Police Implicated in Deaths of Stray Cats

Ada Pierson has been feeding stray cats for years outside of her Stryker, Ohio, home. But according to Toledo’s WTVG/13ABC, all of them—a dozen or so—disappeared in January. And Pierson’s blaming Stryker police officers.

“They were either shot or they were drowned,” she explained to 13ABC reporter Christine Long. “I think it’s horrible, they did not deserve what they got. Why Stryker Police thought it was their duty to do something, I don’t know.”

An investigation, headed up by the sheriff’s department in neighboring Fulton County, has been completed and the case has been turned over to a Bryan Municipal Court prosecutor. If comments made by Stryker Mayor Dan Hughes are any indication, though, justice may be elusive.

“We have a very good police department,” Hughes told 13ABC. “We have well trained officers.” (According to the Stryker website, two are full-time, while 11 more are part-time; three are reserve officers.)

“Hughes doesn’t want to comment on specifics,” explains Long, “but he does say there is an ordinance to address nuisance animals.” [1]

“I believe that is some of the gray issue that is involved in this particular investigation. The department also has discretion on how they enforce the different ORCs and guidelines.”

Although a review of Stryker’s village ordinances does, in fact, reveal some of the gray area Hughes refers to, nowhere do their provisions allow for the kinds of actions alleged in this case. §505.08 Nuisance Conditions Prohibited, for example, explains: “No person shall keep or harbor any animal or fowl in the Municipality so as to create noxious, or offensive odors or unsanitary conditions which are a menace to the health, comfort or safety of the public.”

So, did somebody consider the cats Pierson was feeding a public health threat? There’s no indication from the news report that this was the case. In any event, a violation is a minor misdemeanor. And although the provisions of §505.01 prohibit dogs from running “at large upon any public place or upon any unenclosed lands within the Municipality or upon the premises of another,” there are no such restrictions on cats. (There is no mention of exemptions for “feral” or unowned domesticated animals, either.)

What’s more, §505.11 prohibits hunting in the village: “No person shall hunt, kill or attempt to kill any animal or fowl by the use of firearms, bow and arrow, air rifle or any other means within the corporate limits of the Municipality.”

And finally, §505.071, which addresses cruelty to companion animals, prohibits the “needless killing” or any “act of cruelty against a companion animal.” Companion animal is defined as “any animal that is kept inside a residential dwelling and any dog or cat regardless of where it is kept.”

I haven’t looked at the relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code, but it’s difficult to imagine that, as Hughes seems to suggest, the Stryker police have enough “discretion” to permit the shooting or drowning of cats.

•     •     •

It’s troubling that this story has received so little media attention. Perhaps it would be a good idea to let some of the key players know that we’re watching and expect justice to be served.

Stryker Mayor Dan Hughes
Bryan Municipal Court (to contact the prosecutor handling the case, whose name I hope to track down later today)
• 13ABC reporter Christine Long

Literature Cited

1. Long, C. (2013, March 27) Cat killing controversy in Strykerhttp://www.13abc.com/story/21810409/stryker-police-under-investigation-for-allegedly-killing-cats