NORTH RIDGEVILLE — In a similar but far more subdued version of the firestorm of protest leveled at the city last June following the shooting of five kittens by humane officer Barry Accorti, about a dozen people criticized his actions in last week’s shooting of a baby raccoon during Monday night’s City Council meeting.
“This should have never gotten to this point,” Michelle Kearsey, a Stone Lake Drive resident told city officials and 40 to 50 people who attended.
“This is the second time in a year,” Kearsey said as she cited the need for a change in policies governing the handling of nuisance animal calls. “That raccoon could have been moved. This officer has shown no regard for the children of this community.”
Just before she spoke, Police Chief Michael Freeman announced his department would change its policy regarding the handling of so-called nuisance animals, which include raccoons, and no longer dispatch (shoot) animals at or near dwellings or in front of anyone.
Instead, animals will be trapped or gathered up and removed to another location to be taken care of, Freeman said.
A number of people including Pat Fogo of the Lorain Pooch Patrol said she was happy for the change in policy, “but I’m unhappy at what it’s taken to get to that change.”
Fogo claimed Accorti has been involved in numerous incidents involving the shooting of animals. “People are tired of it. That animal was defenseless and in a cage. It’s like the kittens.”
Just before the floor was opened for the public comment portion of the meeting, Councilman Dennis Boose, D-2nd Ward, made a motion to suspend Council rules to allow questions of a general nature to be asked and answered, but the move died for lack of a second.
Before the meeting, about 15 people, some holding protest signs, cheered as motorists honked and waved their support while driving near the City Hall complex off Avon-Belden Road.
The group held signs that read: “This is a neighborhood — not a shooting range!,” “It’s time for a change — start with firing Accorti,” and “Accorti — the Inhumane Officer.”
Protesters included members of animal activist groups that also protested the kitten shootings a year ago by Accorti, a retired police officer and one of two humane officers employed part-time by the city.
Corinne Jaenke, an Elyria resident and member of the Lorain Pooch Patrol, said that while she understands the need to get rid of diseased or dangerous animals, she favors Accorti being dismissed. “He’s trigger-happy and would shoot anything.”
Jaenke voiced concerns over bullets potentially ricocheting when fired at animals and hitting others.
Freeman told the audience the raccoon was caught and in a cage (trap) requested by a Root Road man and shot with low-powered, .22 caliber ammunition from a handgun.
Freeman again said that Accorti and the property owner stated they did not see any children when the raccoon was shot.
Tim Sherrill, the neighbor of the Root Road man, who first made the incident known when he contacted local media, insisted Accorti shot the baby raccoon in front of his 10-year-old son, Chopper, and some friends.
Freeman said Accorti followed the law and disposed of the baby raccoon safely following a request by the property owner.
Freeman said he had not experienced any incidences of injuries to anyone in 20-plus years of dispatching animals in the city.
He promised to look into any instances of officers accused by residents of acting recklessly in such matters.
If police are called to handle nuisance animal complaints — the department handled more than 800 last year — they will still be authorized to dispose of them by gunshot if they lack proper equipment to remove them, or cannot get needed equipment such as a trap in a timely fashion, Freeman said.
“I’ve taken a lot of grief over this,” Freeman said.
The meeting also heard from Jeff Dorson of Alley Cats Allies, the nation’s biggest advocacy organization for cats.
The Maryland-based organization sent a representative to protest the shooting of kittens in 2013.
Dorson, who is from New Orleans, again called for Accorti’s dismissal as he called the city’s nuisance animal policies “out of touch with other parts of the country” where law enforcement agencies make headlines for saving and helping animals.
During his regular report, Mayor David Gillock said he has been aware of “a lot of support” in the city for Accorti.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.