A report into the fatal shooting of a runaway Auckland Airport explosives detector dog last year has found various faults led to his escape and death - including the lack of a lead as he was removed from his kennel.
Staff spent more than three hours trying to catch Grizz, a 10-month-old bearded collie/German short-haired pointer cross, after he was spooked and escaped from his handler in March last year. His escape and death generated international headlines.
A Civil Aviation Authority investigation released today finds three essential factors contributed to Grizz's escape and subsequent ordeal:
• Grizz was not placed on a lead as he was removed from his kennel to be taken to a van;
• There was no secondary restraint or fencing;
• A gate was left open in the wider aviation security compound, allowing Grizz to escape on to the airport runway.
Despite authorities spending several hours trying to recapture Grizz, police had to be called in and staff eventually told them to shoot Grizz.
Avsec general manager Mark Wheeler said all reasonable steps were taken to try capture the dog in the early hours of March 17 last year but inconsistencies in procedures had proved a hindrance.
"Reading the report (by independent barrister Andrew Scott-Howman) I am encouraged to see the great lengths people and agencies involved went to in trying to capture our Avsec Explosive detector dog," Wheeler said.
"Unfortunately the report also reveals that inconsistencies in procedures and processes across the agencies involved hindered the capture attempts on the day."
The Aviation Security Service (Avsec) had made a number of changes to procedures following the death of Grizz.
A lead was now used to restrain dogs when they were removed from kennels; secondary fencing was in place and a sliding gate was now automated.
Scott-Howman's report notes Grizz escaped between 3.30am and 3.35am but the first report of the escaped dog - by a gate-control employee - was not made until 3.45am and the handler did not make his own report until 3.48am.
This was because the handler had spent time in the mistaken belief he could recapture Grizz.
Scott-Howman said this was reasonable but it did highlight the importance of raising the alarm immediately as others could be in a better position to restrain or capture the animal.
One flight from South America landed at 4.44am, after the pilot had been made aware, at 4.13am, of an animal on the loose. At 4.32am, an advisory had been issued - meaning any landing was at a pilot's discretion.
Efforts stepped up when the airport's wildlife management officer started work at 5.20am, and ahead of more aircraft movements.
Scott-Howman says the prospects of capturing Grizz would have been far greater if the airport wildlife management team had been engaged earlier.
New procedures meant that the Emergency Operations Centre - featuring various agencies, police, and ground handlers - would be activated much earlier for future similar incidents. For this incident, it was activated at 5.51am.
Scott-Howman said there was nothing to suggest Grizz was prone to errant behaviour.
"His breed is not one that is predisposed to flight response."
Howman-Scott said everyone who tried to capture Grizz had "admirable intentions".
"I note that the acquisition of a high-powered net gun appears to be endorsed by all stakeholders as a sensible step to take - because it would offer an additional option for
recapture in any future incident. In finalising this report I was informed that Auckland Airport now does, in fact, own a high-powered net gun."
A tranquiliser gun was not considered to be a viable option in the future because of uncertainties around dosages needed for different breeds.
Wheeler commissioned the report to objectively reflect all the activities that took place on the day and to assess what had taken place since, he said.
"I am satisfied that there was not a single individual responsible for what happened, rather a series of events led to this unfortunate outcome.
"A number of weaknesses in our own procedures and in other areas were highlighted in the report and I am pleased to say significant changes have since taken place as a direct result of the regrettable shooting of our working dog, Grizz."