SHELBY — A video circulating on social media showing a Shelby police cruiser driving over a possibly rabid raccoon has incited criticism of the police department.
According to Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs, at approximately 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, police received two calls from citizens regarding a sick or rabid raccoon in the road on Second Street. One caller was concerned that children were messing with the raccoon and would be bitten.
"Upon arrival, the responding officer observed that the animal was clearly sick or injured and staggering in the roadway," Combs said. "The officer determined that the animal needed to be destroyed."
Combs stated that because of the time of day and being in a residential area, the officer did not feel it was safe to destroy the animal with a firearm. Therefore, the officer made a judgement call to destroy the animal with his vehicle.
"Neither Shelby nor Richland County have an 'animal control' department, nor do we have the training or equipment to capture a potentially rabid animal, that would ultimately need to be destroyed regardless," Combs said. "At the time of this call, we had two officers working, and were assisting the FBI on a federal search warrant."
The decision to destroy the animal with a vehicle has sparked outrage outline, including a petition on change.org to fire the officer involved. Devin Ferguson of Mansfield, who started the petition, intends to send it to the Ohio House, Senate and Gov. Mike DeWine.
As of early afternoon Thursday, the petition had acquired 195 signatures.
The following is a quote from Ferguson's petition that appears exactly how it was written:
"Even if the animal was sick, rabid, or injured as claimed to be the way the sitiation was handled was unprofessional and cruel," he wrote. "If it was sick it should have been shot or HUMANLY uthinized in another way. There are rules and regulations for any situation a officer encounters and running down a animal with a car is not one of them."
Combs said police will work with the Shelby Health Department to see if any testing can be done to determine if the animal was indeed sick.
"The actions in the video are certainly unpleasant to watch," Combs said. "However, leaving a sick or injured animal in a situation that could be dangerous to the public especially to children that had already been seen near the animal, the officer chose to side with public safety and to destroy the animal as quickly as possible, without endangering the public."
In the last year, the Shelby Police Department responded to eight animal bites and over 140 animal calls.
As a result of this incident, Combs stated the department will be reviewing its policy, reviewing its training, and meeting with the law director to review the incident completely.