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Community calls for removal of animal control officer

Online petition gained more than 500 signatures
Posted at 6:04 PM, Sep 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 18:19:23-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County District Attorney is now investigating the death of a dog in Lakawanna by an Animal Control Officer.

It's like déjà vu for Melanie Wojcinski. The same officer she said shot and killed her dog in 2003, is the man witnesses said shot a stray dog in the Holy Cross Cemetary on Monday.

"I wasn't surprised at all. Just his track record in Lackawanna and what he did to my dog...I still miss that dog, this is bringing back old memories," said Wojcinski.

Lackawanna Animal Control Officer Fred Grasso and City Police officer Tony Catuzza were responding to calls about a dog walking in circles at the cemetery, according to Lackawanna Director of Public Safety Ralph Galanti.

The two tried to catch the dog with a hoop, per Galanti, but were unsuccessful. Grasso determined the dog had mange and was acting strangely. It was then that he shot the dog for the public's safety, according to Galanti.

"I have confidence in him and trust his judgment," said Galanti.

Barbara Carr says this was the wrong way to handle the situation.

"We can't be handling stray dogs like this, this isn't 1900," said Carr, Former Executive Director of the SPCA and animal advocate.

Carr recalls another incident involving Officer Grasso back in 2008.

"We were informed by a woman that the dog officer had been in a basement and he was carrying a bag out and she asked what it was and he said 'I killed the cats in the basement,'" said Carr.

The SPCA investigated Grasso and he was found not guilty on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. This time, Carr wants to see something done.

"I mean he's gone for his gun before. I would say he's lacking training and he's been there forever," said Carr.

"He should've been gone a long time ago. It's scary, if I still lived in Lackawanna, I'd be afraid to own a dog or a cat," said Wojcinski.

There are others who want to see something done. A petition calling for his removal gained more than 500 signatures. This is the second time a petition has been started calling for his removal. That one, posted in 2008, got 1,353 supporters.

A protest was held outside Lackawanna City Hall Friday, demanding Grasso be fired.