West Tisbury selectmen clamp down on poultry-eating dogs

— File photo by Mae Deary

West Tisbury selectmen at their regular meeting on Dec. 7 took a hard line against two dog owners whose animals got loose and killed some of their neighbor’s chickens and geese.

Selectmen agreed to spare the lives of the dogs. But not before they voted to conditionally ban one dog from town and in the other case ordered the owner of two dogs to build a chain link enclosure to fence them in.

Incidents in which dogs get loose and kill chickens or geese have occurred more frequently in recent years, as more residents try their hand at raising poultry and backyard farming. Selectmen have held at least three dog hearings in as many years for canines that got loose and killed the neighbor’s birds.

Selectmen Wednesday first heard the case of a mixed-breed rescue puppy owned by Spencer Binney and Lizzy Kent that reportedly got loose and killed two ducks owned by Jim Airasian on Oct. 27.

Mr. Binney and Ms. Kent have since moved to Vineyard Haven.

Animal Control Officer Joanie Jenkinson said Mr. Airasian came home and found the dog on top of one of his ducks, ripping it apart. A second duck was later discovered to be missing and was never found, she said.

Ms. Jenkinson imposed a $50 fee for each of the two ducks killed. Previously, the dog had gotten loose and killed birds in another neighbor’s yard, she said.

Mr. Binney and Ms. Kent did not dispute the facts of the case. They said they were not home at the time their dog got loose, but said they have since kept the dog on a short lease, both literally and figuratively.

Mr. Airasian said this wasn’t the first time roaming dogs have killed his birds.

“I am not out for revenge. I have gone through it too many times and I am out to protect the next person. I have heard the same story all the time: he’s a good dog, he’s always inside, but in the end it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Selectmen discussed the possibility of banning the dog from town, but Mr. Binney argued this would create a hardship if they ever decided to move back to town or visit friends who still live in town.

Ms. Jenkinson said the couple would have to install a proper enclosure if they ever moved back to town. But Chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter had some strong words of warning before the plan went to a vote.

“Having a dog go to another town doesn’t solve the problem,” Mr. Manter said. “These backyard farms are popping up all over the place, and the owners are being irresponsible and destroying a way of life here.

“Once is terrible, never mind twice. I think the dog needs to be euthanized. I don’t think anyone has to suffer any further,” he said.

Selectmen voted 2-1 to impose a $100 fine and effectively ban the dog from town unless the owners take steps, if they move back, that include building an enclosure and getting permission from the selectmen.

Mr. Manter voted against the motion, favoring stronger action.

In the second hearing selectmen heard the case of two Akitas that belong to Taggart Young that reportedly got loose and killed two geese owned by Old County Road resident Richard Andre on Nov. 10.

Ms. Jenkinson said the dogs had been tied up outside and got loose when they chewed through their ropes. Mr. Young said he was away at the time and the animals were being looked after by a caretaker.

Mr. Young said he was sorry for what happened. “If I leave in the future I definitely plan on leaving them with someone better,” he said.

He said one of the two dogs lives in Boston, for the most part, and he has built a dog run of metal with plastic around it for the other dog since the incident last month.

Ms. Jenkinson said the dog was still capable of chewing through the dog run and recommended that Mr. Young instead built a chain link enclosure that would be safer for both the neighbor birds and the dog.

“You don’t want to lose your dog to a gunshot. I know you love your dogs, we are all animal lovers, and Mr. Andre loves his chickens too. It’s just not fair,” she said.

Selectmen eventually agreed to Ms. Jenkinson’s recommendation that Mr. Young pay $150 in restitution for the ducks and build a chain link enclosure for the dogs.

Selectmen voted 2-1 to approve the plan, with Mr. Manter again dissenting.