How is it that Lebanon, OH city officials are now considering expanding the role of county dog warden? Is it really best that we give more power (the power to shoot and kill innocent stray animals) to more people? More than one year ago police shot and killed an innocent Lebanon, OH cat who was simply outdoors lounging in the sunlight. And what has been done since that time? Nothing. Now Lebanon wants to give power to MORE people to shoot and kill innocent animals. Is this really the right move?
Read the latest plea in the Western Star, for dog wardens to be given "more" control: http://www.western-star.com/news/news/officials-consider-expanding-role-of-county-dog-wa/nTyHg/
More than one year later-- remembering Haze, the innocent cat shot to death by Lebanon City Police. More than a year has passed and still, nothing has changed in the city of Lebanon...
Having always loved animals, when Dori and Randy Stone of Lebanon, Ohio found a feline in need, covered in snow outside of their home, they didn’t hesitate to help. In fact, they took him in, named him Haze and appointed him as an official member of their family. Haze quickly fit in and became a favorite not just among Dori and Randy, but also among their many friends and family. You couldn’t help but love Haze. Dori tearfully shared, “Haze was very calm, docile and very friendly. He would not run from anyone—he loved everyone.”
Dori and Randy fed Haze a healthy, organic diet, provided him with the very best in veterinary care and showered the happy, healthy feline with unlimited love and attention. To say Haze was loved is an understatement at best. Dori and Randy shared some of their favorite memories with Haze, “…Haze had a very different meow, it was more like a honk! Another cute thing he would do was look at us night around 9:00 PM when we were sitting in the living room, and he would look at us like he wanted to go to sleep. We had a red blanket that we would put on the couch for him. As soon as we put it down, he jumped up and went right to sleep for the night. Now mind you, we had a brown blanket and blue blanket, neither of which he would jump on…he wanted the red one! The best memory of all, Haze would sit out on the back deck in nice weather and wait for Randy to come home. He knew exactly what time he would pull in and then run to Randy as soon as he got out of the truck.” Now that’s a happy welcome home!
Is there anything more endearing than a loyal, devoted pet? According to the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, there are approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States alone. For anyone who shares their life with a pet, it is without doubt that you understand the complexities and the richness of the human-animal bond. You understand that no matter how bad your day at work has been, your pet(s) will still happily greet you at the door as if you are a King or Queen. You understand that if you’re feeling a bit under the weather and need to stay in bed for an entire day, your pet will be right there with you, snuggled up by your side- devoted and loyal, without question. For the millions of us who share our lives with a pet, we know how unbelievable painful it is to lose them after a lifetime of love, happiness and amazing memories. But unlike Dori and Randy Stone, we can not possibly begin to comprehend how painful it must be to lose a beloved, cherished family pet to the heartless shot of a police officer’s bullet.
On August 20, 2011 Dori and Randy Stone realized that Haze was missing. In a panic, the Stone’s contacted local animal control, neighbors and also the Lebanon City Police. Dori stated, “And the only reason why we contacted the police in the first place when Haze was missing was because we just stopped in to ask them if the dog warden picked up cats. The dispatcher told us no, they do not pick up cats and then asked where we lived. I told her and then she told me that they had to “put down a cat in our alley yesterday (8/20/11). She and Officer Cooper then gave us the call log and that is when we learned Haze was shot.”
City Manager of Lebanon, Ohio, Pat Clements shared his thoughts on the incident. “Haze was primarily an outdoor cat who the owner described to Police as an “alley cat”. Haze was not wearing a collar or tags. The cat reportedly slept in a shed and roamed at will. Lebanon PD was contacted by a resident stating that there is a cat that appears injured or sick lying in their back yard and they are afraid to touch it because it might have rabies…the backyard is adjacent to a public alley.” The Stone’s confirmed that Haze did not wear a collar. “Collars are not recommended on any cat, either indoor or outdoor, our veterinarian told us this.” Stated Dori Stone. In addition, Dori shared, “…Cats are not required to have tags. Haze did not sleep in a barn and he didn’t wonder at will. Haze was an indoor/outdoor cat- although mostly indoors. Especially in the summer heat, Haze was indoors a lot. When outdoors, he only ever went in our backyard and in the yard immediately next door. He was not an alley cat.” Furthermore, Bruce Langos, the President of the Board for the Greater Dayton Humane Society shared his concerns, “Under Ohio law, cats are considered personal property and are not subject to licenses or tags. Whether Haze was wandering around or living in a shed has no merit on the issue. Under the law anyone ‘caring’ for a cat is considered the ‘owner’ whether indoors or outdoors. Also, under Ohio law no one may willfully shoot, harm, or abuse a companion animal unless there is a threat of personal injury.” When then, did the Lebanon City Police Department feel they were above this law? Langos continued, “This was not a dog that was aggressive nor was Haze aggressive. He was simply lying down and not reacting to the officer- that is obvious and normal behavior for a cat. Also the officer obviously could tell Haze was not a feral cat. It would have appeared that Haze was someone’s cat who was domesticated and was also well fed and not a stray. The Lebanon City Police Department is not above the Ohio Revised Code and for their Law Director to think so is absurd. Their animal destruction policy is in violation of the Ohio Revised Code whether they want to admit it or not.”
City Manager Pat Clements noted that “Both the caller and the resident confirmed to the officer that the cat appeared to have been hit by a vehicle or was sick or in distress. The two residents are the only witnesses to the event and both have strongly supported the actions of the officer.” The Stone’s spoke with the neighbors who called the police in regards to finding Haze lounging on their property. The Stone’s stated, “It is not true that at the time the property owner confirmed to the police that the cat appeared to have been hit by a vehicle… The property owner did not even know the police was there until she heard the gunshot. And being hit by a car? That is the first time WE HAVE EVER HEARD THAT ONE! All of the news reporters interviewed Betty (neighbor/resident) and she never said that. In addition, we recovered Haze's body and he had no visible signs of injury with the exception of the bullet hole.” Dori and Randy continued, “When Vernon Lakes wrote his letter to the editor of the Western Star he did not even mention that Haze had been hit by a car, or that he had any other injuries other than he was "unresponsive." Which we find interesting, considering Betty told me he was on her back sidewalk and had gotten up and moved 3 times. (We are still awaiting copies of the witness statements as part of the police report, which did not say anything either about being hit by a car.)”Dori continued, “The resident of the property heard her ten-year old granddaughter, who witnessed Officer Covey shooting and killing Haze stated, “Grandma, they just shot that cat!” The Stone’s spoke with the property resident who shared the events the occurred. Dori and Randy Stone shared the following statement in regards to the property owners comments, “When the officer came, he poked Haze with his baton and he didn’t move. He then radioed his supervisor, Sgt. Duerre and got permission to shoot. He shot Haze in the head and left the scene. The total call time was just five minutes.” It took just minutes for Lebanon City Police to decide to shoot and kill a harmless, innocent cat. Ms. Stone further commented, “We had made a lost cat report with the Warren County Humane Association one hour prior to Haze being shot. 1 HOUR! Officer Covey couldn’t have made a phone call? He couldn’t tell from looking at Haze that he wasn’t a stray (he weighed close to 20 lbs.)? He couldn’t have knocked on the surrounding neighborhood doors? My God, we were home!”
Bruce Langos, of the Greater Dayton Humane Society shared his thoughts on the loss of Haze, “Office Covey is not a licensed veterinarian or veterinary technician and would have no way of knowing if the animal was in distress, hit by a car, or simply scared.” Langos further noted, “If you review the log from the dispatch that day from the time the call was received until the shooting of Haze, only 6 minutes passed. So nobody really did try to understand what so called ‘distress’ Haze was in because there simply wasn’t time. This officer wanted to dispose of the call and move on, and because there is no partnership between animal agencies and the police department, officers have no idea what to do with these calls that involve stray animals that are not dogs. Most police officers hate animal related calls like dogs barking, etc. I know this for a fact as a former Police Officer myself.”
Reports show that after being shot and killed, Haze was wrapped in a trash bag and placed in neighborhood garbage can. Clements commented, “The residents offered to dispose of the animal and did so after the officer departed the scene. They reported placing the animal in a plastic bag and then placing it in a garbage can.” Pat Clements shared that all of his comments are documented in public record. After speaking with the property resident, the Stone’s learned that Haze was “placed in their garbage stuffed among all of the brush the brother-in-law had been cutting down in the yard that day.” The Stone’s further stated, “The "residents" did not offer to dispose of Haze's body--Vernon Lakes is not a resident and he just asked Betty for a trash bag.”
In truth, Haze and Officer Covey of the Lebanon City Police Department are the only ones who will ever truly know what happened on August 20, 2011 in a quiet neighborhood of Lebanon, Ohio. Sadly, only one of them is able to speak their side of the story. Regardless of who witnessed the incident, the fact remains that Haze was shot and killed by Office Covey and to date no apologies have been issued to the Stone family.
City Manager Clements commented, “Although this is an unfortunate incident, it has led to an increased awareness regarding the gap in service/capability to respond to these types of situations. Prior to this incident, the local Animal Shelter refused to respond to these incidents due to lack of resources. Following the incident the Animal Shelter has agreed to be contacted and respond, within the limits of their resources, and the City’s animal destruction policy has been amended to include a requirement to attempt to contact the Animal Shelter and request their response. A local vet has donated a chip reader to the PD. I do not know if Haze was micro-chipped.” Clements comments that changes have been made, yet no apologies have been offered to the Stone’s. The Stone’s are understandably upset about the situation. Ms. Stone stated, “When I spoke with Chief Burns a couple of days after Haze was shot, he told me that “this happens all of the time, but that they have never been confronted with it.” So that indicates that if Lebanon residents have a missing pet, their fate may have been the same as Haze's.” Clements further commented, “I’m not suggesting that our government agencies should not be held to a high standard. I’m only asking that criticism be fair and based on the facts. Almost all of the criticism of our actions have originated from the Dayton area where the initial unfair and inaccurate story appeared in print and on Channel 7. As a result of the power of the internet, the story went viral before we could seek correction to it…Follow up reporting has been more accurate, and as facts became more known, the concerns diminished.”
The concerns may have diminished for the Lebanon City PD and for City Manager Pat Clements, but they certainly haven’t diminished for the Stone family and for their thousands upon thousands of supporters. To say that concerns have diminished is anything but truthful. Dori and Randy Stone stated, “The concerns have not diminished- not ours, or our supporters. The Lebanon City PD has not done a thing to fix this situation and it has been more than six months. They have put us off hoping this will all go away. Well, we are not going away until they remove the shooting provision from the Operations Manual and we receive an apology from the PD, including Officer Covey, Sgt. Duerre and Office Cooper and City Manager Pat Clements.” Langos, President of the Board for the Greater Dayton Humane Society stated, “The most fascinating aspect of this situation is that the officer is discharging his firearm on a helpless cat in a residential area. You won’t find this to be allowed in most progressive police agencies unless there is a life or death situation.” Finding Haze lounging in a neighborhood yard was certainly nothing near a life or death situation.
What can be done?
Karen Minton the Ohio State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, spoke with the former police chief, Burns and Pat Clements in January of 2012, offering humane officer training and was turned down. Karen Minton commented, “We did reach out to Police Chief Burns and City Manager Pat Clements following the incident to offer training for deputies on responding to these and similar calls. Both Chief Burns and Mr. Clements were polite and professional, but declined the offer. Chief Burns shared that they realized after the incident that protocol needed to change, and subsequently revised their operations manual.” Karen further commented, “We have offered our continued assistance in any way we can.” Karen Minton expressed her sincere sympathy for Dori and Randy Stone, along with the “tragic loss of their beloved Haze.” On behalf of the Humane Society of the United States, Karen stated, “While we recognize and respect that first responders occasionally encounter potentially dangerous situations involving companion animals, we encourage protocol that protects not only the first responder’s safety, but also addresses the welfare of the animal…”
After gaining substantial negative national attention for their actions, why would the Lebanon City Police Department deny proper training? Why does the Police Department refuse to offer an apology to the Stone family? Langos of the Greater Dayton Humane Society shared, “…As to a resolution there does not appear to be one. Karen Minton of the HSUS offered to arrange training for the police department members to ensure they understood in the future how to handle these calls and how to get help. In fact, for $150 per officer for Humane Agent training they could become Humane Agents for the county and could help with these issues in the future. Not a lot of investment, but this offer was refused by the Chief of Police. We have trained officers in Dayton, Miami Township, Riverside and Brookville Police Departments who are equipped with knowledge and skills to handle these unfortunate circumstances.” Nearly all surrounding areas have properly trained police officers, begging the question, why does the Lebanon City Police force refuse to receive training? Langos continued, “The city owes Haze’s owners an apology at minimum. But equally important, they need to form a partnership with the Humane Society in Warren County, get officers trained, and change their policy to prevent this from happening in the future. Not to mention compliance with the laws of the State.” The Stone’s added, “The Warren County Humane Association did not offer to arrange for training--Karen Minton with the Ohio State Humane Society, however, did offer. Warren County Humane Association has done nothing.”
Interestingly enough, Sgt. Duerre (Officer Covey's Sgt.), who gave Officer Covey permission to shoot Haze on August 20, 2011 is speculated to retire in the near future. Promotions have recently been announced within the department. The Western Star reports “…The promotions were a result of vacancies created by the promotion of Mitchell to chief of police and the pending retirement of Sgt. Charles Duerre…” (http://www.western-star.com/news/lebanon-oh-news/two-lebanon-police-prom...) The Police Chief of the Lebanon City Police Department at the time Haze was shot to death by Officer Covey, is Chief. Kenneth Burns. Chief Burns retired following the incident, in January of 2012.
There are facts and speculation circulating the incident. However, one thing is clear, Haze was shot. And it is clear that Haze is gone. Death is final; it is not something you can recover from, it is the end. With one bullet, Officer Covey decided that Haze should never breathe another breath again. No more lounging in his humans’ laps, no more greeting his humans after work with his tail held high and his soft soothing purr. No more funny sounding meows. No more cuddling up for bedtime on his favorite red blanket. The ‘no more’s’ became endless the moment Officer Covey placed a bullet in Haze.
Changes are needed and a continued awareness is essential…
“We are not trying to change the law. The law is in place. The Ohio Revised Code Section 959.02 and the Lebanon City Ordinance Section 505.05 state:
“No person shall maliciously, or willfully, and without the consent of the owner, kill or injure a horse, mare, foal, filly, jack, mule, sheep, goat, cow, steer, bull, heifer, ass, ox, swine, dog, cat, or other domestic animal that is the property of another. This section does not apply to a licensed veterinarian acting in an official capacity.”
The issue at hand is that the Lebanon Police Department's Operations Manual is NOT in compliance with Ohio law. It allows a police officer to shoot any animal,” stated Randy and Dori Stone.
The Stone’s are grateful for the thousands of supporters who have come to their side. “…We have so many supporters we cannot even count. Obviously, all of our family and close friends knew Haze and are behind us 100% in addition to all of the supporters world-wide.” And the support continues to grow. Supporters of Haze have created a petition to change the Lebanon City Police Department’s Operations Manual, to mandate that it be updated to be compliant with Ohio law. Please read, sign and share the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/lebanon-ohio-city-council-city-manager-a... Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And in the Stone’s case, public support is exactly what is needed to continue their plight. Haze’s supporters have also created a Facebook page in his memory. To “Like” the page and share your personal thoughts in memory of Haze, please click here: http://www.facebook.com/hazethecat The Stone’s pleaded, “We want the option of shooting removed from the police department's operations manual and we want an apology from Officer Covey, Sgt. Duerr, Officer Cooper and City Manager Pat Clements--in person.” Dori continued, “Lebanon Police Manual needs to change and remain compliant with ORC Codes and Lebanon Ordinances. A shot to the head is never humane. Code Section 959.02 and Lebanon City Ordinance 505.02 are the same: prohibiting ANYONE from shooting a companion animal.”
The Stone’s shared this piece of advice for other Lebanon, Ohio pet owners,“Unfortunately, keep your pets, especially your cats indoors. We know it's difficult especially with cats that probably have been outside most of their lives. You know the risks when an animal is outdoors such as fights with other animals or even being hit by a car, but never ever would we have thought a danger would be being shot by a police officer. Now the fear is those individuals that are malicious toward animals that they hate. So you cannot be too careful anymore, if you cannot even trust a police officer to do the right thing. We still do not know the TRUTH as to what, if anything, was wrong with Haze. Regardless, the officer should have called the Humane Association and/or knocked on doors, especially the homeowner's door.”
Despite the incredibly pain the Stone family continues to face with the untimely and unjustified loss of Haze, the family shared,“Haze gives us the strength to keep moving forward. We have a photo of him in our living room as a constant reminder to keep going. This has been a truly devastating experience to live through. We have lost two cats previously to illness, but loosing Haze due to a senseless act of being shot in the head has been unbearable, and inexcusable. We miss Haze every single day. There has rarely been a day that has gone by where we have not talked about it with someone, someone has brought it to our attention or we have just cried over losing him. We take very good care of our cats. Haze had vet care and we fed him the best organic cat foods. He loved to go to the vet, even the car rides to and from the vet. Just to have lost him the way we did in unacceptable. It was not Officer Covey's (who is not a veterinarian) to make the decision for Haze to die by his gun. If there was something wrong with Haze, it should have been our decision, the Humane Association's or a veterinarian's. Knowing that Haze's last memory was a gun being pointed and fired at his face, this was just wrong no matter how you look at it. “
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