Section 1. Any officer or agent of any society incorporated under the laws of the commonwealth for the prevention of cruelty to animals or for the care and protection of homeless or suffering animals, provided he is also a special state police officer appointed under section fifty-seven of chapter twenty-two C, or a constable, sheriff or deputy sheriff, or a police officer of any town, may take possession of any old, maimed, disabled, diseased or injured animal and apply to a district court, within whose district the animal is taken, for process to cause it to be killed humanely. If the owner is known, and can after reasonable search be found, a copy of such application shall be served upon him in hand with an order of court to appear at a time and place named to show cause why such animal should not be killed and its value determined. If he is unknown, or cannot after reasonable search be found, the court shall order notices to be posted in two public places in the town where the animal was taken, stating the facts of the case, and giving twenty-four hours' notice of a hearing on said application. At such hearing, if it appears that such animal is so old, maimed, disabled, diseased or injured as to be unfit for humane use, the court shall issue process directing any officer designated herein to kill the same humanely, and shall determine its value. If the owner is aggrieved by such determination he may petition the superior court for the assessment of his damages under chapter seventy-nine.