December 22, 2014

Elyria
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National group pushes North Ridgeville for no-kill policy

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A national group that advocates for cats said it will send a letter to Mayor David Gillock asking that he issue an order ending the killing of any feline by animal control officers.

“These brutal killings were not ‘euthanasia’ nor did it resolve a public safety issue,” Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies stated in a letter to be sent to the city, according to a press release issued Thursday by Alley Cat Allies, a Bethesda, Md., organization founded in 1990 dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats nationwide.

“It is shocking that Officer Barry Accorti was cleared of all wrongdoing,” William Gomaa, the group’s lead attorney, said in the statement.

“Humane officers and animal control officers should know better,” Gomaa said when contacted later Thursday.

Gillock, who had been out of town for a meeting, said Thursday evening by phone that “the main thing our officer did wrong was that he should have made sure kids were not around. He could have suggested to the lady to take them somewhere and come back later.”

Gillock affirmed Accorti, a retired police officer hired a year ago as one of two part-time humane officers, followed proper protocols.

“He was not using his service revolver at the time,” Gillock said. “He had a small .22 because he thought that was something no one could hear, but apparently the kids heard it.”

Accorti carries a Glock .45-caliber pistol as his normal service weapon, according to information provided by police Capt. Marti Garrow.

When Police Chief Michael Freeman went to speak with the homeowner the day after the shootings, the woman’s children were at home, Gillock said.

“They were talking to the cops, and they were fine,” Gillock said. “They were not traumatized.”

The city is having discussions with the Friendship APL and SPCA over prospects of adding more training and equipment for humane officers, Gillock said.

“Our protocols were followed, but maybe they need to be changed,” Gillock said.

According to a copy of the North Ridgeville Police Department’s policy for handling stray, injured, lost or found animals first issued in January 2006 and revised in 2011, such calls are to be handled “in a humane manner.”

A section of the policy addressing vicious, ill or injured animals, states “if the animal is vicious and cannot be captured without injury to the responding unit (officer), or presents a danger to the public, or is suffering from a serious sickness or injury, the officer may use a weapon to destroy the animal.”

The policy further states that animals needing to be destroyed “will be dispatched through the most reasonable method available for the time, location and circumstances.”

Gomaa maintained the feral kittens posed no danger “by any stretch.”

“Even without training, an experienced or new officer should realize shooting kittens is not a reasonable response.”

“These were not poor helpless kittens,” Gillock said. “They were wild animals the homeowner did not want to mess with as they hissed and growled and spit at him whenever he tried to approach them. They’ll bite and claw.”

The city’s general policy is to “trap or kill them on sight,” Gillock said.

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