Editorial : It's a tough job, so they didn't do it
Sure, the president of the United States has a tough job. Or, in these times, how about the chairman of the Federal Reserve, or the Secretary of the Treasury? But, 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, say a prayer for the town selectmen, to whom sympathy and understanding are rarely extended, 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 if such creatures actually qualify as pets. (The hippo-pet is documented on YouTube, by the way.) But, none of these occasional mysteries compares to the flurry of consternation, debate, confusion, and dismay that arises when a dog misbehaves.
Of course, dog owners do little to help themselves. No dog owner thinks his dog is mean or wayward. Everyone has a story about the dog that bit the ACO. When confronted with his 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.
All this comes to mind in light of the Tisbury selectmen's decision last month to ban Storm, a Siberian husky, from their town for killing chickens. In a perverse take on regionalization, Storm escaped from his temporary home in Oak Bluffs and killed again, as Times writer Janet Hefler reported last week. Dogs will be dogs, as Visiting Vet Michelle Gerhard Jasny explains in her column this morning in the Community section of The Times.
Storm, running with a young accomplice, had killed some chickens owned by long-time farmer Elisha Smith. Mr. Smith's farm is located on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs. A former head of the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society, Mr. Smith is familiar with the difficulties farmers face. He was, after all, the farmer who complained, and justifiably so, when golf balls from the short-lived driving range across from Goodale's pit began peppering the tin roof of his barn. But, chicken-killing canines are nothing to smile about, and he wasn't smiling when he said that if his livestock are attacked again, he will bring the matter to a conclusive end with his shotgun.
Both dogs were impounded in Oak Bluffs for 10 days.
"Obviously we are not going to make this a dog circus," Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake said. We hope the chief is right. Patience, prayers, and sympathy for the Tisbury selectmen seem unwarranted in this instance. 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 has now shifted the big tent to Oak Bluffs. What was required was vigorous action to begin with and then unflinching follow through. Tisbury selectmen provided neither, despite the smart recommendations of their ACO, and their own responsibility, as chief executives of the town, to enforce the town's animal control rules. We hope that the decision of the Oak Bluffs selectmen, who've ordered Storm off the Island and intend to keep him in the town pound till he goes, will put an end to this ghastly episode.
After all, dogs will be dogs, so owners must be responsible, and ultimately, when things go awry, selectmen must do their jobs.