Dog hearing leaves officials holding leash
The Tisbury selectmen's meeting Tuesday night started with a song, performed by busker permit applicant Gary Lee Piccas. "We're the town's American Idol," quipped selectman Tristan Israel, as the selectmen unanimously approved Mr. Piccas's permit after his performance.
The notes soured, however, with the start of a hearing to address a complaint by William Kingsbury regarding a dog owned by Jeremiah Kroup. Mr. Kroup had been notified about the hearing by letter and did not attend.
Despite Tisbury's leash law, Mr. Kingsbury said Mr. Kroup's dog, a female chocolate-colored Labrador, runs loose and has been picked up numerous times on his property, to no avail. His dog has contracted fleas from the loose dog, and he said he is concerned about the safety of sheep and ducks he raises on his property.
Mr. Kingsbury expressed his frustration at Tisbury's "ridiculous law" that expunges dog complaint records at the end of each year and gives offenders a clean slate for new infractions.
Tisbury Animal Control Officer Laurie Clements said she had picked up Mr. Kroup's dog running loose at least 15 times. On three occasions, she added, the animal was infested with fleas and showed evidence of malnourishment, with her ribs showing.
Although a hearing had not previously been held about the dog, Ms. Clements said the dog has been loose ten times from Jan. 4 through July 14. She sent fine notices to Mr. Kroup on several occasions, which he did not pay in two years, she added. Ms. Clements said she had not yet pursued taking Mr. Kroup to court about the fines.
At one point when the dog was "a bag of bones" and was nursing 14 five-week-old puppies, Ms. Clements took her to the MSPCA for treatment. She returned the dog to Mr. Kroup with instructions to feed her and the pups, and he subsequently had the dog spayed.
Mr. Kingsbury questioned whether cruelty against animals is against the law. Town administrator John Bugbee said the MSPCA makes that determination, not the animal control officer.
"Currently, the first warning for a loose dog is written or verbal, then fines are $25, $30, $40 and $50 - people are given too many chances. We need to do what other towns do, fine $50 the first and every time," Mr. Bugbee said.
Ms. Clements recommended a $200 bond and restraining order. In addition, if the restraining order is not adhered to, Mr. Israel recommended banning the dog from the town. "Why not ban the dog now," Mr. Kingsbury asked. "The dog has been continuously loose for the last four years - it's like a freebie over here."
Selectman Jeffrey Kristal expressed reluctance to ban the dog until the owner received a warning by certified mail. "I can't go to town hall until five incidents occur, and then if a year has passed, it starts all over again," Mr. Kingsbury pointed out. "The next meeting, ban 'em. What's to discuss?"
The selectmen ended the hearing by approving the $200 bond and restraining order for one year. If the dog is reported loose again and the complaint substantiated, the selectmen said then another hearing will be held and the dog banished from town.
In department reports, building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick introduced a proposal from gas inspector Michael Ciancio to raise town permit fees from $20 to $40 and his inspection fees from $45 to $60.
Mr. Ciancio, who is also a plumbing inspector, said the town's fee is a one-time fee, while he charges $45 for each subsequent inspection. He rejected a suggestion from selectman Denys Wortman that he reduce his fee on follow-up inspections, because he said the work still takes the same amount of time. Mr. Ciancio also said he is required by state statutes to pay $75 for a three-hour certification class, which comes out of his pocket.
Mr. Tristan suggested that Mr. Barwick might be able to cover the class fee under his budget. The selectmen agreed to hold off on a decision for two weeks, in order to compare fees charged by other towns.
On another topic, Mr. Barwick proposed establishing a new assistant building inspector position for Rhonda DeBettencourt, who has worked in his department for 10 years. The selectmen endorsed the idea of Ms. DeBettencourt pursuing the 18-month process for certification, starting with training classes in January.
Mr. Barwick also informed the selectmen that he has asked a property owner who is considering demolishing a new structure, because of complaints from abutters, about possibly donating the building to the town to use as an addition to the animal control officer's building.
"My fingers are crossed," Mr. Barwick said. "I'm hoping the owner will come forward to give this as a gift to the town." Since voters already had approved funds for an addition, the town would save building costs and only incur the expense of moving the structure from upper Main Street.
Fire Chief John Schilling, who serves on the Emergency Services Facility (ESF) committee, reported that the committee expects to have a consultant's report back soon regarding whether the town annex site will be suitable as a building site. The selectmen agreed to place a debt exclusion article on the November election ballot regarding funding for architectural services so that choosing a site for a new ESF building and planning can proceed, if voters approve.
In other business, Finance and Advisory Committee members and the selectmen jointly appointed Rob Doyle to fill a vacancy on the committee for one year, until the next elections.
The selectmen also approved a recommendation from Cape Light Compact representative Peter Cabana to request a feasibility study from the Massachusetts Technical Collaborative, at no cost, to analyze wind data collected over the past year from an anemometer tower at the old septage lagoon fields off Holmes Hole Road.