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The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

Fur and Fury: The Slaughter of Raccoon by Fire Commissioner

Fur+and+Fury%3A+The+Slaughter+of+Raccoon+by+Fire+Commissioner

The death of a possibly rabid raccoon outside of the Springfield Fire Department, by Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi, and the accompanying footage released of this incident has caused much controversy in the area and has resulted in an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

The Incident

On Wednesday February 21st, Springfield’s Fire Commissioner, Bernard J. (BJ) Calvi, intentionally used a city vehicle to run over a possibly rabid raccoon multiple times outside of the Fire Department’s headquarters on Worthington Street.

Video of this incident has been released and shared online, garnering much attention and causing uproar for the community and surrounding towns.

Another video showed a person walking very close to the raccoon, seemingly limping and dragging itself across the ground.

22News had requested records of calls the city received surrounding the raccoon; out of seven calls, only two had mentioned that the raccoon could possibly be rabid. Two other calls had mentioned the raccoon as possibly sick and a different caller stated the raccoon could have been blind.

Before the release of these calls, The Springfield Fire Department told 22News they had reports of a sick, and distressed raccoon even though they could not confirm if it was indeed rabid, but the commissioner said he witnessed foaming of the raccoon’s mouth.

22News was also told by the Springfield Fire Department that TJ O’Connor Animal Control was notified, however the organization does not deal with nuisance wildlife. Which led to a trapper being notified, yet an estimated time of arrival could not be confirmed, so the commissioner took it in his own hands to kill the animal, with a city vehicle.

Investigation Underway

Following the raccoon’s death, Springfield Fire Captain Drew Piemonte told 22News that “the Department of Public Works was notified. They came and retrieved the animal for us. After that, we don’t have any more communication with them after they have been notified.”

However, these actions directly violate policy on dealing with animals possibly infected with rabies, as regulations from MassWildlife require the brain of the animal to be preserved if it was killed by a municipal officer. This is because rabies can only officially be confirmed with analysis of the brain. However, since the raccoon was killed by getting run over and was disposed of by the DPW, many people doubt whether the raccoon was rabid to begin with, and if this incident was a cover up for animal cruelty done by the Fire Commissioner.

Springfield’s Environmental Health Director, Steve Stathis, told 22News that the city contracts with Braman Pest Control to remove rabid animals. Braman Pest Control, when interviewed, reported they have no record of the incident, and if they suspect an animal of having rabies, its brain matter must be tested in the lab in Boston.

Braman’s Wildlife Supervisor Bill Killoran said it is not a sign of rabies if a raccoon is spotted outdoors this time of year, as they are often having babies.

The nature and handling of the incident has sparked investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Backlash Following the Death

Many locals of Springfield and of Western Massachusetts, are in uproar over the cruel nature of the Raccoon’s as well as the possibility of the creature being blind instead of rabid.

One vocal critic of the commissioner is Hampden County Register of Deeds Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, who is in charge of properly keeping records of documents. Coakley-Rivera told 22 News that police officers and firefighters who have spoken to her say the animal was actually blind, not rabid.

Riviera also stated that “there was no public safety risk, and you can see it in the video. There were officers there that refused to shoot it, so then you say, why?”. Riviera plans to file a complaint through to The Springfield Court System. As she believes that the incident should be investigated, and that “If you can prove that it was rabid, then bring it. But if you lied, then you don’t want it found”.

Riviera also added “There was no public safety risk, no one is confirming the foaming at the mouth. No one has brought this animal forward to be tested. I don’t know what was going on in his mind. But I think this is a case of animal cruelty.”

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, issued a statement stating “This raccoon was made to suffer needlessly, crushed beneath a vehicle’s tires – something unconscionable in this day and age when veterinarians and humane societies could have put him down painlessly. PETA urges Springfield officials to establish proper protocols in order to ensure that wildlife is always treated humanely and, if necessary, euthanized with care and consideration.”

Defense For The Commissioner

Mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno, has come to the defense of the commissioner, stating the event was unfortunate, but needed to be taken for the name of public health and safety, and that Calvi was acting in capacity as a municipal officer to take immediate action as advised by Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Local veterinarian, Dr. Sherry Himmelstein, who has been practicing for 48 years, also came into the defense of Calvi, stating that “his decision to euthanize the probable rabid raccoon by running over it with a vehicle was a quick, effective way to protect the public and relieve the suffering of the infected raccoon.” and how “the decision that was made, while not pretty, was sound, humane, and safe.”

 

The Action Was Cruel and Unnecessary

I think the actions taken by B.J. Calvi were abhorrent, unnecessary, and cruel. I personally do not buy that the raccoon was a risk to public safety, as most callers stated that the raccoon had seemed sickly or blind rather than aggressive or rabid. One call report stated the raccoon was walking around in circles in the middle of an intersection and that “it’s not even bothering anyone.”

There was also a trapper called to the scene to safely contain the raccoon, so how far could the trapper have been from the scene to change the minds of fire officials, if they even contacted the trapper in the first place?

On another note, why were contracted pest control service or nearby rehabilitation centers not notified? Urban Rehabilitation Inc. has been open since 2001, with locations in Westfield, Russell, and Springfield, so why were they not informed of the situation? According to Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc., since January 1st, 11 of the 24 animals they have taken from the city of Springfield were raccoons. Why would Springfield Emergency Services not have a list of local or nearby contacts to find assistance from?

If Calvi and/or other officials believe the raccoon was rabid, then why would Braman Pest Control not be notified? Clearly something is not adding up.

On top of that, it is concerning that the DPW was called to take the raccoon, as state guidelines order that the remains of an animal suspected of rabies must be sent to the state laboratory testing facility in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

This testing process requires intact brain matter, as it is the only way to truly confirm the presence of rabies. However, the Springfield Fire Commissioner knows it’s well within his right as a municipal officer to dispatch any animal suspected of rabies under guidelines by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife

If Calvi felt it was truly necessary to dispatch the raccoon for being a danger to locals, why does he feel the right to kill it in such a horrific, reckless, and unjust way? He could have shot the raccoon, or otherwise waited for the trapper to arrive on scene; what was the point of running it over several times?

Running over the raccoon also unnecessarily risked maiming the creature rather than dispatching it. The raccoon could have had its tail or a limb ripped off, and no animal deserves to suffer like that. Especially if the creature was just blind and confused, and not aggressive or rabid to begin with; which seems more likely given video footage of someone right up next to it dragging itself across the ground.

However, until a formal investigation is completed by state agencies, the truth can only be speculated.

Sources:

22 News

https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/hampden-county/what-happen-to-the-remains-of-the-raccoon-ran-over-by-springfield-fire-commissioner/

https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/hampden-county/springfield-raccoon-incident-under-investigation-local-officials-weigh-in/&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1709858861059828&usg=AOvVaw07-H3w1g3IyCvzqVmv5rUi&safe=active

https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/hampden-county/22news-obtains-records-of-springfield-raccoon-incident/

https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/hampden-county/video-sparks-controversy-springfield-fire-commissioner-runs-over-allegedly-rabid-raccoon/?ipid=promo-link-block1

Western Mass News

https://www.westernmassnews.com/2024/03/01/animal-rehabilitation-non-profit-speaks-out-controversial-raccoon-video/

https://www.westernmassnews.com/2024/02/28/video-raccoon-being-run-over-springfield-fire-headquarters-garnering-attention-online/

Document of Department of Fish and Wildlife on Rabies

https://www.wwlp.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/26/2024/02/rcp-chap4.pdf

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About the Contributor
Jacob Moquin, Opinion Editor
Jacob Moquin is a part of the Class of 2024 at Ludlow High School. This is his first year as a writer for the Cub. He is also a part of Leading Lions and LHS cares, and was the former Vice President of the French Club. Outside of school and sleeping he enjoys partaking in painting and looking through his telescope on a clear night. After graduating, Jacob plans on pursuing a doctorate in veterinary medicine and aspires to have a practice of his own. However for the time being he plans on sharing his many opinions for readers to enjoy.

Comments (2)

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  • J

    June KazarnowiczMar 10, 2024 at 6:33 pm

    Great article Jacob. You provided a lot of information for the public.
    We have had a few articles going on the Nextdoor app (Springfield MA group).

    Reply
  • J

    J. smithMar 8, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    He should be fired immediately. How can we say this is acceptable for a
    Mayoral appointed position. Terminate his contract immediately

    Reply