Gardes promise new, off-Island home for Storm
Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to order $1,000 in restitution for damages done by a Siberian husky named Storm, who got loose and went on a chicken-killing spree at the farm of Elisha Smith and was later found stalking livestock at another farm.
During a legal proceeding known as a vicious dog hearing before selectmen, the dog's owners, Ken and Nina Garde, promised to transfer ownership of Storm to a woman in New Rochelle, New York, who read newspaper accounts of Storm, and offered through an e-mail to adopt the dog. Rosemarie Haigazian, an attorney who represented the Garde family at the hearing, said the family hopes to transfer the dog this coming weekend. Under the conditions of the order, the dog will not be released from the Oak Bluffs pound until restitution has been made, and will not be released until one hour before his scheduled ferry departure. Storm has already been banned in Tisbury after two incidents there. After those incidents, the Garde family promised Tisbury selectmen they would transfer Storm to a new home in Connecticut, but those plans fell through and they returned the dog to the Island.
Also during the hearing, selectmen agreed to return Storm's daughter Mussa to her owner, Rebecca Garde. According to Oak Bluffs animal control officer Heather Jaglowski, Mussa was also involved in killing chickens at the Smith farm. Rebecca Garde promised to build an enclosed pen at her home, enroll in an animal training course, and post a $200 bond, which will be forfeited if Mussa gets loose again. Both dogs were left in the care of a friend, but they escaped through an open door in the latest incident, according to Rebecca Garde.
Mr. Smith agreed with the selectmen's decision on Storm, but disagreed with the decision on Mussa.
"I think they should both get off the Island," said Mr. Smith. He then issued a deterrent that may be more effective than any action taken by animal control officers or selectmen in either Oak Bluffs or Tisbury.
"The next time they come to the farm, I'm ready for them with a shotgun," said Mr. Smith.
In opening the hearing, Ron DiOrio, chairman of the board of selectmen, indicated there was no sentiment for the most extreme measure available under state law.
"There is no one on the board who wants to put the dog to sleep," said Mr. DiOrio. "Let's get that right off the table."
Ms. Jaglowski then recounted her experience in apprehending the dogs on August 30, after they had killed or fatally wounded 15 of Mr. Smith's chickens. She said Storm came readily when called, was not intimidating, and did not tug or pull when she grabbed his collar.
"This is a crime of opportunity, rather than a crime of instinct," said selectman Kerry Scott. "They did what a dog will do. This isn't sounding like a vicious dog, this is sounding like an opportunistic killer."
Mr. Smith told the board that damages amounted to $968, including traveling off-Island to buy new chickens, and the loss of income from selling eggs. In addition to the loss of eggs from the dead chickens, Mr. Smith said the rest of his flock is so traumatized their production is dramatically lower.
"They haven't come back at all, because they're so damn scared," said Mr. Smith.
Under state law, Mr. Smith is entitled to treble damages, because the dog had already been ordered restrained by Tisbury selectmen, but he agreed to the rounded figure of $1,000 in restitution suggested by selectmen.
Ms. Haigazian told the board that the Gardes do not deny the facts presented by Ms. Jaglowski, and acknowledge that it was not Storm's first offense. She identified the New York woman who wants to adopt the dog as Iris Vogel.
"She has a seven-year-old husky who had a similar situation," said Ms. Haigazian. "She's taking Storm as-is. I don't know how many chickens there are in New Rochelle, New York, but she is willing to take the dog."
Mr. Garde spoke briefly during the hearing. "She [Ms. Vogel] thinks the dog is worth it, and I do, too," she said. "I'm sorry about all this happening. It's been wicked expensive. We want what's best for the dog."
The selectmen's action fell short of the recommendations of Ms. Jaglowski. "We're looking for some kind of rehab before the dog is released back into the public," said Ms. Jaglowski.
Selectmen treated the younger dog, owned by Mr. Garde's daughter Rebecca, separately in the hearing.
Rebecca Garde presented the board with a petition she said included 285 signatures from people who did not want Mussa euthanized.
"I've kind of let her (Mussa) down in respect to the care I've left her in a couple of times," said Rebecca Garde. "I want to build an enclosed structure. I want to crate her when she's inside the house. That way, I won't ask someone else to watch her, and I'll know she'll be safe."
Ms. Garde said she takes the dog to work with her during the day, which raises another issue in the mind of Denys Wortman, chairman of the Tisbury board of selectmen. Ms. Garde works for her father, at his home business in Tisbury. Both Storm and Mussa have a history of getting loose from that residence and killing chickens at Tisbury farms. Tisbury selectmen have tentatively scheduled a hearing on October 7 to decide whether to take action against Rebecca Garde. They have the option at that hearing to ban Mussa from the town of Tisbury, which would legally prevent Ms. Garde from bringing Mussa to work with her.
"That is a concern," said Mr. Wortman. "When you have an animal, you have certain responsibilities."