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Firefighter Who Killed Dogs Gets Jailtime, but Keeps Working?

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on July 08, 2009 12:32 PM

Ohio firefighter David Santuomo probably had to make a variety of plans for his absence while preparing to go on a vacation cruise. Amongst such planning, apparently, was a decision many of us face, that is -- who's going to take care of our pet(s)? Or in Santuomo's case, two dogs. Perhaps ask a family member or friend to take them? Check for availability and pricing at local kennels? Have someone stay at or visit your place to check on the pets? Hire a dog walker to check in on the pets and take them out? All viable options, but not for the Santuomo according to a CNN story, who opted to kill his pet dogs Sloopy and Skeeter instead because he couldn't afford to board them. He now faces 90 days of jail time, but it's still unclear whether he'll lose his job.

Without going into the gory details of Santuomo's misdeeds (the CNN piece covers that), there are a couple of noteable issues in the case. First off, though most of the outrage directed toward Santuomo is probably based on the killing of his pets, it looks like the fact that he used a "silencer" (he taped a soda bottle to the end of a rifle) in the process is reportedly the source of the felony count against him. He pleaded guilty to possessing criminal tools, which can be a felony in Ohio, whereas two counts of "improperly killing a companion animal" constituted misdemeanors under the state's laws.

Second, as noted above, despite reported public outrage it's unclear whether the fate of Santuomo's job is sealed. Although the disciplinary process for government jobs such as firefighters can be lengthy, a spokesman for the fire department simply said, "If someone did this that worked next to you at work, how would you feel about working with him?" and "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. ... There are a lot of options." Santuomo currently is working in the "fire alarm office" with no face-to-face interaction with the public, which, judging by some of the comments out there, is probably a great idea.

On the other side, Santuomo's attorney Sam Shamansky appealed for rational thought and forgiveness from the public, despite acknowledging that "[i]t, of course, was a heinous act". Shamansky continued, "He's been punished appropriately, and I think it's now time for the public to practice what they preach and show a little forgiveness and mercy. Maybe that might be a novel approach." And even more, "It's the same old story. They couldn't care less about people and they love animals".

OK, so what's Santuomo's side of the story? Well, he did (eventually) claim that he simply could simply not afford to board his pets, and this could be backed up by the fact that he has had multiple Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings and also had a home foreclosed back in 2003. This is probably something many can sympathize with, particularly in these tough economic times.

However, past financial difficulties may beg the questions of whether he should even be owning dogs and whether taking a vacation cruise was the best idea in the first place. Further, financial difficulties probably wouldn't address reports that he bragged about the killings to his fellow firefighters (who turned him in). At any rate, it's just a guess, but the public's confidence in this public servant might not be on the rise any time soon.

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