Fernley employee fired for freezing a muskrat, facing criminal charges
Nevada Appeal News Service
FERNLEY – An animal control officer here who allegedly killed a muskrat by placing it in a freezer, lost his termination appeal Tuesday after the mayor vetoed the city council’s vote.
The vote came in a special meeting held to address Lee Scheerer’s character, alleged misconduct, professional competence, and physical and mental health.
Criminal charges were filed against Scheerer on April 18 for the unjustifiable killing of an animal and failure to provide food and water to an impounded animal. He waived his arraignment and will appear at a pre-trial hearing June 29.
On April 17, a muskrat was captured after attacking a dog on Jenny’s Lane. Scheerer was instructed to pick up the animal and take it to Lyon County Animal Control in Silver Springs, the city’s designated shelter and only agency in the county with certified euthanasia technicians.
According to a letter sent by Bonny Duke, the city’s administrative services director and treasurer, he did not pick up the animal until the following day. When Lyon County Animal Control inquired into the whereabouts of the muskrat on April 19, Scheerer reportedly admitted to placing the live animal into a freezer.
Scheerer was fired May 10.
The council split the vote with three councilmen, Monte Martin, Curt Chaffin and Ralph Menke, voting to give Scheerer a modified suspension without pay, and to retain Scheerer as an animal control officer. Councilmen, Richard Jones and Joe Mortensen, dissented.
“There’s no question it was a bad decision. (Scheerer) may have learned a very important lesson. I’d like to give him another chance with a very serious suspension,” Chaffin said.
Following the council’s split decision, Mayor Dave Stix Jr. vetoed the council’s decision. He said Scheerer was specifically told not to dispose of the animal, but he did so anyway.
The council took another vote to override the mayor’s veto, but could not override the veto.
“The employee defied a staff directive,” Stix said. “I didn’t care that it was a muskrat, I cared that it was an animal.”
“Of course I’m disappointed,” Scheerer said. “I’d like it to be known the council voted me back on the workforce. If Davy (Stix) didn’t veto it, it would have passed.”
Scheerer said he would pursue further action “to the hilt.”
“I will survive and I’ll still do what I can for animals,” he said.
Ted Bolzle, supervisor of the Lyon County Animal Control said that when he first received the call about the muskrat April 17, he immediately contacted the Nevada Department of Wildlife and said they probably would have released the animal to the Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada in Carson City following a short quarantine.
Bolzle said information from the Centers for Disease Control show that in 2004, the rodent family, which includes muskrats, made up only 0.47 percent of rabies cases nationwide and none were muskrats. He also said the dog attacked by the muskrat was current on its rabies shots and, according to the CDC, there is only one failure of a rabies vaccination every two years nationwide for the millions of dogs vaccinated.
• Contact reporter Christy Lattin at firstname.lastname@example.org.