Last week, we reported the story of Lackawanna, New York animal control officer Fred Grasso, who gunned down a mother cat and her kittens but was subsequently found innocent of all charges by a judge who ruled that Grasso’s actions were justified.
Here’s video coverage of the story:
In Sunday’s Buffalo News, Donn Esmonde tells us the rest of the story… a tale of a loving and affectionate mother cat who was a welcome guest at neighborhood barbecues, and an out-of-control animal control officer who, despite an excuse that he thought the cats were rabid, dumped the bodies in landfill instead of preserving them for rabies testing:
by Donn Esmonde
The white blanket still is there, on the shelf in the basement storage unit. Jackie Ceccarelli laid it there last spring, soon after the gray cat clearly pregnantcame in through the broken cellar window. It walked up to her, purring.
It was the start of a nice friendship, a friendship that continued as the cat bore six kittens on that same blanket. The friendship grew as Ceccarelli, 22, and others in the Lackawanna apartment complex fed and petted the new mother. The friendship expanded to include the pets attendance at backyard cookouts.
The friendship between the stray abandoned when a family moved out and residents in the brick, four-unit apartment buildings ended June 10. On that day, what sounds to me like an out-of-control animal control officer shot the mother cat dead in her basement home, along with two of the kittens.
Fred Grassoresponding to what residents think was a complaint about a different cat claimed in court he acted after the hissing cat and kittens came at me. The very idea of an attack cat sounds bizarre to me. Nor can I fathom why a man with a .22-caliber rifle felt threatened by a 10- pound cat and 6-week-old kittens. Nor do I understand why an animal control officer who supposedly feared that the cats were rabidas Grasso claimed discarded the corpses in a landfill, instead of preserving the bodies for testing.
It gets worse. I recently went to the building where the cats were killed. Grassodespite the possibility of a ricochet fired the rifle in a cellar with concrete walls and floor, four furnaces, four water heaters and two apartments directly overhead.
West Seneca Judge Richard Scott last weekto the disbelief of Ceccarelli and other residents, to the outrage of SPCA officialsdismissed animal cruelty charges and said Grasso was justified in executing the cat and kittens. We got a decision, but not justice.
At very least, Grasso showed such massively poor judgment that he should be taken off the job. I would not want this guy carrying a loaded rifle in my neighborhood. Yet Lackawanna Mayor Norm Polanski put Grasso back on the street.
Did he use poor judgment? I dont know, I wasnt in that basement, Polanski said. The judge said he did the right thing, and thats where it ends in my eyes.
Grassos attorney called the cat and kittens feral cats . . . a wild cat family.
That is not what I heard.
Wed have cookouts, and the mother cat would sit with us and wed pet her, Ceccarelli, a service station manager, told me. The kittens were the size of your hand . . . Nobody here was afraid of these cats.
Patricia Murtha lives across the street. She met the attack cat when it rubbed against her while she was gardening.
Shed let us pet her, and then shed run back to the basement to be with her kittens, said Murtha, 58, a nurses aide. She was such an affectionate cat . . . None of us can believe the judge let [Grasso] go.
Murtha saw Grasso go in the building that day with a rifle and a black garbage bag. The bag was full when he came out.
He dropped the bag on the ground, like [the cats] were garbage, Murtha said. I cried when he told me he killed them . . . He said the other [four] kittens ran under the dryer, so he couldnt get them.
Grasso did not return a call for comment left on his answering machine.
The four surviving kittens, healthy and friendly, have since been adopted. But the mother cat and two kittens are dead. Fred Grasso, and his rifle, are back on the street.
Which ought to make for a lot of nervous animal lovers in Lackawanna.
This is reportedly not the first (and not likely the last) time that Grasso has gunned down an animal. According to the Buffalo News, Lackawanna resident Melanie Wojcinski claims that Grasso shot her 2-year-old Labrador, Shadow, in July 2003 and dumped the dogs body in a creek near her home. Although the police report on Shadows death stated that Grasso had disposed properly of the body, children playing near Smokes Creek found the dog’s body in the creek.
Here’s the contact information for the judge in the case:
Judge Richard B. Scott
West Seneca Town Court
1250 Union Road
West Seneca, NY 14224