Is Doc Brown banned from town?

Staffordshire terrier bites again, W.T. selectmen to meet with owner.

West Tisbury's board of selectmen plan to meet with the owner of Doc Brown to discuss another bite by the dog. - Rich Saltzberg

A Staffordshire terrier owned by a West Tisbury man is alleged to have bitten somebody in the Manuel Correllus State Forest on Sept. 15. That person suffered a hand infection, West Tisbury Animal Control Officer Anthony Cordray told the town’s board of selectmen this week. Cordray said the name of the dog is Doc Brown, and its owner is Isaac Higgins, formerly of Edgartown. 

Cordray said a medical facility in Western Massachusetts reached out to Edgartown’s animal control officer, Betsy Buck, with news of the bite. Cordray noted the Edgartown ACO was contacted because the owner is still listed as residing in Edgartown. 

Buck told The Times the bite was said to have occurred in an Edgartown portion of the forest but because the dog was under a standing dangerous order from West Tisbury, and the owner lives in that town, the matter is under Cordray’s jurisdiction.

Cordray told the selectmen Doc Brown was the subject of a hearing in West Tisbury on Oct. 19, 2016. As The Times previously reported, Doc Brown bit a man named Grantley Schenck, the third such incident, according to the dog’s owner. 

In 2016, on the recommendation of former Animal Control Officer Joan Jenkinson, the board ordered the dog kept behind a six-foot chainlink fence and muzzled. At the time of the order, Higgins had left West Tisbury with the dog and taken up residence in Edgartown. The board banished the dog from the town in what Cordray described on Sept. 18 as a decree. 

“Sanctions will be severe” if the dog is found back in West Tisbury, Cordray read aloud from their past order. “And that the dog may not ever be brought back to West Tisbury again, he must be contained in a six-foot high chainlink fence, on a leash, wear a muzzle when outside.”

Cordray asked the board to articulate what “severe sanctions” meant.

“Cindy, I don’t have it in front of me,” selectman Skipper Manter said. “Was that just me talking, or did the board actually take action on this?”

“It was a motion you made,” Chair Cynthia Mitchell said. 

“OK,” Manter said. 

“And it was unanimously voted,” Mitchell said. 

Manter asked Cordray if another hearing was necessary, or if the board could continue on the matter where it last left off.

Cordray said he felt the board could just continue, and recommended having Higgins come in before the board to go over the matter. 

“Right now he does not have a six-foot chainlink fence because technically he didn’t live in West Tisbury, but now he does,” Cordray said.

He went on to say, “The situation was the person was walking on a trail that was rather tight,” Cordray said. ”The individual walked past the dog and reached out and the dog bit him on the hand. The person doesn’t live here, he lives [near] Springfield. He left the following day to go back home, realized it was infected, went to the hospital, the hospital reported it to Edgartown.”

Manter said it was obvious no muzzle was in play, because a bite occurred. 

Cordray said it should be impressed on Higgins the dog remains under an order.

“So I’m just concerned about the dog being under control until this happens,” Mitchell said.

“As I am, “ Cordray said. “Right now he’s under a quarantine, which is an order from the commonwealth of Massachusetts that has heavy penalties if he doesn’t. Not that that means anything. He and his mother assured me that the dog would not leave the property and that it would be on a leash anytime it was outside the house and that it would be muzzled when it was outside the house.”

Manter asked if there were any medical bills the victim incurred that weren’t covered by insurance. He wanted the dog owner to cover any such bills. 

“I believe that would be an issue between the bitten and the biter, not the town,” selectmen Kent Healy said. 

“We can talk about that next week,” Manter said to Healy. 

“I have talked to the victim,” Cordray said, “so he is accessible.”

The board closed the subject with the expectation Cordray would notify Higgins he needed to come to next week’s meeting. No votes were taken on the matter. 

Cordray later told The Times current Massachusetts law prohibits banning dogs from municipalities. However, the potential exists for the dog to be chipped and tattooed because of the dangerous designation it has. The owner may also have to secure a $100,000 insurance policy for the dog, Cordray said. 

Buck said in Edgartown the dog was at a fenced property and “was rarely walked.” In May 2018, Buck said the dog was subject to another quarantine after it bit Higgins. This occurred when Higgins tried to break up a fight between Doc Brown and another dog he owned. 

Reached by telephone Friday, Isaac’s mother, Wanda Higgins, confirmed the dog was under quarantine. She also said based on some family matters, she plans to reach out and try to reschedule her son’s appearance before the selectmen.