Dog ordered fenced and muzzled in West Tisbury

Doc Brown, a Staffordshire terrier, has been ordered fenced and muzzled by West Tisbury selectmen. — Rich Saltzberg

A Staffordshire terrier named Doc Brown has been ordered fenced and muzzled by West Tisbury selectmen in an effort to solidify a previous order leveled at the dog, and to address a bite incident that occured recently.

West Tisbury Animal Control Officer Anthony Cordray outlined the situation to the board and to the dog’s owner, Isaac Higgins. 

“Right now we recently had a dog bite in the State Forest that occurred in Edgartown by Mr. Higgins’ dog,” Cordray said. “He’s under quarantine at the moment. One reason I wanted to come in was because at the last hearing, he had moved out of town at the last minute, and I don’t think things were all that clear for him. Making it clear what he needs to do as per order of the selectmen.”

The order Cordray referred to followed a bite incident four years ago, when the selectmen banned the dog from town and issued a set of measures Higgins needed to take to better secure the animal. Higgins moved from West Tisbury around the time of the order, but has since moved back. Banning dogs from municipalities is no longer lawful in Massachusetts, and the subject did not arise during discourse on the dog. 

Cordray summarized the strictures the selectmen imposed: The dog must be muzzled whenever off Higgins’ property, the dog needs to be walked on a leash at all times, and the dog must be kept in a six-foot-high chainlink enclosure. 

Cordray said presently the dog remains under a rabies quarantine until Sept. 25, following the most recent bite, and the status of an enclosure is unknown. 

“We’re in the process of getting the fence,” Higgins said. He asked if it had to be a chainlink fence. 

“In my opinion, no,” Cordray said, but he deferred to the selectmen. He said any fence that prevents the dog from escaping would be suitable, provided it was six feet tall, it was fashioned with a double gate, and it covered the right square footage to accommodate the dog. He estimated this at 400 square feet.

Higgins had several questions about the content of the order the dog was under, and selectman Skipper Manter suggested Cordray deliver a copy to Higgins. Chair Cynthia Mitchell agreed with the idea.

Manter said he was willing to leave the fence composition of the enclosure up to the discretion of Cordray.

“That’s all very fair,” Higgins said. 

The board voted unanimously to allow the composition of the enclosure to be left to the discretion of the animal control officer. In another unanimous vote, the board set a deadline of Oct. 2 at 4 pm for completion of the enclosure. 

“Isaac, are you able to meet that?” Mitchell asked.

“We’re going to make sure we can,” he said.

Manter said business thus far was bent toward compliance, based on a previous hearing four years ago. He asked if another hearing will be held regarding the recent bite.

Cordray said it could be done, but he wasn’t planning on it.

Manter pointed out if the dog was muzzled, the bite in Edgartown wouldn’t have happened.

“That’s exactly right, that’s exactly what happened,” Cordray said, “the dog wasn’t muzzled and a person tried to pet it and it bit him.”

The board opted to take no further action.