17/03/2017 09:03 GMT

Runaway Sniffer Dog Shot Dead At Auckland Airport In New Zealand Sparks Angry Backlash

'So you chased the dog around for three hours and then decided it was a hassle so you killed it?'

Grizz was shot dead at Auckland Airport in New Zealand

A New Zealand airport is being besieged with complaints after a trainee security dog was shot dead after escaping its leash. 

Ten-month-old Grizz was killed by police on Thursday after officials spent three hours failing to capture it in an incident that led to 16 flights being delayed for several hours. 

An airport official has said shooting Grizz was a last resort, but many have been left aghast by the decision and have asked why the animal was not tranquilised instead.

Grizz escaped from its Aviation Security Service (Avsec) handler around 4.30am local time (3.30pm GMT) while getting into a dog unit wagon parked in the airport’s public landside area. 

Avsec spokesman Mike Richards said “something”, believed to have been a disturbance, caused Grizz to escape.

The dog then ran through a gate onto the tarmac that had been opened to let a truck through. 

Richards said a “massive effort” was launched to locate Grizz and for the first two hours, there was no sightings of the service dog.

When it was finally located, “he would not let anyone near him and kept sprinting across runways,” Richards said. 

“We tried everything: food, toys, other dogs, but nothing would work,” said Mr Richards, adding that the area was “too vast and too open” to erect temporary fencing.

Airport officials finally ordered police to shoot Grizz.

“We exhausted every option available and could not catch it,” an Auckland Airport spokesman told the BBC.

When asked why the dog could not be tranquilised, the spokesman told the broadcaster: “I do not have the answer to that. But there were no tranquiliser guns at the airport, and the police do not have them either.”

She said tranquilisation would be part of an incident review undertaken by Avsec into Grizz’s shooting. 

New Zealand animal rights organisation Safe told local media that it was “appalled about the needless killing of this dog”.

“A tranquilliser gun should have been used after efforts to catch the dog failed. If such a gun was not available - which it should - then they could have borrowed one from Auckland Zoo or elsewhere,” a spokesman told the New Zealand Herald.

Callum Irvine, head of vet services at the New Zealand Veterinary Association, told that tranquilising an animal wasn’t an easy option for officials. 

“There just isn’t ready access to tranquiliser guns and darts in New Zealand, and even if authorities did manage to get their hands on one in time, there are so many other factors to take into consideration, like how close the animal is, the animal’s weight, age and how much adrenaline was also running through the body.”

He said tranquilising an animal on the loose could be very difficult.

“If it’s not done right, a partially sedated animal can become even more distressed, and fearful and difficult to manage - and become even more of a danger to those around it.”