December 20, 2014

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North Ridgeville Council sets policy on feral cats

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Renewed calls for the firing of Humane Officer Barry Accorti and changes in the way the city deals with feral cats were partially answered at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

After hearing from approximately a dozen people, most opposing Accorti’s fatal shooting of five feral kittens June 10, Mayor David Gillock announced the city will no longer respond to calls for help in dealing with cats with police or city humane officers.

Instead, the city will provide traps for residents who wish to try to take care of feral cats themselves, or provide assistance through local animal shelters and animal rescue groups.

“We have met two times with the Friendship Animal Protective League to work with them on reviewing and revising our policies relating to unwanted animals,” Gillock told a number of residents and others who remained after a 30-minute public comment session.

Gillock also told the audience that the APL would be made available to assist residents requesting help with large numbers of cats.

“The city will no longer take the action of killing cats,” Gillock said.

His remarks were met with the same loud applause that earlier met remarks by those demanding Accorti’s firing or answers as to why city officials — including Gillock — had not responded to calls from angry residents and others upset over the incident.

Between 15 and 20 protestors, some carrying signs, quietly stood along state Route 83 outside City Hall during the meeting.

Light rain fell before, during and after the meeting, which some felt may have contributed to keeping down the number of people who turned out.

The scene was a far cry from that of two weeks ago when City Council and officials heard from approximately 30 people for 90 minutes during an emotional public comment session.

Shellie Kearsey, a North Ridgeville resident, asked why the city was continuing to defend “this monster you employ” with public funds.

Accorti shot the kittens in response to a homeowner’s request for help in getting rid of the animals that lived in a backyard wood pile and were causing problems with fleas and odors.

Others, including Pat Fogo of the Lorain Pooch Patrol, again offered to help the city begin a trap-neuter-release program that works to eventually reduce number of feral cats by removing them from areas where they are plentiful, neutering them and returning them to the same areas where they can no longer reproduce.

Carrie Graham, of Pet Rescue of Lorain County, argued the kittens Accorti shot were partially domesticated.

“Feral animals are wild, like raccoons and others, and wouldn’t have let him get that close,” Graham said in pressing for Accorti’s dismissal.

“Why not use the (salary) for Accorti and create a TNR program,” Graham said.

Patti Harris, a Cleveland woman and veteran of animal rescues, said she felt empathy for Accorti.

“I come from a family of law enforcement officers,” Harris said.

Chris Swenk, a North Ridgeville man, offered strongly-worded support for Accorti, and condemnation of those opposing him.

“It is tragic that one incident should mar the stellar career of this officer because outside activists who don’t even live here have an agenda,” Swenk said.

Swenk also blasted those who have protested the shootings.

“People are out of touch with reality,” Swenk said. “They should care about real problems” including drugs and kids, overcrowded schools, traffic and flooding.

Gillock also announced that a community action committee would be formed to assist residents with problems with feral animals and to provide city officials with information to help them better deal with such situations in the future.

The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had threatened to sue the city unless it agreed to change its policies regarding feral cats and fired Accorti.

Police Chief Michael Freeman cleared Accorti of any wrongdoing shortly after the incident, saying he acting according to regulations.

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