December 21, 2014

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Citizen committee formed to reduce feral cat problems

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Knowing problems with feral animals aren’t going away, the city is forming a citizen’s advisory committee to help determine local measures residents can take to reduce wild cats and other creatures.

Making such efforts effective will require “a lot of volunteers and grassroots stuff,” Friendship APL director Greg Willey said. “How the community will deal with this issue remains to be seen.”

The committee is to be headed by William Snyder, a former APL board member who lives in North Ridgeville, according to Willey.

Snyder and Police Chief Mike Freeman have reportedly met to begin discussing how the committee will function and what steps its members may take to try and reduce problems with feral cats.

Neither could be reached Tuesday.

Meetings of the citizens group are anticipated to begin by the end of September or early October, Gillock said.

Formation of the group is a response to criticism the city experienced in the aftermath of a June 10 incident in which Humane Officer Barry Accorti shot and killed five kittens after a resident called for assistance in getting rid of a mother cat and her offspring that were living in a woodpile behind the woman’s house.

Gillock said he views the volatile backlash by outraged residents and animal advocate groups demanding Accorti’s firing as “more of a social media issue than anything else.”

Once it got out on Facebook and the Internet, the whole thing just exploded,” Gillock said.

The mayor again asserted the incident and its very public aftermath were the result of a lack of communications between Accorti and the resident.

“It should have had a little better handling,” Gillock said.

Gillock still receives letters, including some form letters, and emails from people demanding Accorti be dismissed.

The longtime officer was cleared of wrongdoing by Freeman, who concluded Accorti acted in accordance with local regulations governing situations involving feral animals.

About a month after the incident, Gillock announced the city would no longer respond to calls for help in dealing with feral cats by police or humane officers, who are employed by the Police Department.

Because the mother cat was not trapped the day of the kitten shootings, the same problem of proliferating cat populations exists, according to Willey.

“That same mom can have kittens again and again, and we’re back to square one,” Willey said. “That’s where things such as trap-neuter-release can help.”

The APL has yet to receive any calls for help from North Ridgeville residents since the kittens’ shooting, according to Willey.

“What we’d really like to see is to have measures in place that residents can take rather than relying solely on local government to intervene,” Willey said.

Those local steps could range from making people aware of and getting access to low-cost spay-neuter clinics that “are as cheap as what most vets charge for euthanizing cats, which is around $20,” Willey said. “In communities where things like this have been done, we’ve seen an impact almost right away.”

The city will also make animal traps available to residents who ask for them.

“The worst thing we can do is nothing,” Gillock said.

 

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