Owner of emu killed by MCSO deputies criticizes their tactics

Oct 12, 2023, 4:05 AM | Updated: 9:13 am

Image shows close up of emu...

Rachard the emu was killed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in September 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

PHOENIX —  The owner of Richard, a female emu that was killed in September by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies, criticized how they handled the situation.

Stephanie Moilan told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Wednesday that MCSO should have followed livestock handling protocols.

“They’re only supposed to help or intervene in those situations if anyone’s safety is at risk. No one was at risk and neither was Richard. Richard was just walking through the desert. They are supposed to contact livestock to come and pick them up and that’s who they should have waited for. The first thing, like an emu, you look up online – ‘Can you lasso an emo safely?’ Never consider lassoing an emu. That’s the first thing it says,” Moilan said.

“That’s like the worst possible thing you could’ve done. I don’t think they took any time or thought into how they treated Richard and they’ve been trying to claim that there was a previous incident with Richard, which if there was they would have known who Richard’s owner was and they could have reached me immediately.”

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office released the following comments on the emu’s death:

When deputies encounter wild animals in populated neighborhoods we are always going to try to err on the side of caution, in the interest of public safety. While responding to this call, deputies analyzed the situation and took in consideration that the emu had been loose before and had previously kicked a Deputy Service Aid in the leg, during this incident the emu was turned over to the Department of Agriculture as the owner was never located. An attempt to contact Dept. of Agriculture for assistance was unsuccessful this time. The deputies who responded used the resources available to them at the time and attempted getting the emu out of the neighborhood unharmed but, unfortunately, they were unsuccessful. The emu’s exact medical status prior to the incident is unclear. While it is unfortunate the emu died, MCSO has closed this matter and continues to work toward keeping County neighborhoods safe. After this incident, MCSO is reviewing our current policies to ensure we have the resources and steps in place should we encounter a similar situation. Below is a short timeline of events that took place when dealing with the emu.

How did the emu get out?

Moilan said they often have coyote attacks and the animals jump into Richard’s enclosure.

“Richard was a very athletic emu and she could hop the fence,” she said. “And over the years that we’ve had her, we learned that your best defense from the coyotes was to run and not to make the fences higher because no matter how high they are coyotes can get in and we wouldn’t want her to be trapped.”

When Richard would get out of the enclosure, Moilan said she would post on Nextdoor or Facebook and the community would let her know the emu’s location.

Sheriff’s Office gets a call

On the morning of Sept. 28, MSCO deputies were dispatched near 113th Street and Minton in Mesa about a loose emu in the area.

The caller said the bird was in the front yard of a home on 112th Street and told dispatch he had seen it running loose in the area before. MCSO said the caller told dispatch he thought the emu lived in the area but did not know of a location.

Deputies called livestock for assistance but there was no one available, according to MCSO.

When deputies found Richard, they used a slip lead, which is used on dogs, to lead the animal to a patrol vehicle to remove her from the area. Deputies tried corralling the emu so they could slip the lead over its head. Once the lead was over the head of the emu, they held onto it very gently and began leading the emu toward the front of the property, authorities said.

As the emu was walking with deputies, officials said the emu dug in its heels and stopped walking. The emu began walking again and they continued toward the patrol vehicles. A vehicle was moved closer to deputies so they could get the emu inside.

Authorities said before they got closer to the vehicle, the emu sat down and flapped its wings. It swayed its neck left and right, while it was sitting on the ground. Deputies reached toward it and made sure the lead was not tight around the bird’s neck.

The lead was passed through the back seat from the passenger’s side to the driver’s side over the vehicle so deputies could lead the emu into the back seat. Deputies tried to coax the emu into the back seat of the vehicle, but the emu would not move, according to MCSO.

Authorities claim the emu then got onto its back and started kicking at the truck and the open door. While it was kicking, the lead got wrapped around one of its legs. Deputies released the lead to remove it from the emu’s leg and realized the emu was dead.

MCSO said deputies searched for the possible owner but no one was located. They also asked bystanders if they knew who owned the animal but no one knew.

Authorities said they disposed of Richard on state trust land.

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Owner of emu killed by MCSO deputies criticizes their tactics