A deer spotted in Berkeley. Photo: Keoki Seu
A deer spotted in Berkeley. Photo: Keoki Seu

The Berkeley Police Department’s slaying of a mountain lion last August and a dog in April drew criticism that the police were unnecessarily shooting animals.

The killings prompted the Berkeley Animal Care Commission to ask for a list of all the animals police officers have shot in the past five years. It turns out that police have shot more deer than anything else. Most of the time, those deer had been hit by cars. Police shot them to put them out of their misery.

In the past five years, according to a survey compiled by the BPD, Berkeley police officers have shot and killed 27 animals, including 19 deer, two dogs, one mountain lion, three opossum, and two raccoons.

“BPD officers do not like being in the position of having to dispatch animals and yet, it is occasionally a necessary part of our policing responsibilities,” Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said in distributing the list.

In early April, police responded to reports that a group of men were shooting off pistols in a back yard. When police arrived at the Shattuck Avenue home, it turned out that the men were shooting pellet guns. They were arrested, and, in the course of the investigation, police shot a pit bull that lunged at an officer. Many people were upset about the shooting because the dog’s owner – one of the men arrested – had pleaded to be allowed to secure his dog.

The Animal Care Commission voted at its April 20 meeting to request that the BPD get training from the SPCA on how to respond to animals. The BPD will review tapes of the SPCA’s workshops before deciding whether to use them, said Sgt. Kusmiss. Police have already been watching a DVD produced by the state Fish and Game Department.

The SPCA has worked with Oakland police to help them better understand dog behavior, according to an article by the Daily Cal.

Here is the list of animals shot by Berkeley police in the last five years:

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. My dog got shot and killed by Berkeley pig police
    I was not, arrested like you say!
    Yes I did shot a pallt-gun in my own back yard !
    We all ask 6 time to pot dog in a room or on one of the 12 leash I have
    In my home ! The pig say : no don’t need to , it’s ok just formality
    Ya 6 m-16 pointing at you point blank from your own front yard window !!
    I am not a criminal I am a locksmith
    I work in Berkeley for, 3 yers now, I got the dog cuz it’s the first sing me and my girlfriend got together is a puppy name” Rock ”
    I don’t get where you get your bullshite info but say it like it is
    My dog was shot cuz the police in Berkeley are trigger happy and all of you
    Can’t even say it in the news !

  2. For the rest of you vegan ass-hats who can’t stand the idea of culling (and eating) an invasive 4-legged non-native species .. try googling “shishi odoshi”


  3. Probably need to find your own solution. City code prohibits the discharge of firearms (BMC 13.72.010), except “for the purpose of destroying noxious animals upon land owned or occupied by them” (BMC 13.72.020(E). While that may seem like an opening, CA Fish and Game Code section 3004 prohibits the discharge of firearms within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, so unless you can get sign-off from every neighbor within that radius you’re probably SOL for shooting the deer.

    Before you go away depressed, I think you can probably slip in under the DFG definition of ‘depredation’ if you can find a way to sneak up on the deer and smack them in the head with a baseball bat. Might even be some room for trapping there as well, have to read a bit more closely.

    My dog did a good job bringing down a small one, but I wouldn’t recommend that approach either — one of my neighbors has lost two dogs to deer, they can deliver a pretty lethal kick and dogs are dumb enough to attack them from behind.

    Disclaimer – I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV.

  4. Forget my reply to Guest. I didn’t realize there was another headline, so I was confused. But then, I’m often confused.

  5. The headline tells it like it is (was). Why is it ridiculous in your mind? I’m serious. And the facts do support the article. Were we reading the same article as you?

  6. Wait, I think the title I see is the one suggested by one of the commenters.
    I didn’t see the first one. shucks, I bet it was fun.

  7. Would BPD be interested in providing this as a service? I would gladly pay them to come over and “mecy kill” the deer that invade my garden….

  8. I think it’s great that the BPD is trying to educate officers on dog behavior. This will help with future encounters, and possibly save some animals. I also think that it’s mainly our fault that deer, in particular, are finding it more and more comfortable living in our backyards, than in Tilden. The game warden last year told us that deer usually return to the place where they were born, to have their offspring. If your rose or veggie garden is unfenced, and you welcome the “cute” little Bambis, then you are encouraging the problems that result from this. When these animals become aggressive towards dogs and humans, which has happened frequently, can we ask homeowners to come out and capture them? Or gather them up to be put down? If not, don’t complain when the BPD or game warden is called to come out and “solve the problem.” These are wild animals. They don’t take verbal commands very easily.

  9. I’m not convinced that is a complete list. Not for lack of trying on the part of the author, but for, let’s say, possibly incomplete record keeping on the part of the BPD.
    Thank you, Frances, for doing the research and writing this article.
    Police harassment in Berkeley is way up in the last couple of years or so, in my opinion, from personal observation and through the grapevine. It’s remarkable how much more poorly police treat people in West Berkeley, compared to up in the Shattuck area. But that may have changed for the worse, judging by the pellet gun/dog murder incident.
    I’ve had need to get records on police activities and what the officer writes in its report may differ greatly from others perceptions of reality. Not always outright mendacity, but well-played omissions of detail.

  10. …past comments on *specific cases.*

    The BPD have handled one or two high-profile cases very poorly, but personally I find it reassuring to see that most of the time they seem to handle animal-related events appropriately.

  11. Which community views were those, again? Oh right, animals severely wounded after being struck by automobiles should be left in the middle of the street until they die from massive internal injuries. I think we can all get behind that!

  12. How about, “Berkeley police kill more deer than any other animal.” Is your headline intended as a troll? You must already be aware of community views on this subject from past comments on police shooting of animals. Why continue to inflame this issue? Berkeley needs better trained officers, and a focus on non-violent policing.

  13. The facts of the article suggest that the overwhelming majority of animals killed by the BPD are killed because they are the victims of car accidents and are in horrific pain and cannot be saved.

    If you really want to I guess you could try to argue that a mercy killing with a gun isn’t compassionate enough and that BPD officers should carry euthanasia drugs with them at all times in case they encounter an injured animal that has to be put down, but I think the headline is pretty accurate given the information in the article.