West Tisbury selectmen cancel dog exile, order death penalty
Reversing a decision they made last week, West Tisbury selectmen Wednesday voted unanimously to euthanize two dogs that have gotten loose on three occasions and killed a neighbor's livestock.
The two dogs are Akitas owned by Taggart Young and Anna Bolotovsky. One of the dogs, Zion, is now at Animal Health Care, which serves as the town pound. The other, Sensi, is kept in Newton with Ms. Bolotvsky's mother.
The first incident involving the dogs occurred November 10, when they killed two geese owned by Richard Andre, who lives on Old County Road.
After that incident and a dog hearing before the selectmen, the selectmen ordered Mr. Young and Ms. Bolotovsky to build a chain link enclosure for the dogs and pay $150 in restitution for the geese, all of which they did.
Loose again, the dogs killed Mr. Andre's livestock on December 14, and again January 13. On the latest occasion, the pair reportedly killed 14 chickens and attacked some geese.
At their meeting on February 1, selectmen voted 2-1 to direct the town attorney to draft an agreement that would spare the lives of the two dogs and instead ban them from town forever. Chairman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter dissented, calling for the harsher penalty.
But selectmen this week voted to rescind last week's vote and instead have the dogs euthanized, after an incident that occurred on February 2, when Mr. Taggart went to Animal Health Care and tried to get Zion released from the pound, pretending that the selectmen had permitted the removal.
Mr. Manter read a letter from animal control officer Joanie Jenkinson about the incident.
"Terry, from Animal Health Care, called me to say Taggart Young was there, and he told her that at the hearing last night the town said he could get Zion out of the pound. I said 'no,' he could not have Zion because the hearing clearly stated to him and his lawyer that the dog is to stay at the pound," Ms. Jenkinson wrote.
Selectmen referred to this incident several times this week as they deliberated what to do with the dogs. They also cited a letter from Mr. Andre, in which he expressed his concerns about the proposal to ban the dogs from town instead of euthanizing them.
"I am no longer convinced that they have any intention to honor the arrangement that eventually may be executed. In some part, I've reached this conclusion based on statements at the hearing, their aggressive approach to the Animal Control Officer . . . and their attempt at removing the dog from the pound during the week through deception," Mr. Andre wrote.
The motion approved by selectmen requires that both dogs be euthanized. It is unclear how this motion will affect the second dog, now being kept in Newton, or if selectmen can legally force the owners to bring the dog back to the Island.
The owners have the right to appeal the selectmen's decision in Edgartown District Court.
Before selectmen made their decision Wednesday, the two dog owners pleaded with them to spare the two animals.
"If there is one thing you can trust me on is that we care about our dogs . . . under no circumstance would we want to bring them back here where they can be killed. I will give you my personal word they won't return. It's not a place we want to bring them again," Mr. Young said.
"That wasn't to get him out and lose your faith," Ms. Bolotovsky said, referring to the incident last week at the pound. "It was to get him safe. Obviously they are like our kids."
But selectmen said they had given the owners chances, and that they had little faith the couple wouldn't bring the dogs back here in the future.
"I was really quite disturbed to learn what happened Thursday morning. There seem to be now four instances. There is evidence to suggest that coming into a settlement with you will be problematic," selectman Richard Knabel said.
"I don't dispute we have come up with terms that can be agreed to. My hesitation is I don't have confidence those that would sign it have the ability to live up to it . . . you chose to put the dogs in a situation where they were out of your control and it happened again and it happened again," selectman Cynthia Mitchell said. "I don't know if I believe what you say, and it pains me to say that. But I have an obligation to protect the livestock of this town."
Selectmen asked town attorney Michael Goldsmith to draft the final notice of their decision as soon as possible, so the owners can file an appeal quickly, if they choose. In the meantime Zion will remain at Animal Health Care.