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Lackawanna residents protest animal control officer's shooting of dog

Mike Desmond
Activists were at Lackawanna City Hall Monday night protesting the shooting death of a stray animal.

Activists were back before the Lackawanna City Council Monday night, protesting the Sept. 9 shooting death of a canine in Holy Cross Cemetery by the city's animal control officer.

What happened isn't entirely clear, since the dog was shot in the head, destroying the area of the brain tested for the presence of rabies.

After neighbors called animal control about a dog running around in the cemetery behind their yards, officers spent half an hour trying to snare the dog, or coydog, and finally decided shooting it was the only alternative.

Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski said the decision was the right one, citing that Global Concepts Charter School is very near the location of the incident.

"There's a charter school, where our young ones are running around, so I think they acted appropriately and unfortunately people are still upset," he said. "I mean, they think our animal control officers are driving around lighting up labradoodles everywhere. That's not the case at all. It was simply, they were called and after trying to handle it humanely and seeing the way it was acting, they realized the best thing they could do for public safety was to put the animal down."

Animal activist Erik Piechowicz said there were alternatives.

"What could have been done is, they could have easily coaxed the dog. There's more than one way to catch a dog," Piechowicz said. "McDonald's and a couple of cheeseburgers, sit down and relax until the dog gets comfortable and comes up to you. Not just run around, chasing around a cemetery for a half hour. You can't catch it, so you decide to just pull out your gun and kill it."

Piechowicz said there have been too many problematic actions by the control officer in question and the city needs to look at him again. Szymanski said the officer has been cleared by Albany and police.

"There's only a portion of the brain if an animal has rabies that they can test for, and if that portion of the brain was removed, then it's a very difficult way to try to see if the animal had rabies. That's what I've been told," Szymanski said. "But the fact is, the state has just, I believe, done an investigation and said we handled things properly. Our local police department has investigated and said we handled things properly."

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is also looking at what happened, but Szymanski said he expects the officer to be cleared again.