West Tisbury court action against dog owner aborted

Cynthia Riggs looks after her ducks in West Tisbury. Selectmen there are still trying to get a dog owner to comply with their order after his dog killed a chicken owned by Riggs. - Rich Saltzberg

The West Tisbury animal control department no longer plans court action against dog owner Matt Hayden for alleged failure to complete an enclosure for his dog Nesta in a timely manner. West Tisbury Animal Control Officer Anothony Cordray told The Times he made a preliminary filing Friday against Hayden, but will now nix the process because Hayden has complied. On Monday, Cordray said, he assisted Hayden in finishing an enclosure sufficient to satisfy the outstanding order. 

West Tisbury selectmen declared the dog a nuisance on July 22, and ordered Hayden to fence her in following a fatal attack on a neighbor’s pet hen. The hen belonged to Hayden’s neighbor Cynthia Riggs. In testimony before the selectmen on July 22, Riggs and her studio tenant, Lynn Christoffers, said the dog was discovered in the act of mauling Buffy. 

On August 12, the selectmen revisited the issue with Cordray. At the time, Cordray told the board that while some work had been done, the enclosure was not completed. While some hog fencing had been erected, and a “kind of gate” was installed, work not done included six-foot-high fencing, a double gate, and a shelter (a.k.a. doghouse), Cordray said. 

Selectman Skipper Manter said if the work wasn’t completed by 4pm the next day, Hayden should be deemed not in compliance of what he was ordered to do.

“Is that the route you want me to go?” Cordray asked. He noted it would involve court action and an alternative that had been discussed was confiscation of the dog. 

Manter said he didn’t think the dog could be confiscated without a court order. “I mean due process is important, and I think he has that right,” he said. 

Manter said if the dog had been deemed dangerous instead of a nuisance, confiscation might have been a simpler task.

Manter said by Hayden’s own testimony before the selectmen, Hayden had spent a lot of time chasing his dog around. In light of that, Manter felt it was important to take action so another incident does not occur.

“Yeah, that was my concern also,” Cordray said, “that if it does happen again, it could be much more devastating …”

Selectman Kent Healy asked for a description of what the penalty was for violating the selectmen’s order.

“It’s a fine and jail time,” Cordray said.

The next day, August 13, Cordray told The Times Hayden had not complied by 4 pm. On August 14, Cordray went by in the morning and said the enclosure was still not in compliance, and that he would head to Edgartown District Court to file a complaint. Monday Cordray said he only began the filing process August 14, so the complaint hadn’t been formalized, and wouldn’t be so long as Hayden maintained compliance.