A police department in Ohio on Tuesday defended a humane officer who shot and killed a litter of feral kittens and told nearby children that the animals would be going to "kitty heaven."
An executive with the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the Sun News that Humane Officer Barry Accorti had responded to a complaint from a Vista Lake Way homeowner on Monday about a litter of kittens living in her woodpile.
"He informed her that shelters were full and that these cats would be going to kitty heaven," Ohio SPCA Executive Director Teresa Landon explained to the paper. "She assumed he would be trapping them or something and taking them to a shelter and they would be humanely euthanized if they were not adopted."
"Instead, he went to his truck and got a gun, which she thought was a tranquilizer gun, and walked around to the back of the house and approximately 15 feet from her back door shot and killed the 8- to 10-week-old kittens."
Landon said the officer began shooting the animals in front of the homeowner and within in range of her young children.
"Her children were upstairs in view of the windows. They started screaming and crying because they heard the gunshots. They started screaming, ‘Mommy, he’s killing the kittens,’" Landon noted. "It’s heartbreaking... There is no excuse for it. It’s absolutely shameful that someone with the title of humane officer would do this."
The SPCA called for Accorti to be fired, but North Ridgeville Police Department Chief Mike Freeman released a statement defending his actions.
"The cats were located within the wood pile and euthanized," Freeman wrote. "The cats were removed from the wood pile and taken from the residence."
The police chief added:
The complainant urged better communication in the future. NRPD recognizes the concerns of those who believe feral cats should not be killed for simply trying to survive but also acknowledges other research that recognizes the risks associated with these animals and the need to manage feral cats. Research and other animal organizations accept shooting as an acceptable means of euthanasia.
After visiting the scene, talking with the responding officer and re-interviewing the complainant, I have decided his actions were appropriate and have decided not to impose any disciplinary measures for the incident. We will talk with the humane officers about improving their communications with the public. We are here to help those who seek our assistance. Our agency prides itself on not telling people, "It's not our problem or there is nothing we can do for you." This would be the easy way out. To walk away and leave a safety issue unresolved is irresponsible. At no time does this agency condone or allow the indiscriminate killing of animals, but we will continue to assist residents when there is a safety or nuisance condition.
The North Ridgeville Police Department said it was forced to take down its Facebook page for hours on Monday due to "overwhelming abuse."
"We are firm believers in everyone having their right to express their opinions about what we do, even dissenting, but they must maintain a level of common decency," the department wrote on its page on Tuesday. "We created this post to give you a place to speak out for or against what is being reported. Please be respectful of others and use the manners that you were all raised with. Thank you."
By Wednesday morning, that the department's Facebook page was still up, but that post had been deleted.
Watch this video from WKYC, broadcast June 11, 2013.