The West Tisbury Farmer’s Market went dog-free as of June 10, when the first market day of the season took place.
The market vendors and the West Tisbury Board of Health arrived jointly at the decision to forbid dogs from entering the marketplace, according to market co-director Collins Heavener and West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson.
Mr. Johnson said that the ban, from his perspective, protected “mainly the overall safety of the food.” He told The Times that the market area is a dusty place, and that the dust frequently blows around and could carry canine urine and excrement with it.
The decision was tough, but after years of concern over dogs, the vendors reached a tipping point, Mr. Heavener told The Times. He said dogs had urinated on produce, defecated by the stands, brawled with one another, bitten children, and tripped up patrons with their leashes, and that the vendors feared a worse event might occur if they continued to allow the presence of dogs. Several people had already told him that they chose to stay away from the market because of dog hazards, and will now return because the dogs are gone, Mr. Heavener said.
“We’re going to catch some flak,” he said. He appreciated that dog owners may feel slighted, being a dog owner himself. Thus far he estimated that he and co-director Lily Walter have received four positive comments about the decision for every negative comment.
Part-time Chilmark resident Ann Lees told The Times she has gone to the market for the past 40 years. “I’ve never heard of tripping over leashes being a problem for the general public,” she said in an e-mail. “In all the years I’ve gone to the market, I’ve never seen dogs fighting there. That concern seems a bit far-fetched, since dogs do have to be leashed, and so could be easily separated. Though not often, dogs do occasionally pee in the gravel or grass, leaving no trace behind, just as happens when their owners take them for a walk anywhere. As for pooping, if it happens, which is rare, honorable dog owners clean it up instantly. (I think I had to do that once in nine years for Chloe.) I have never seen poop left behind at the market. Ignoring poop is unacceptable behavior on the part of any owner, anywhere.”