes if its sick or not. It also should retreat when it sees you or is approached by a human if it is sick you can tell. It is up to the officers discretion if he feels the animal is sick or threatening to the people around it they do their job and dispatch the threat.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Good job to the officer. It’s hard to hit a moving target.

  28. Robert says:

    I think the officer did a great job. It’s hard to hit a moving target.

  29. brewhaha says:

    palmcoastcitizen: it makes sense to me to hear that AC doesn’t deal with “wildlife” (as opposed to dealing with domestic pets), thanks for that info. I wonder, though, if the Humane Society no longer puts them down because of a lack of resources, or if they’re just concerned about bringing “diseased wildlife” into their shelters.

    Someone upthread had noted that “Animal Control wouldn’t respond” to this particular situation, I didn’t believe that for a minute, they’ve always been really responsive whenever I contacted them. If it wasn’t their jurisdiction to respond, of course they didn’t! That FL F&W didn’t respond doesn’t surprise me a bit, the state has cut back funding for most anything decent that state employees actually used to do for the rest of us. There’s probably one person to cover the whole county or something…

    I keep coming back to “why were the agencies even called out” for a raccoon in broad daylight? Seriously? This whole drama didn’t even have to happen…

  30. Chris says:

    I’m so tired of the Monday morning quarterbacking… If one of these sick animals bites your dog, cat or family member who are you gonna blame??? Oh yeah, the cops…

  31. The Conservative says:

    To our great Sheriff Dept. Come out of the bushes put the radar guns away and try to take care of
    real crime. I have been told by the Dept that they will do nothing until a crime has been commited,
    what about stopping crime before it happens.

  32. Cooter Brown says:

    TREE HUGGERS!!!!!!!!!

  33. IMO says:

    Sec. 8

    Disposition of dead animals; required procedure.
    When any animal dies on public or private property, it shall be the duty of the owner of said
    animal or the owner of said private property to remove and dispose of said ani
    mal immediately.
    Should the owner not be aware of the animal’s presence, the following procedures shall be
    When any dead animal is found upon public property, the owner of the animal shall remove
    and dispose of said animal upon notification
    by the animal control officer, code enforcement
    officer, or any law enforcement officer to ensure that a public nuisance is not created. If the
    owner fails to do so within a reasonable time, the City shall remove and dispose of the animal
    and charge the c
    ost of said removal and disposal and of all fines resulting from any violation of
    the Code to the owner of the animal if known.
    When any dead animal is found upon private property, the owner of the animal and the
    property owner shall have the joint a
    nd several duty to remove and dispose of the animal, upon
    notification by the animal control officer, code enforcement officer, or any law enforcement
    officer, to ensure that a public nuisance does not result. If the owner or the property owner fails
    to do
    so within a reasonable time, the City shall remove and dispose of said animal and charge
    the cost of said removal and disposal to the owner of said animal if known, and if not known,
    then to the property owner.
    Any person who knows that he or she ha
    s struck an animal with a vehicle shall immediately
    notify either the owner of the animal, a law enforcement officer, code enforcement officer, or an
    animal control officer.

  34. Casey says:

    This is HORRIBLE but it does not surprise me at all. First of all, the police do not need to lie to people about the animal being “rabid”. Look at the statistics and you will find that there has not been a case of rabies herein years. You obviously cannot trust a damn word a cop says to you. Next, wild animals were here FIRST and deserve respect. Just because you do not want to see a raccoon in the middle of the day doesn’t mean it must die. Move to a big city where you won’t see these animals!!! These officers need more training and not be so trigger happy. Can’t wait to move out of Palm Coast because it is going DOWN fast!!

  35. Mikayla says:

    These animals wouldn’t attack my dog since he’s on a leash, as per the laws in our community.
    As far as tree hugger….I didn’t come from the city to expect the city. I purchased a home on a golf course surrounded by woods to live the good life and appreciate the wildlife.
    If you want the city… Go back. Crying wolf every time you see a wild animal encroaching on your property is idiotic and a waste of FCSO’s time.
    The police are doing their job when a residents calls to complain. I don’t think they have time to observe an animal’s behavior in time to determine whether the animal is sick. So in other words you could be killing a perfectly healthy wild animal simply foraging for food.

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