Tisbury gives Garde huskies to another town
After a long history of complaints involving Siberian huskies owned by Kenneth Garde and his family on West Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, a chicken killing incident on September 15 proved the last straw for the Tisbury selectmen.
Despite fresh promises by Mr. Garde to take new measures to prevent his family's three dogs from future escapes, the selectmen voted on separate motions at a dog hearing on Tuesday to ban them from Tisbury. The hearing had been postponed from October 6, at Mr. Garde's request.
The dogs included Sundance, owned by Mr. Garde and his wife Nina; Sasha, owned by their son Daniel, and Kya; owned by their daughter Hannah. The Huskies are licensed in Tisbury, according to the town clerk's records.
Animal control officer Laurie Clements told the selectmen at the hearing that on September 15 she received a report of two huskies killing chickens on Lantern Lane. When she arrived at the home of Frederic and Anne Lucas, she found Sundance, Sasha, and Kya shaking and biting chickens. Two birds were killed. "The Gardes can't contain the dogs," Ms. Clements said.
Mr. Lucas, who attended the hearing, said it was the second time huskies owned by the Gardes had killed his family's poultry. "These are more than just chickens; they are pets to our children," he said.
Ms. Clements said she called the dogs, and Sasha and Kya came to her. Ms. Lucas grabbed Sundance and put him in her car.
Ms. Clements reported that she took the dogs back to the Gardes' house instead of the animal control facility because when the huskies were previously impounded, they made a mess of the dog kennels, and it took her hours to clean them.
For the defense
Mr. Garde said the dogs had been contained in his yard or the house until September 15, when they broke through a screen to escape, probably because they saw turkeys in the front yard.
"We don't want to see this happen again, and it's not going to," said Mr. Garde, who runs a caretaking business and serves on Tisbury's board of health.
He said he put up signs on his property warning delivery people and visitors not to let the dogs out. Since his children plan to move soon with their dogs, Mr. Garde said that caring for Sundance alone would be much more manageable. He also outlined plans for what he said would be expensive fixes to keep the dogs contained, including an electric fence system around his entire property and window guards to prevent them from breaking through the screens.
Ms. Clements expressed doubts about the electric fence. "I'd hate to have you spend the money and have it fail, as I have seen happen with every person I know who has one," she said, listing reasons such as electrical outages and rototiller damage.
Nina Garde said they realized the electric fence would not be 100 percent foolproof, and they also would keep Sundance on a chain. She and Mr. Garde also pointed out that the Lucas family did not have a required permit for the chickens and do not house them properly. Mr. Lucas said although he does not have a permit, the chickens stay on his property.
Revisiting the past
Tristan Israel, chairman of the selectmen, closed the hearing at 4:55 pm and asked Ms. Clements for her recommendations. She suggested the selectmen "find their own way."
In response to a question from selectman Geoghan Coogan regarding the dogs' previous offenses, Ms. Clements said Sundance had been found running loose eight times, Sasha six, and Kya three. Sundance was involved in three chicken-killing incidents, Sash in two, and Kya in one.
Ms. Clements said there also had been three reports of huskies running loose on West Spring Street that she had not identified beyond a doubt as Garde dogs.
"We've had numerous incidents with loose dogs that have cost this town a lot of money," Mr. Israel said. "I always try to be as lenient as possible in the beginning, and we offered ways to mitigate the situation, but it just keeps happening."
Mr. Israel said he would like to see Hannah and Daniel Garde's dogs placed in other homes or out of Tisbury. He recommended that the Gardes post bonds for all three dogs, which they would get back for any that left.
"How could we not ban two of the dogs involved in previous chicken killings from the town?" selectman Jeff Kristal asked.
When Mr. Garde and his wife disputed the number of incidents cited by Ms. Clements, Mr. Israel exclaimed in exasperation, "For God's sake, we've been dealing with huskies out of West Spring Street for a long time."
County-wide ban not an option
Reminding everyone of last week's dog hearing, Mr. Coogan said, "One time is one time too many. It shouldn't happen."
At a dog hearing at the selectmen's October 6 meeting, the selectmen took action on a case involving a pit bull mix that attacked and nearly killed a smaller dog. Mr. Coogan expressed his concern then, and also on Tuesday, that banning a dog from Tisbury just makes it another town's problem.
At last week's hearing, Mr. Coogan suggested asking the Dukes County Commissioners to ban the dog from the Island. The selectmen voted to approve his recommendation and to consult town counsel about how the process would work.
In follow-up, town administrator John Bugbee reported Tuesday that town counsel said he was unaware of any jurisdiction the Dukes County commissioners would have over the Island as a whole to collectively ban a dog from the county.
Based on that information, Mr. Kristal made a motion to ban Sundance from Tisbury in two weeks. Mr. Coogan said he was reluctant to second the motion because, "You're just putting the dog two miles away."
Mr. Israel seconded the motion and told the Gardes, "There are too many dogs there, and it's too much for you guys to handle."
"This goes back to May of 2008," Mr. Kristal added. "The problem isn't too many dogs; it's too many dogs out killing chickens. Every time we think this is the end of it and do something nice, we end up with another incident."
Mr. Coogan said although the state statutes would allow the selectmen to dispose of the dogs, he would support moving them to another town as the lesser of two evils. "If it's the only thing we can do, I support that," he said. "But I really want to look into finding a way to remove them from the county."
The selectmen voted to ban Sundance from Tisbury in two weeks, and also on a similar motion to ban Sasha. Mr. Israel balked at banning Kya, however. Since she was the least experienced offender, he said he would be willing to allow her to stay in Tisbury if the Gardes posted a bond and installed fencing.
Mr. Kristal and Mr. Coogan, however, were not willing, and they voted to ban Kya. Mr. Israel abstained. The Gardes will have 10 days, upon receipt of notification of the selectmen's decision, to appeal it, Mr. Bugbee said.
Multiple complaints about the Gardes' dogs date back to 2008, when Tisbury held a hearing about Storm, a Siberian husky who killed several chickens at four separate locations on three occasions. After he was banned from Tisbury and Oak Bluffs for violating restraining orders in both towns, the Gardes found a new home for him in New York.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs also banned Storm's offspring Mussa, owned by the Garde's daughter Rebecca, for killing chickens. Ms. Garde moved back to Tisbury with Mussa in violation of the ban, prompting legal action by Tisbury. A hearing in Edgartown District Court on September 25 was continued to pretrial conference, according to today's court report.
Legal issues related to the Gardes' dogs have cost Tisbury money in consultation fees for town counsel, Mr. Bugbee said.
When asked after Tuesday's hearing for an update on the pit bull mix ordered impounded last week, Mr. Bugbee said he was informed the owners had the dog euthanized.