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Perth animal control officer charged in dog shooting

PERTH — The town’s animal control officer was arrested by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday on two misdemeanors for a Jan. 4 incident involving the alleged illegal firing of a gun — around church property — at a dog he claimed was aggressive.

Joseph Passino, 61, no address provided — the current animal control officer for the town of Perth — was charged with one count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count of illegal discharge of a firearm, both misdemeanors.

Deputies said Passino was charged Wednesday at the sheriff’s office following an investigation.

“It was reported to us that someone was at a residence and shooting someone’s dog,” Sheriff Richard Giardino said Wednesday.

The investigation began in January when a social media post came to the attention of sheriff’s investigators. In the post, false claims were made that a dog had been shot with a firearm by one of the sheriff’s deputies. The dog suffered serious injuries, authorities said.

A sheriff’s department release said an investigation into the matter revealed that on Jan. 4, Passino received a call in his capacity as the ACO for the town. The caller reported two dogs running at large in the area of County Highway 107 and Route 30. Investigators spoke to several witnesses, including a woman who reported she had made attempts to keep the dogs out of the road, even feeding them dog treats out of her own hand.

Upon arriving on scene, Passino reportedly followed the dogs onto the property of the Perth Bible Church and Christian Academy, where he claims one of the dogs became aggressive.

Deputies said that at this point, Passino drew his own personal handgun and discharged the firearm. He struck the dog with one round in the snout, which caused the loss of several teeth and a broken jaw. The dog then fled the area and eventually returned home.

Passino’s charges stem specifically from the fact that he allegedly fired this shot within range of both a church, a school which was in session, and an occupied private dwelling, the release said.

Due to possible conflicts of interest, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office requested a special prosecutor from Hamilton County be assigned. The special prosecutor met with investigators and independently reviewed the case before any decision was made to prosecute, the release said.

District Attorney Chad Brown graduated from Perth Bible Christian Academy.

Giardino said the injured dog is now back with his family, recovering.

Passino was released with appearance tickets returnable to Perth Town Court.

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