Appalling municipal decision in Oak Bluffs


To the Editor:

The town of Oak Bluffs is not adequately protecting its residents and visitors. I am appalled that the Oak Bluffs Police are telling people to just let loose dogs run free. The police’s refusal to pick up these loose dogs has the potential to cause great harm to the people of Oak Bluffs. I am a veterinarian, and of course I am concerned about the safety of the loose dogs, but is no one else thinking about the safety of the people? Loose dogs can lead to very serious car accidents, and they can bite and cause very serious personal injuries.

Years ago, back in Minnesota, the clinic I worked at got involved with a case where a 55-pound mixed breed dog running loose caused the death of a 12-year-old boy. To the great horror of everyone watching, the dog ran toward a group of children running and playfully screaming. The running and high-pitched voices excited the dog and in an instant this dog jumped on the boy and bit him in the side of his neck. The bite hit the boy’s carotid artery and the child bled to death before the EMS arrived on the scene.

This could happen anywhere. Any town official, police officer, or board of selectmen that thinks it is okay to just let these loose dogs run free are putting every Oak Bluffs resident and visitor at grave risk.

I want all those town officials to imagine that it was their child who bled to death from a dog bite. Each time someone calls about a loose dog or brings a loose dog to the police station, fire department, or town hall, before any of you say, “just let it run loose,” think, “It could be my child maimed or killed by a loose dog,” or that, “It could be my loved one injured or killed when a driver swerves to avoid a loose dog and creates a serious car accident.”

In addition, Oak Bluffs residents need to know that there is no official that is tracking animal bites. When an animal bites a person, or a pet, the Massachusetts state law requires that the biter must be placed in 10-day quarantine. This period is to ensure that the biter has not transmitted rabies, which is a 100 percent lethal virus. But the town of Oak Bluffs has not appointed anyone to this animal Inspector position, so there is no one to ensure that this deadly virus is not being spread to Oak Bluffs residents, visitors, and their pets. The town of Oak Bluffs is directly breaking the Massachusetts state rabies law.

Why is there no animal control officer for Oak Bluffs? The police have put the blame on the board of selectmen. The selectmen have put the blame on the voters. Everyone must stop passing the blame around and step up to keep our town safe. It is all the town officials that are responsible. If a town official refused to pick up a loose dog, and that dog bites someone or leads to a traffic accident, then it is the town that is responsible for the personal injury. This is a tragedy and a huge town lawsuit waiting to happen.

The town has a kennel and an animal control vehicle. It is just not that difficult for a town employee to take or pick up a loose dog, bring it to the town kennel, and to have someone check on the dog once a day. There are just no good excuses for why the town officials are willing to risk the safety of every Oak Bluffs resident and visitor.

Everyone please call the Oak Bluffs selectmen and the Oak Bluffs Police Department to let them know it is not acceptable that they are risking everyone’s safety, both the lives of the people and the dogs.

Dr. Bridget Dunnigan

Oak Bluffs