SOLON - Between 150-200 people squeezed into the Solon branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library Dec. 8 to attend the first meeting of Friends of Solon Deer.
The group hopes to stop Solon's deer-culling program, which calls for shooting 600 deer, or about half the city's deer population, early in 2005.
Group leaders urged members to attend this Monday's City Council meeting and protest the deer-culling plan. They may ask council to place the issue on the ballot.
Leaders also encouraged members to send petition letters to council members and to the Ohio House of Representatives.
Helping lead the new group was Steve Hindi, president of SHARK – Show Animals Respect and Kindness – a self-described animal protection group based in Geneva, Ill.
Hindi said he learned of Solon's deer-culling plan about 18 months ago during an animal rights conference in Washington, D.C. Two Greater Cleveland residents – including Patti Mellini, who has fought against killing deer in Solon – were at the conference.
Pros vs. cons At the Dec. 8 meeting, residents in favor of culling heckled Hindi and other group members, who showed videotapes of deer being trapped and killed.
Also at the meeting were David Klunzinger, Solon's director of public works, who is overseeing the culling program; Councilmen Ed Suit and John Scott; Police Chief Wayne Godzich and Assistant Chief Ray Tittl; and Building Commissioner Al Uthe.
Ken Gazdag, former Planning and Zoning Commission member, and Joseph and Patricia Baumann, curator and president of the Solon Historical Society and Museum, respectively, also attended. All three support culling. At one point, the meeting fell apart. In the lobby outside, culling supporters confronted deer-rights activists while television news cameras rolled.
Meanwhile, inside the meeting room, group members continued calls to stop the deer-culling program. You can win, Hindi told the group. You must win. You just can't let go.
Looking for trouble The Solon Police Department was prepared for trouble between group members and culling supporters.
Before and during the meeting, a cruiser – containing Rex, the city's K-9 – guarded the library entrance. Godzich and Tittl stood watch inside the building.
As the start time approached, it became apparent that the meeting room wasn't big enough. Library staff plopped down extra chairs, but television cameras from local stations hogged the center of the room. Some people stood along the walls, while teenagers sat cross-legged on the floor, behind the cameras. Others stood in the hallway, stretching their necks.
Hindi showed a grainy SHARK video – taken with hidden cameras – of deer being captured with a rocket net. The device uses explosives to activate the net over a large area. Deer were tossed into the air.
Hindi said people need to see what a rocket net looks like.
"Why?" a woman shouted from the audience. "This isn't what (Solon) is going to do."
When the rocket net exploded and captured a group of deer, one man – apparently in favor of culling – clapped his hands.
Hindi said that in the video, a deer was crying 30 minutes after it had been shot with a captive bolt, a firearm that sends a steel spike through an animal's skull. He said that's proof that the captive bolt isn't humane.
"How long does a driver of an automobile cry out?" a man shouted from the audience, referring to the dozens of car-deer accidents in town. One woman asked if Hindi was sure that deer were suffering in the video. "Shut up," audience members said.
As the video was playing, one man stormed out, disgusted.