West Tisbury selectmen ban pit bull following dog hearing

Although the dog and owner have since moved to Edgartown, selectmen said the pit bull must be muzzled when in West Tisbury.

West Tisbury selectmen, from left, Cynthia Mitchell, Richard Knabel, Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter, and town administrator Jennifer Rand. — Edie Prescott

West Tisbury selectmen last Wednesday held a dog hearing in connection with a complaint that a pit bull named Doc Brown owned by Isaac Higgins bit Grantley Schenck, a new resident of West Tisbury, on Wednesday, Sept. 28, as he walked on Great Plains Road on the way to his nearby home.

“Before we start, I want to say this,” board chairman Richard Knabel said, “and I think I speak for the board; we find these hearings, for ourselves, individually and collectively, difficult.”

Mr. Knabel then read the complaint made by Mr. Schenck, and also read the recommendation from newly retired West Tisbury animal control officer (ACO) Joan Jenkinson, who recommended the dog “be muzzled and contained in a 6-foot chainlink fence.”

“This is a dangerous dog,” Ms. Jenkinson said.

Mr. Schenck said the pit bull “leaped” at him repeatedly, and bit into his right arm. The dog is unlicensed.

“I yelled at the dog, but the dog kept lunging at me,” Mr. Schenck said. “He did this perhaps 10 times, while I kept screaming louder and louder.”

Mr. Schenck was able to escape into a neighbor’s house, and subsequently went to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where he was treated and released.

There was initial confusion as to who owns the dog, Isaac or Wanda Higgins, Isaac’s mother. Mr. Higgins, who is the owner, was at work during the incident, and his mother handled the situation.

Mr. Higgins, who has since moved to Edgartown with his dogs, said he does have a muzzle, and the chainlink fence “should be put up by the end of this week.”

“We have no authority to put conditions on a dog that’s not in West Tisbury,” selectman Skipper Manter said. “All we can do is say the dog can’t come back to West Tisbury.”

Mr. Schenck agreed that the conditions of muzzle, chainlink fence, and banning the dog from West Tisbury were suitable. Mr. Higgins also agreed.

“I don’t see any contention here,” Mr. Knabel said.

Mr. Manter opposed the muzzle option, and said it is “unnatural.” “I just think that’s torture for the dog,” Mr. Manter said. “I also don’t like our problems going to another town.”

“Regarding the muzzle, it’s an extreme measure, but this dog needs it,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said.

“Doc Brown has bitten before,” Ms. Jenkinson said.

Mr. Higgins said the dog has bitten people three times, including the current incident. This gave selectmen pause.

Selectmen required Mr. Higgins to pay any medical financial losses Mr. Schenck incurred by Dec. 31, 2016. Selectmen also required that Doc Brown be banned from West Tisbury under any circumstances, but if the dog is in a car traveling through West Tisbury, that he be muzzled.

“If the dog was still in West Tisbury, I’d be making another motion,” Mr. Manter said. Mr. Manter continued that if the board found out that the dog moved back to West Tisbury, the penalty would be “extreme.”

In other business, selectmen revisited a complaint against Alpha Taxi, to which company owner Benoit Baldwin has yet to respond. Selectmen gave Mr. Baldwin until Monday, Oct. 31, to respond, and reserved the right to hold a public hearing on the complaint.

Last, selectmen agreed to join the governor’s community compact, an initiative announced in January 2015 by Governor Charlie Baker to strengthen municipal partnerships.

“The benefit to the town for joining this community compact is that it allows the town access to grant funds for a variety of different categories (such as education, transportation, safety, and Internet),” town administrator Jennifer Rand said.