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, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...