Grizz shot dead by police after escaping to airfield at 4am, delaying flights as pilots refused to take off while he was loose
Debate has raged in New Zealand as to whether staff at Auckland airport were justified in shooting a bomb-detection dog that escaped onto the airfield, delaying 16 international and domestic flights.
The dog, Grizz, was shot dead by police on Friday morning after he was spooked on the job and escaped about 4am. Pilots refused to risk passenger safety by taking off with the dog on the loose.
According to the New Zealand Herald , Grizz was not on the tarmac but on the outer perimeter of the airfield. Airport staff tried to catch him for three hours without success before instructing police to shoot him.
Staff had done everything they could, spokeswoman Lisa Mulitalo told Fairfax New Zealand . Were really upset about it.
The airport initially tweeted that Grizz had now been caught but later posted a clarification that the dog had been shot.
Inspector Tracy Phillips of Counties Manukau District Police said Aviation Security Service (Avsec) had made considerable efforts to catch Grizz.
Our thoughts are with the Avsec dog handler involved. This is not an outcome which anyone wanted, and police were only asked to be involved as a last resort.
Avsec was conducting a review of the incident, including into what had triggered Grizz to run off.
Auckland airports Facebook page was inundated with posts critical of the completely needless loss .
Hilary Barry, a popular breakfast television host, was visibly upset about Grizz death on TVNZs Breakfast program on Friday, asking: Do they not have a tranquiliser gun?
One of them got spooked at Auckland airport and went a bit cray-cray and was running around on the tarmac. So? Its only Auckland airport. Sixteen flights were delayed. So?
So they shot it! They shot it dead. Theyve got to have tranquiliser guns, surely. They shot your dog dead. I dont care if your plane was delayed, they dont need to shoot canine.
She accused her co-host of sticking up for those who made the call to shoot Grizz.
Told that Avsec was reviewing the incident, Barry said, Oh, forget the review. Dont shoot the dog!
Adam Morris, a passenger on one of the delayed flights, tweeted that he and his fellow travellers had been told the dog was still at large when the plane took off from Tauranga, but that airport staff were hopeful of catching it. He later said the dogs death was incredibly sad.
Trained to detect explosives, Grizz joined Avsec in May last year and was reportedly just six months away from graduating. Fairfax New Zealand identified his handler as Noel Thorburn, who had worked in customs and aviation security for more than 30 years.
His son Nicky posted on Facebook that his father understood the decision was a last resort and was very upset about the loss of Grizz. Im reading disgusting comments… people need to understand how traumatising and upsetting this was for him.
A spokesman for the animal welfare group SAFE, Hans Kriek, said he was appalled and bewildered that the dog had to die, AAP reported.
I suppose they didnt have one [a tranquilliser], but thats not an excuse. They said they were chasing your dog for three hours, surely they could have got one from Auckland Zoo.
There were lessons to be learnt from the incident, he said. There was a non-lethal solution, they were not prepared. We expect that something is now put in place for future incidents.
In an opinion piece for Newshub, Tony Wright wrote that the decision to kill Grizz was not only a public relations nightmare but a gross mismanagement of resources when detector dogs cost thousands of dollars to train.
We all want our airports to be safe from terror so why create your own terror by shooting dead a defenceless animal trained to fight it?
An online poll taken by Fairfax New Zealand found 74% of 15, 100 respondents felt that surely they might have used non-lethal methods. At time of writing just 16% had acknowledged that it was a tough decision but they had no choice while 10% responded: I dont know, I can see both sides on this one.