Repercussions possible over rabbit killing

By Michael Fitzpatrick

A North Ridgeville council member who worked in law enforcement for 25 years said he wants more information about Barry Accorti’s behavior during a call last week in which the former North Ridgeville Animal Control officer allegedly euthanized five rabbits by hitting their heads on his city-owned truck after being dispatched to remove the animals.

Police Chief Mike Freeman fired Accorti, a former SWAT team commander and lieutenant on the city’s police force, in May in connection with the incident, which happened the day prior, according to the chief.

It’s the third time since 2013 Accorti has killed animals within view of the public and with extreme violence.

In 2013, Accorti shot and killed five kittens after being called to remove the feral felines from a woodpile on a resident’s property. The homeowner at the time said Accorti was going to use a tranquilizer on the kittens and was shocked when he instead opened fire on the kittens, as she and her young children stood near by.

Accorti told the woman the kittens had gone to “kitty heaven.”

That incident perpetrated an international outcry for Accorti to be fired but he somehow managed to keep his job.

Then in 2014, he shot and killed a raccoon at a residence, but did so with the resident’s permission. However, he did so within eyesight of young children and neighbors who did not find Accorti’s actions humane or appropriate.

This latest incident greatly troubled Councilman Gregg Westover, who also happens to be a retired Ohio State Highway Patrolman, and animal lover.

Westover said he learned of the incident in an email from an Amherst resident who had heard about the incident and was sickened.

“If this happened, I’m extremely disturbed,” Westover said.

Westover said he did not have all the facts, but based on published reports, which stated Accorti killed the rabbits on the scene by hitting them against a truck, the firing of Accorti may not have been a severe enough penalty.

“He should be charged with animal cruelty. He should face charges for that. That is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to me,” said Westover.

“I can tell you after being in law enforcement for 27 years that’s not the way it should have been handled,” Westover continued. “That to me is cruel. If he had done that in front of me, we’d have had some problems.”

Westover made clear he was making his statements based on a published report. He said he had not seen anything from the city or the police department about Accorti’s firing and said he planned on filing a public information request to learn more about the incident and Accorti’s prior history.

“I want to see what happened,” said Westover. “This really disturbs me.”

If it turns out Accorti is charged with animal cruelty, he’ll be facing a fifth-degree felony. The charge had been a misdemeanor until House Bill 60 was passed in 2016. Also known as “The Goddard Law,” after animal lover and Cleveland TV weatherman Dick Goddard, animal cruelty is now a fifth degree felony, punishable by up to six months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Police Chief Mike Freeman said he terminated Accorti for not following policy.

According to Freeman, Accorti should have removed the animals before euthanizing them. The city instituted that policy, according to Freeman, after the 2013 incident involving Accorti in which he shot a raccoon at a resident’s property at the behest of the resident in eyesight of neighbors, who then became upset and complained to city officials about Accorti’s actions.

The most recent incident occurred May 23. Accorti was terminated May 24.

“We’ve got to be a little more sensitive to the public,” Freeman said, adding, “It’s an ugly job.”

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