Editorial : Tisbury selectmen offend again
That the Tisbury selectmen, faced once again with bad dog problems in their community, would decide, once again, that there is nothing to be done about it other than to loose the problem on a neighboring Vineyard town is incomprehensible. The repeat offender label certainly applies to the family in the dog focus this week for its relentlessly inadequate management of its pet affairs, but we're afraid that it also applies to the Tisbury selectmen, for their repeatedly inadequate responses to the recurrent problems.
As we've written in this space before, there are lots of tough jobs in the world. The president of the United States has a tough job. Or, how about the chairman of the Federal Reserve, or the Secretary of the Treasury? Still, fearsome as the challenges facing these public servants may be, consider the animal control officer (ACO). There's a challenging job, with heartbreak and impossibility written all over it. And, beyond the ACO, a prayer for town selectmen is often deserved. They are rarely extended sympathy and understanding, although they pay a huge price when they preside over bad dog hearings.
Cats may inspire comedians and cartoonists. Parrots may embarrass their owners and infuriate their neighbors with their screeching. A potbelly pig, a pygmy horse, or a hippopotamus might alarm the folks next door, who would surprise no one if they wondered whether such creatures actually qualify as pets. (The hippo-pet is documented on YouTube, by the way.) Chickens, turkeys, and guinea hens may make themselves at home where they are not welcome. But, none of these occasional imponderables compares to the flurry of consternation, debate, confusion, and dismay that arises when a dog misbehaves.
No dog owner thinks his dog is mean or wayward. Everyone has a story about the dog that bit the ACO or attacked a neighbor's pet. When confronted with his own pet's misbehavior, the dog owner customarily blames the officer: You must have provoked Fido. Or, the houseguest limping from his host's door in the morning complains that the host's great Dane bit him. Oh, Mr. Big wouldn't do that, the host explains, without noticing the blood flowing freely from his guest's shin. But, some dog owners are a mess. Some dog owners are incorrigibly bad pet managers.
All this comes to mind in light of the Tisbury selectmen's decision this week to ban a host of family Garde dogs from town. The selectmen have traveled this route before. Remember Storm, a Siberian husky with an unrestrained appetite for chickens. In a perverse take on regionalization, Tisbury selectmen banned Storm from town. From his temporary home in Oak Bluffs, Storm escaped and killed again. Ultimately, by agreement, the Gardes found a new home for Storm off-Island.
The general note of sympathy, mentioned above, for selectmen faced with dog issues cannot apply to the Tisbury selectmen, who have learned nothing from their past calamitous handling of dog matters and appear determined, like the more notorious sort of dog owners, to offend again.
It was the failure of the Tisbury selectmen to deal sternly with the several problems created by Storm and his owners in their town that shifted the problem to Oak Bluffs. What was required was vigorous action to begin with and then unflinching follow-through. Sometimes, that means euthanizing offending creatures, especially when their owners display determined inability to manage their pets properly.
Unlike the Oak Bluffs selectmen, Tisbury selectmen provided neither vigorous action or follow-through, despite their clear responsibility, as chief executives of the town, to enforce the town's animal control rules.
After all, dogs will be dogs, so owners must be responsible, and ultimately, when things go awry, selectmen must as well.