An Aviation Security Services dog was shot dead by New Zealand police on Friday morning after it was spooked and escaped its handler at Auckland International Airport, causing runway delays. A spokeswoman for Auckland Airport, Lisa Mulitalo, said almost 16 domestic and international flights were delayed for safety reasons at the nation's busiest airport while the dog was on the loose for three hours.
"The dog was clearly distressed and wouldn't let anyone near it so the decision was made to shoot the dog," she told Reuters. Mulitalo added that the backlog of delayed flights would likely be cleared soon.
Mike Richards, a spokesman for New Zealand's Aviation Security Service said a police marksman killed the 10-month-old bearded-collie and German shorthaired pointer cross called Grizz, which was in training to detect explosives.
"Of course it was dark for most of the time it was on the run, they tried everything they could, but just couldn't lure the dog back, I think it was just freaked out," Richards added.
Hans Kriek, a member of animal rights group SAFE, said he was "appalled and bewildered" by the decision. He said the use of a tranquilliser would have been a simple solution.
"I suppose they didn't have (a tranquilliser) but that's not an excuse. They said they were chasing the dog for three hours. Surely they could've got one from Auckland Zoo, he told Herald Sun.
However, both the police and Auckland Airport say they had no other choice. Inspector Tracy Phillips said: "Auckland Airport staff directed police to shoot the Avsec dog, which was loose at the airport this morning."
"This is not an outcome which anyone wanted and police were only asked to be involved as a last resort," he added.
Reports said Grizz's handler is "absolutely devastated" by the incident. Grizz was six months from graduating and was still getting used to the airport environment. While being loaded into the back of an Avsec vehicle in an airport public area, the little creature was "spooked" by something and escaped through the security protected area and managed to get to the security area when a gate opened to let a truck through.
Grizz didn't have a dedicated handler so wasn't as responsive as the more experienced dogs with a single handler.