December 19, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
test

Animal rights groups, others rally for dismissal of humane officer

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — About 20 people protested the killing of five kittens by North Ridgeville Humane Officer Barry Accorti early Wednesday morning as they walked with signs in front of the police station, city library and past the heavily traveled intersection of Avon-Belden and Center Ridge roads.

The rally was organized by Lorain Pooch Patrol, a group that advocates for abused animals, in response to Monday’s killing.

Group members also plan to attend Monday’s City Council meeting to demand Accorti’s dismissal, according to member Kelly Smick.

“We want to continue to speak out about the injustice being done,” Smick said. “What this officer did was totally out of line. I have been in (animal) rescue for over 30 years and have never, ever come across such ignorance in an animal control or humane officer.”

Smick said petitions also are being circulated to gain signatures in support of disciplinary action being taken against Accorti.

Lorain Pooch Patrol has taken part in other animal rights protests, including those for Herbie, a much-publicized Lorain pit bull that died of cancer in March after battling severe abuse.

“No humane organization would recommend non-threatening animals be shot as a method of euthanasia,” Smick said. “The use of gunshots should only be allowed when an animal is attacking or injured seriously enough that ending suffering must be immediate. Eight- to 10-week-old kittens pose no threat to anyone.”

Even in instances in which animals are to euthanized, such measures should be taken at shelters, Smick said.

“He did this in front of little children,” Smick said. “It’s horrific.”

Similar situations

When area police departments need help with stray, ill or aggressive animals, most rely on county dog wardens or their own officers.

That was the consensus of law enforcement agencies surveyed in the wake of Monday’s controversial shooting of five feral kittens by a North Ridgeville police humane officer.

Calls to North Ridgeville police seeking information regarding the department’s humane officer training and policies were not returned Wednesday.

In Avon, an animal control officer is used to handle some animal complaints, according to Police Chief Richard Bosley, who said the part-time employee is a civilian rather than sworn police officer.

“The vast majority of calls are handled by sworn officers,” Bosley said. “If an animal is seen as posing a danger to police or the public, or is sick or seriously hurt, police use their discretion as to whether to put it out of its misery. Our officers are authorized to destroy animals in such situations.”

While Avon police have that option, they try to apply what Bosley termed a “no-kill policy” in most cases.

Dogs and cats are taken to a local kennel for up to three days while efforts are made to identify and locate owners.

If no owner is found, animals are turned over to Love-A-Stray, a local volunteer group that works to find homes for them.

“There’s a lot of subjectivity involved,” Bosley said. “Officers have to make some difficult decisions sometimes, and they use their best discretion.”

Elyria had a humane officer in the past but the job was eliminated some years ago as a budget-cutting measure,
according to Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino.

“We rely pretty heavily on the county dog warden now,” Costantino said.

Elyria police look to County Dog Warden Jack Szlempa for what Costantino termed “strong direction” in handling incidents involving lost, injured or loose animals.

“Officers are given discretion in instances in which a dog is charging an officer or it is felt an officer or anyone is in danger,” Costantino said. “They do what they need to do to keep themselves and others safe.”

Szlempa is responsible for handling complaints and incidents involving dogs in Elyria, Lorain and all 18 of the county’s townships.

The office does not respond to calls involving cats.

“Cats are a real gray area for us,” Szlempa said. “There’s not much regulation for them.”

Szlempa’s office does not have or use firearms, instead relying on other means to trap and retrieve dogs, which are then taken to the pound.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.