NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Despite calls for his firing by an animal rights group, the humane officer who shot and killed five feral kittens Monday in the backyard of a home on Vista Lake Way will not be disciplined, the police chief said Tuesday.
Police Chief Michael Freeman said police believed the cats posed health and safety risks and Barry Accorti did what he needed to do.
“At no time does this agency condone or allow the indiscriminate killing of animals,” Freeman wrote in a news release. “I have decided his actions were appropriate and have decided not to impose any disciplinary measures.”
Freeman said he came to his decision after visiting the homeowner and interviewing her and talking with Accorti.
The homeowner told police she was aware a decision had been made by Accorti to euthanize the feral cats that were reportedly causing problems with fleas inside the house, leaving dead wildlife in the yard and producing a foul odor.
But she did not believe Accorti was going to shoot the kittens on her property, Freeman said.
“The complainant explained she felt overwhelmed due to the fact her children were inside the residence and heard the gunshots,” Freeman said.
Accorti told the resident he was going to eliminate the cats due to the closeness of the wood pile to the house — it was about 10 feet away, the number of children living there and the potential for diseases and unsanitary conditions, including fleas that feral cats can develop, according to Freeman’s statement.
Accorti shot the kittens after finding them inside the wood pile, which he took apart. The cats were then removed from the property.
Teresa Landon, executive director of the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, argued the kittens and their mother could have been trapped and removed instead of being shot to death.
“They could have been relocated,” Landon said. “There are organizations that help with feral cats. This just absolutely cannot happen.”
Landon said her organization planned to demand that Accorti be fired and prosecuted for the incident. The agency plans to send its demands via letters to Mayor David Gillock and Freeman.
“Our stance is that Officer Accorti should be charged with five counts of animal cruelty and dismissed,” Landon said. “This man needs to lose his job.”
Accorti, a longtime police officer with the city, retired in January 2011 after 32 years with the force and was later rehired as a humane officer.
As word of shootings made its way around social media Monday night, the Facebook page for the North Ridgeville police got bombarded with angry comments, and the police chose to take it down.
“While we understand that emotions run high in this type of incident (but) we absolutely will not tolerate any threats made toward ANYONE on our page,” the police posting said.
“We are firm believers in everyone having their right to express their opinions about what we do, even dissenting, but they must maintain a level of common decency,” the posting continued.
City Hall also was fielding quite a few calls Tuesday about the incident.
Landon said the SPCA understands there are situations in which police, dog wardens or humane officers must act if they are faced with a violent, attacking or badly injured animal.
“If an officer is being charged or there is an animal hit by a car that is suffering greatly, then they must act,” Landon said.
Monday’s shootings are in stark contrast to an incident in April of this year in which Accorti found and saved an orphaned baby great horned owl in North Ridgeville’s South Central Park.
The young bird had apparently tumbled from its nest but was too young to fly away. Accorti found the bird near the park’s playground equipment.
The baby owl was found to be healthy and uninjured when examined by wildlife rehabilitation staff at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village and was later returned to the park.
Freeman did say he planned to talk with Accorti and other humane officers “about improving their communications with the public.”
Karen Minton, Ohio director of the Humane Society of the United States, said “it is hard to fathom any circumstance where fatally shooting young kittens is necessary or justified.”
The society has offered to help the city’s police with what it said should be required training of police and humane officers “to avoid incidents like this one,” Minton said.
“We are hopeful they will take us up on that offer,” Minton said.
The family involved in the cat shootings wants to remain anonymous, according to Landon.
“They are very traumatized by this, and they are trying to work through the Police Department,” Landon said. “They feel the department is being supportive and is on their side.”
The incident sparked a torrent of mostly outraged respondents to the Ohio SPCA Facebook page. Most called for Accorti’s immediate firing and charges being brought against him.
Pooch Patrol walk
Lorain Pooch Patrol will be having a walk 8:30 this morning starting at the North Ridgeville Library. You can find more about the Lorain Pooch Patrol on Facebook.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.