Tisbury employee's dog incident a personnel matter
Not all dog incidents rise to the level of a public hearing. Some cases are handled by the town's animal control officer (ACO), in consultation with town administrators.
A recent incident that involved Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur and his dog highlights the unique circumstances that can arise in a small town.
Mr. Wilbur was in the habit of bringing his golden retriever, Piper, with him to work at the harbormaster's office overlooking the town dock in Owen Park.
In the past, Tisbury ACO Laurie Clements had spoken to Mr. Wilbur about the need to keep his dog on a leash. Mr. Wilbur's failure to leash his dog also had been raised at past meetings of the Tisbury selectmen.
After receiving complaints about unleashed dogs last summer, the selectmen also asked Mr. Wilbur, in his role as harbormaster, to help Ms. Clements by reminding dog owners using the dock and beach area near Owen Park about the town's leash law.
On October 21, an unleashed Piper attacked a three-month old American bulldog on a leash with its owner.
The puppy's owner, who asked not to be identified and was not referred to in any formal complaint, told The Times she was standing on the Owen Park dock with her leashed puppy while her two sons, aged seven and eight, played on nearby swings.
She said Mr. Wilbur warned her as she walked by that Piper does not like other dogs. Just moments later, Piper attacked her puppy.
She said she kicked Piper off her dog's neck. Mr. Wilbur grabbed Piper and put him in the office.
At home she cleaned and dressed the puppy's wounds, which she said did not require veterinary treatment.
"I didn't want to get anyone in trouble, but I did report what happened to the animal control officer that night," she told The Times in a telephone conversation.
Ms. Clements met with the woman and took photos of the puppy's wounds, which included scrapes, contusions, and punctures on his face and throat.
Ms. Clements reported the incident in person to Tisbury town administrator John Bugbee. The dog owner said Mr. Bugbee also called to apologize for the incident and offered that the town would pay for veterinary care.
Asked about the incident and an offer to reimburse the woman, Mr. Bugbee provided the following explanation in a phone conversation last week.
"Our past practice has been in similar incidents that we would cover those types of costs if the situation warranted it," he said. "I don't know that a formal offer was made, but maybe informally, I may have mentioned that."
Ms. Clements ordered Mr. Wilbur's dog quarantined for 10 days, which is the town's standard protocol for dog bite incidents. She also issued a $25 fine to Mr. Wilbur for the leash law violation, the second she had issued to him this year.
Mr. Wilbur's dog has fought with other dogs several times, both on and off a leash, Ms. Clements said. After the most recent incident, Mr. Wilbur apologized and promised not to bring his dog to work again, she said.
Mr. Bugbee said that because the dog owner did not request a hearing and the incident involved a town employee, it became a personnel issue. "It is a personnel matter that we deal with in-house, and we do that because that's what the law requires," he said.
Mr. Wilbur said he considered the incident a private matter, since no formal complaint was made. He declined to comment.