SALEM, OR (KPTV) - Officers and some wildlife experts at odds over the death of a bobcat kitten in Eugene testified Wednesday at a hearing at the Oregon State Capitol.
The 6-month old bobcat was bludgeoned to death by an Oregon State trooper last month after it entered Oak Hill School in Eugene as was trapped there by staff. OSP says the animal was euthanized humanely, while others describe the killing as brutal.
The Lane County Sheriff’s Office responded to the school Oct. 16 and got the cat out of the school and into a patrol vehicle before OSP arrived. What happened next is what has captured the state’s attention.
“We decided that it was important to undertake a fact-finding hearing to find out exactly what went on and how this manner was handled and whether the protocols are appropriate,” Brad Witt, a legislator, said.
According to OSP, a trooper transported the bobcat then euthanized it with blunt force trauma.
“The trooper advised the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife that he was concerned about the cat's unusual behavior and suggested euthanizing the animal for health and human safety reasons,” Casey Thomas, a captain with OSP’s Fish and Wildlife Division, said.
Many people are outraged OSP didn’t consult other agencies or choose a more humane form of euthanasia. One of the most vocal voices against OSP’s handling of the situation is Brooks Fahy, who runs a nonprofit dedicated to helping predator animals in Oregon.
Fahy testified that blunt force trauma is not humane and said OSP was more focused on killing the animal than trying to help.
“He contradicted himself, he wasn't being truthful to the committee and it was stunning,” Fahy said. “They are locked into trying to justify the killing of this animal. This was not euthanasia.”
OSP says it did follow proper protocol. It says once it determined the cat should be euthanized, it was up to the trooper’s discretion to decide how.
“The resources our troopers carry for such scenarios are limited to firearms and instruments utilized for blunt force trauma,” Thomas said. “And based upon safety considerations present at the scene, the trooper chose to euthanize the animal with one strike to the head.”
Many who oppose the euthanization point to guidelines outlined for veterinarians, which state that blunt force trauma should be used as a last resort, and mainly used for small lab animals.
Fish and Wildlife officials say these guidelines don’t always have to be followed exactly.
“They are guidelines, they're basically recommendations,” Colin Gillin, a state wildlife veterinarian, said. “They are not mandates, they are not laws.”
Legislators have decided to form a committee to look into which protocols could improve situations like this in the future. People who aren’t happy with how OSP handled the situation say they are satisfied a committee is being formed to look into better practices.
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