Group files suit to film deer killing in Solon

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)

By Michael O'Malley

Solon – A lawsuit filed by an animal-rights group against Solon seeks the right to videotape the city's mass deer killing.

The group, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, known as SHARK, wants to document sharpshooters killing deer as they feed on bait set on public land. But the city says no cameras.

SHARK last month filed a suit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, saying the killing is public business and the public has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to document it.

On Monday, SHARK asked the court to block the killings - which could begin as early as this month - until the court issues a decision.

Judge Nancy McDonnell scheduled a hearing for Friday, Jan. 14.

The city recently hired a Connecticut sharpshooting operation called White Buffalo Inc. to kill 600 deer, about half of the city's estimated deer population.

The move came in the wake of residents' complaints of deer destroying gardens and running through streets, creating traffic hazards.

Animal-rights activists oppose the killings, saying the city should explore using contraception to thin herds.

SHARK said its aim in videotaping the killings is to expose the brutality and generate public outrage.

"If the citizenry could see and hear in the cold light of day what takes place during sharpshooting, that sharpshooting would be voted down and contraception would be voted in," SHARK says in its lawsuit.

Sharpshooters plan to set up ambushes on at least 40 public and private sites throughout the city. More than 100 residents have offered their yards for the deer kill.

SHARK, based in Illinois, had asked Solon for permission to set unmanned cameras on public killing spots. City Prosecutor Blair Melling, in a letter that SHARK attached to its lawsuit, denied the request.

Melling could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The suit names Mayor Kevin Patton, Police Chief Wayne Godzich and former public works Director David Klunzinger. All declined to comment on the suit Tuesday.

Klunzinger said White Buffalo President Tony DeNicola is still picking the killing sites.