A sadly tiny blip across the “WTF” radar was the shooting of five kittens by an Ohio policeman named Bob (or Barry) Accorti on June 10, 2013. The story in brief: homeowner has litter of feral cats in her woodpile; calls police; police send Accorti (a “part-time humane officer”, according to the North Ridgeville, OH, police web site). The homeowner assumes, and Accorti tells the homeowner specifically, that the cats will be “euthanized” as “the shelters are all full”. Homeowner pictures “euthanasia” involving the cats being trapped and taken to a shelter and euthanized there. Accorti, however, conforms to the traditional police method of euthanasia (another link, another link) for “nuisance animals” — and instead shoots the 8-10-week old kittens, right in front of the homeowner and her young children who are watching through the windows.
The department has cleared him of any wrongdoing, concluding that the officer acted as required to remove the nuisance animals and that “research and other animal organizations accept shooting as an acceptable means of euthanasia.” (Well, yes, they do, but “with conditions” and only in “emergency situations”, requiring that personnel be “highly skilled” and that “pre-euthanasia sedation is recommended” because cats “may be difficult to shoot humanely” (section S1.3.3).) He was, perhaps, extremely tactless about it, but he did the job he was called to do, and did it in a legally acceptable manner.
Using phrases like “screaming kids” and “helpless kittens“, multiple individuals and organizations are trying to get Accorti punished, somehow, for shooting the kittens. However, they can’t punish him for shooting the kittens, because shooting kittens is, technically, a viable option, and legal (at least in Ohio) — so instead they’re trying to punish him for shooting the kittens in front of the children.
I am of two minds on this point: I believe we should at least be open and honest about the horrible things we do to animals (only by publicly acknowledging that these things are being done can we stop them being done). If you’re going to shoot kittens, you should not be able to do it in secret — you should have to do it right out in the open so everybody knows it’s happening, and has ample opportunity to object and/or stop you. However, I also believe there is a required maturity level juvenile humans should reach before being confronted with concepts like “things die” and “sometimes we cause things to die”, and that the officer was not in a position to dictate whether or not those kids were at that maturity level. In any case, the officer probably should have at least warned the homeowner before firing, so she could choose whether or not she wanted to educate her children about those ideas at that exact moment.
I think the bigger point, however, is this: if we’re offended and horrified by the shooting of kittens, so much so that we don’t want our children exposed to it, and don’t want to see it ourselves — why don’t we attack, and call to ban, “the shooting of kittens” instead of “the shooting of kittens in front of children“? Officer Accorti, and his actions, are not the problem here — the problem is that our legal system still regards “gunshot to the head” as a viable method of euthanasia for cats (and a bunch of other animals, including dogs). If we think that’s so horrible that we’re willing to lynch a guy for doing it, maybe we ought to consider passing legislation prohibiting that method of “euthanasia”.