Final rampage ends banned dog's reprieve
The Tisbury selectmen split 2 to 1 on a vote last week to ban Storm, a Siberian husky, from town as of September 1 after he was caught running loose twice in violation of a six-month restraining order.
On Friday, only three days after the selectmen made their difficult decision, Storm ran away from owners Ken and Nina Garde's home on West Spring Street, returning to kill chickens again on a property on Chase Road.
Tisbury Animal Control Officer (ACO) Laurie Clements said she received the first of two calls from one of the Gardes' neighbors on West Spring Street at 4:55 pm on August 15. He reported that two huskies were loose and running towards Lake Street. In addition to Storm, the Gardes were caring for an eight-month-old female puppy he sired named Mussa that belongs to their daughter Rebecca.
After closing the animal pound and driving to the Gardes' house, Ms. Clements said the Dukes County Communications Center dispatched a call to her about dogs killing chickens at Corinne Dorsey's property on Chase Lane.
Ms. Clements arrived to find that the two huskies had broken into a pen containing chickens owned by Ms. Dorsey's son Toby Riseborough, who was not home at the time. She called for assistance and Tisbury police officer Scott Ogden responded.
A copy of Officer Ogden's report notes that, "ACO Clements told me when she walked around to the back of Ms. Dorsey-Riseborough's residence, she saw both dogs, Storm and Mussa, with chickens in their mouths, shaking the chickens violently from side to side."
Ms. Dorsey told Officer Ogden she was unable to save the chickens because she was afraid of the dogs, who growled menacingly at her when she went outside holding a broom to try to chase them away. In the meantime, Rebecca Garde and her sister Hannah showed up, Ms. Dorsey said, and the dogs calmed down. Ms. Clements said she was able to grab Storm, put a leash on him, and lead him to her truck with no problem. Mussa followed.
At Ms. Clements' request, Officer Ogden called fellow Tisbury police officer Michael Gately and asked him to come to the scene to take photographs.
"I observed four deceased chickens, two chickens that appeared to be in severe distress with blood coming from their backs, and a single duck trembling in the corner of the coop," Officer Ogden described in his report. "I saw that the five-foot high fence around the chicken pen had been pushed to the ground by the two dogs and there were blood-soaked chicken feathers scattered throughout the pen from the violent attack."
Ms. Clements said she laid the two injured chickens next to each other on some soft wood shavings. She was relieved to learn from Ms. Dorsey the next morning that they were still alive - and by Monday, one of them, a little rooster, was crowing again.
Friday's incident concluded with Officer Ogden meeting Ms. Clements at the pound, where she took the two dogs. Mr. Garde was waiting there and asked to see his dogs before Ms. Clements locked up the building for the night. She told him she would try to arrange an emergency hearing with the selectmen on Monday to resolve the issue.
"I spoke with all three of the selectmen on Friday night," Ms. Clements recalled this week. "Nothing like this has happened before - no one was quite sure how to handle it."
On Monday morning, Ms. Clements said town administrator John Bugbee consulted with town counsel because the town's bylaws are unclear. However, Massachusetts General Law, Chapt. 140, Section 159, does state that treble damages are to be paid for injuries caused by dogs ordered banned, she said.
On Tuesday morning, the Tisbury selectmen held a scheduled meeting with the Oak Bluffs selectmen in executive session. According to Tisbury selectman chairman Denys Wortman, Mr. Garde attended the meeting in his capacity as a public works commissioner. He also serves on Tisbury's board of health.
Following the meeting, Mr. Garde asked if he and the selectmen could discuss the issue of his dog when they reconvened in open session, Mr. Wortman said. Ms. Clements, who happened to be at town hall on business, joined them.
Mr. Garde told the selectmen he had done some research on the Internet and that he and his wife will take Storm to a husky rescue organization in Connecticut to be evaluated for adoption.
"We basically came to an agreement he could pick up the dog on Thursday, put it on a leash, put it in the car, and take it to the boat - he also wanted to take the dog home to say goodbye to the family's other dogs," Mr. Wortman said in a phone call on Tuesday. "I think this is the best way for this to conclude. I'm glad it was Ken's initiative to resolve this and that he realized his responsibility for it."
In a follow-up phone call, Ms. Clements said she had recommended keeping Storm at the pound at Mr. Garde's expense until September 1, and that if he found a new owner by the deadline, she would release the dog to that person. Otherwise, she would take Storm to the MSPCA. Mr. Garde, however, told her he thought the dog would have a better chance at adoption through the husky rescue organization.
The selectmen instructed Mr. Garde to write a letter stating he is leaving the Island with Storm and will not bring the dog back to Tisbury.
"I think the selectmen have been more than lenient, and I think the townspeople have been more than lenient, too," Ms. Clements said.
In a phone call late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Garde said he was very sad about his dog and preferred not to talk about it.
In the meantime, Ms. Dorsey said the Gardes already offered to pay damages for the killed chickens, which were her son's blue-ribbon entries at the West Tisbury Fair last year. "The Garde family has been wonderful," she said. "They came by with a sympathy card and to visit the chickens. They urged us to visit Storm at the pound, which we did, and he was as nice and calm as could be."
As an animal lover herself, Ms. Dorsey said she could not advocate destroying the dog. However, she added, several of her neighbors who are daycare providers told her they are relieved that the huskies no longer will be running loose and racing into their neighborhood near Tisbury School.
Making a case
The selectmen's move to ban Storm resulted from a dog hearing held June 3. Ms. Clements reported that Storm had killed several chickens at four different locations on three separate occasions, including some belonging to Toby Riseborough on Chase Road. In addition, Ms. Clements caught Storm running loose seven times, in violation of the town's leash law.
Ms. Clements recommended that the selectmen require the Gardes to pay a $200 bond and keep the dog restrained for six months. The selectmen voted unanimously to approve her recommendations, adding the penalty that the dog would be banned from town if he violated the restraining order.
Soon after the June hearing, Storm was caught running loose twice. Mr. Garde sent a letter to the selectmen last week, asking them not to ban his dog. In discussing the matter at the selectmen's August 12 meeting, Ms. Clements urged them to follow through with the penalties they set or else future dog hearings would be meaningless.
"I feel bad, too," Ms. Clements said. "It's a small community, and I've known the Gardes for 25 years or more - but I've given the dog many breaks."
All three selectmen expressed sympathy for the Gardes, as well. Mr. Wortman and Jeffrey Kristal agreed, however, that the dog had been given many chances and voted to uphold the June 3 decision to ban the dog, as of September 1. Although selectman Tristan Israel originally voted in favor of the restraining order and banning the dog from town if violated, he voted no.
Mr. Wortman and Mr. Kristal both said they felt last Friday's incident affirmed their decision. Mr. Wortman said following his vote at last week's meeting, "I had no one calling me, but people I saw that spoke to me about it all said we did the right thing." He added, "You have to uphold the law - we did have a hearing, and we said if it happened again, we would ban the dog. Laurie, out of the kindness of her heart, gave him a free pass."
Mr. Kristal said public comments he received were all positive. "There are rules and guidelines set forth in the town, and people should adhere to them," he said. "As unfortunate as it is for the Gardes, it also was unfortunate for the people who had to lose livestock and pets."
Mr. Israel, on the other hand, characterized his vote as a value judgment. "At the time, I believed Mr. Garde was trying the best he could to contain the dog - obviously I was wrong," he said. "I did what I thought was the best to do to show some compassion - if hindsight was 20-20, we'd all appear much smarter than we are."
On Tuesday, Ms. Clements said she released Mussa to Ms. Garde, who will pay fines and boarding fees. Mr. Wortman said the selectmen will hold a dog hearing about Ms. Garde's dog at a later date, which will be listed on the meeting agenda.
According to assistant town administrator Aase Jones, unlike other types of public hearings, dog hearings are not advertised. Upon receipt of a written complaint about a dog, the selectmen schedule a hearing for an upcoming meeting and notify the owner and complainant, Ms. Jones said. The complainant must attend for the hearing to go forward.