CHELSEA, QUEBEC — A man driving down the road discovered a baby deer that had been hit by a vehicle; immobilized yet showing no visible wounds. As he and his family attempted to assist it, they were stopped by a police officer, who not only adamantly refused to allow them to take it to a veterinarian, but threatened them with arrest, shot the fawn, and impounded their vehicle.
On Monday, September 9, Greg Searle drove down Route 105 near their home in Chelsea, Quebec, when he discovered a “freshly hit” deer fawn. Searle said he carried it to the shoulder of the road, calmed it down, and examined it for injuries. It had some scratches but did not have visible wounds, and would or could not use its back legs. Searle wanted to get the deer checked out to see if it had internal injuries. It was obvious to him that the deer was not going to die anytime soon. He requested his family join him at the scene, which they soon did. Searle and the female driver who hit the deer made phone calls to locate a shelter or an agency who would examine and possibly care for the fawn.
That’s when, Searl says, Officer Roy showed up, and immediately began insisting it was his job to shoot the deer. Searle and his family debated with him that the deer may not be dying, and offered to voluntarily take the deer to get treated. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The officer was insistent that he kill the deer immediately, even though they had located a vet who would look at the deer.
“You need to move aside so I can end its suffering,” the officer told the group. Searle describes the situation in a post made on facebook:
Officer Roy wouldn’t have any of it, and at this point he moved over the deer and asked us to back away. Samantha stood over the baby deer and told him he was making the wrong decision. “Even if it’s your job to end it’s suffering”, she said, “you have the discretion to give us some time to try to find someone qualified to help it first. I worked as a civilian with the police for two years, and did plenty of ride-alongs, and I know other cops who wouldn’t rush this.”
Officer Roy disagreed, and then said he was going to have to arrest Samantha. “If you don’t move, you will end up with a criminal record”, he threatened. He repeated the threat several times. They argued like this for a few minutes, getting more and more agitated, and my daughter (who had been petting the fawn in an attempt to calm it) became very frightened and threw her arms around my legs. I asked the officer to calm down, but he wasn’t interested in talking any more. He called in for backup and told Samantha that it was her final warning.
Samantha took Ashiah to the car and drove off crying, so our little girl didn’t have to see the animal die. The officer stood over the fawn, which was no longer panting and was sitting quietly at the edge of the road looking into the woods – maybe for it mother. I took the picture above of Officer Roy shooting the baby deer. I’ve had to put animals out of their misery in the past, too, but I must admit that I couldn’t understand the officer’s haste and inflexibility.
As I passed back by the scene in my pickup a few minutes later, Officer Roy got back into his cruiser and followed me onto the country road we live on and pulled me over. He informed me that he’d observed that the license plate had expired the previous day. “My dad just gave me this truck”, I explained. “I didn’t know that the plates were expired, but I’ll get new ones right away. Just let me park it in my laneway, a few hundred meters down a private road, and I will go to the SAAQ in a different car and sort it out.” The officer instead confiscated the keys and impounded the vehicle. “You don’t have to do this”, I said. “The sticker only expired yesterday!” “Yes, I do”, the officer insisted. “ I can’t trust that you won’t drive this vehicle away as soon as I leave.” My neighbor, who runs one of the region’s largest towing companies, even offered to tow the car to my laneway. But the officer insisted that the pickup must be impounded (where it still sits at the time that I write this).
“I couldn’t help but feel that Officer Roy was punishing my little family for standing up to him over the life of a hurt little deer,” wrote Searle, questioning why the officer was so fervent about killing the deer, disregarding his chance to build a relationship with members of the community.
This case illustrates the enforcer mentality, in which police officers intently use the maximum amount of authority possible in a given situation, regardless if it makes sense, helps anyone, or pleases the community. Despite a viable alternative solution, with volunteers to fulfill it, Officer Roy had to exert his authority and kill the deer, just because he could. Then he further exemplified his enforcer attitude by citing the man for a 1-day expired sticker, punitively impounding his vehicle. These sorts of situations leave permanent scar on the community members involved, causing anger, distrust, and a resentment. Searle says that his 6-year-old daughter Ashiah told him she would not call the police, even if she needed help.
Greg Searle created a petition aimed at the Quebec police, requesting a reform to the treatment of injured animals and the people attempting to help them. He points out a recent story from Camden, New Jersey, in which an officer went out of his way to help a fawn with an injured leg, as an example of model policing. While it is clearly not prudent to save every deer’s life, in this case there was an obvious, viable alternative: simply let the family do their good deed and leave them alone. Whether it is Canada or the United States, the enforcer mentality knows no nationality.
Sign Searle’s petition here: Improve police protocol for handling injured wildlife & citizens assisting