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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Animal control officer shot mother cat and her two kittens-claiming self defense!

Lackawanna animal-control officer Frederick S. Grasso finally got his day in court Monday, testifying that he shot and killed three cats last June only after they had hissed and spat at him from the basement of a Lackawanna apartment complex.

"I opened the door, I took two steps downstairs, and three cats - the mother and two kittens - came at me," Grasso testified at his daylong trial on two misdemeanor charges. "They were all hissing and spitting at me."

Grasso then went back to his vehicle and grabbed his rifle.

"At that point, the safest means to dispose of those cats was to shoot them," Grasso told West Seneca Town Justice Richard B. Scott.

The case was transferred to West Seneca because it had generated so much comment and publicity in Lackawanna.

Asked later by defense attorney Arcangelo J. Petricca whether he had any alternative to shooting the cats, Grasso replied: "No, I don't believe there was any alternative. There was no safe way to remove those cats."

The nonjury trial also heard testimony from six prosecution witnesses and three defense witnesses. After the daylong proceeding, Scott reserved decision until Feb. 20.

The conflicting testimony presented two widely varying accounts of the three cats that were shot June 10 on Eagan Drive.

Prosecution witnesses, including neighbors and officials of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, portrayed the slain cats and four surviving kittens from the same family as docile, friendly animals that purred and even jumped onto neighbors' laps.

Barbara S. Carr, executive director of the Erie County SPCA, examined the four surviving kittens about two weeks after the shootings.

"They were perfectly normal kittens," Carr told the court. "They were friendly, purring, liked to be touched and didn't struggle to get away."

Michael P. Felicetta, an Erie County assistant district attorney, asked Patricia Murtha, a neighbor from Eagan Drive in Lackawanna, whether the mother cat was aggressive.

"No way, no way," she replied. "Any time she came over, she craved attention."

Several other witnesses provided similar descriptions of the cats' behavior.

"[Grasso] would have you believe that the mother and her two kittens turned evil, turned nasty [that day]," Felicetta said in his closing statement.

During the trial, Scott viewed a DVD shot by SPCA Peace Officer Charles Braun about two weeks after the shootings and depicting the four surviving kittens as very playful.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with June 10," Petricca objected. "It doesn't help evaluate the situation on June 10. . . . It's irrelevant."

Much of the prosecution testimony earlier in the day focused on witnesses who had heard Grasso admit the shootings. But that testimony became moot later in the trial, when Grasso admitted to having fired the three fatal shots.

Earlier, defense witness Vera Bink, the rental manager for the Eagan Drive apartment complex, told the court about the phone call she made to Grasso after having been confronted by the mother cat in the basement.

"I told him on the phone, 'Be careful. Take caution. . . . The female cat hissed at me, and she was ready to charge the stairs,' " Bink said.

"She was afraid to enter her basement, and she feared for the safety of her tenants," Grasso testified about Bink.

Grasso faces two unclassified misdemeanor charges under the state Agriculture and Markets Law, one for cruelty to animals, the other for euthanizing a dog or cat by gunshot.

The law on which the second charge is based states that no one may euthanize a dog or cat by gunshot, except as an emergency procedure for a "dangerous dog" or a severely injured dog or cat.

As Felicetta pointed out, the statute doesn't talk about a "dangerous cat," and there's no evidence or testimony that any of the cats here were severely injured.

But Petricca, in his opening statement, argued that the euthanasia charge should be dismissed.

"This is not a euthanasia case, your honor," he said. "This is not a Kevorkian-type killing." Feb. 10, 2009 

I want to know why this ACO didn't just trap them?  If he was going to kill them anyway, wouldn't the more humane act be trapping them and "humanely" euthanizing them?  I very rarely agree that euthanasia is the best choice (and I don't agree in this case) but generally cats who hiss once are deemed "aggressive" and are killed by people like this.  

Also, isn't there a protocol for this sort of thing?  They were enclosed in a basement and were not an immediate threat to anyone or any animal outside the basement.  They need to have someone KNOWLEDGEABLE about cat behavior working with animals.  A cat hissing, especially a mother cat, is just trying to protect themselves and their kittens.  It is completely normal for a cat to hiss at a strange person coming into their area.  Just because she hissed doesn't mean she is aggressive.  Also, if she did end up being feral, he should have trapped her and gotten her and her kittens (if they were old enough) spayed or neutered.  

It's ridiculous that he just took it upon himself to discharge a shotgun in a residential area and shoot these kittens after a FIVE MINUTE interaction with them-not even 5 minutes, he said himself that he took two steps into the basement, then went to get his rifle.

There are a lot of people in the case claiming that the kittens and mother were/are friendly.  4 kittens survived and were not shot.  The temperament of the cats doesn't really matter to me that much.  The point is that they were living beings and the ACO took it upon himself to judge their temperament and decided they were dangerous and shot and killed them in a minute or two.

This guy needs to be fired and convicted of animal cruelty.  

If you write to the judge (which I hope you will), feel free to use anything I wrote above.

He is in court Feb. 20, 2009.

Judge Richard B. Scott
West Seneca Town Court
1250 Union Road
West Seneca, NY 14224
Phone: 716.558.3247
Fax: 716.674.0518
(Grasso's Attorney) City Attorney, Arc Petricca


Please sign the petition regarding this case.


  1. I've had hands-on experience with hundreds of feral animals. In 8 years of this, I have only been slightly injured one time, and that was an accident in connection with the animal being startled.

    Grasso's behavior indicates he either has insufficient knowledge of how to deal with "potentially" dangerous animals (via humane trap, spay/neuter, safe relocation where care is guaranteed if the original location is not available), or, as this case implies, a contemptuous view of these animals as being "a nuisance."

    Cruelty to animals is frequently an indicator of, or precurser to, violent behavior towards humans. His slaying of these cats is undeniably cruel. He should therefore be banned from any government job in which he deals with the public and/or animals for life.

  2. Thank you, Nancy. I completely agree!

  3. duh, the mother cat was just trying to protect her babies. Do they know nothing about parental behavior in all animals, humans included?

  4. I agree with Nancy.


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