To the Editor:
I am so utterly horrified and heartbroken by the shooting of Mr. Gordon’s beloved Chi. My response to your article was visceral. I was nauseated. I anxiously await information about whether other methods to deter this dog were attempted first, or if shooting it was the first choice. I’d be curious, too, if this was a first offense for poor Chi.
I understand that law allows for the shooter’s actions in Massachusetts and, therefore, on the Island in my town of West Tisbury. I fully understand and respect the need to protect expensive and vulnerable livestock. That being said, I would like to know exactly what this dog — new to the neighborhood — was doing to warrant such a violent action. I wonder, too, was this the shooter’s first resort? Was a simple yell not enough? Was throwing a rock or — though I’m no fan of this either — shooting into the air not an option?
I have two lovely, gentle dogs. Once, one of them got away from us. It was terrible. My heart ached that she might be lost forever — hit by a car, stolen, that she would starve to death. We found her, seven hours later, unscathed, the horribleness of the seemingly endless search quelled only by the bliss of having her back. She’s a dog. A well-trained dog, but a dog, who, I can only imagine, gleefully bounded around the woods, sniffing and curious. I imagine she would have chased any chickens she came across as she does squirrels and the like. She may have even tried to catch and kill one, as a cat will chase and kill a mouse, an action innate to even the most domestic cat. Certainly, as per Massachusetts law, had this been the case, any injury or death incurred to this livestock (and to the owner’s property) as a result would be mine to bear for my mistake. But let me tell you, if I received news that my dog had been shot, particularly if other more reasonable and humane means to stop her shenanigans, without an animal control officer being called first to otherwise subdue her, I’d be appalled, I’d be heartbroken, I’d be dumbfounded. Was she rabid, I’d wonder? Did she attack someone? What horrible offense could she have committed to warrant this violence?
There are dopey, happy-go-lucky pet dogs that might on rare occasion slip away from a distracted owner and perhaps chase, annoy and even kill chickens. There are aggressive, vicious dogs that stalk and kill chickens, that can’t be trained, are repeat offenders, and have owners who have been warned time and time again to control and contain their pets and should not, therefore, be pet owners. I hope this shooter made that distinction before pulling the trigger. If he could not, perhaps other initial action might have been considered: calling animal control, throwing a rock, yelling — anything but shoot and kill what may well be a first offender foolish dog, elated by the curious clucking creature before him.
I am very much hoping more comes to light in this story. Perhaps the shooter’s actions were justified. Perhaps Chi turned on him, was rabid, insane, that the shooter feared for his life. And, perhaps we will have different definitions of “justified.” And perhaps we need to look at this law and find other means of dealing in such a situation before pulling a gun on and killing a neighbor’s pet. I wonder, too, what if this had been a cat? A toy poodle with bows in its hair?
And, as for anonymity, while I can imagine wanting to avoid the questions, anger and scrutiny of your actions, if the shooter is certain his actions were justified, he should explain the details of the situation. You acted in a way you felt was right. I’d like to hear your side of the story.
Let me also say, my upset at this is not about guns or gun control. It is not about politics or permits or excusing each of us dog owners from taking responsibility for damage to property and livestock caused by our pets. It is about taking such drastic and violent action without considering other options first. Did this punishment fit the crime?
My heart aches for Chi, his owner, and for all responsible dog owners whose dogs sometimes act like dogs, if this is considered an acceptable course of action in all similar circumstances. I look forward to the shooter explaining exactly what the circumstances were.
Aubrey Stimola Ryan