Updated July 30
In a unanimous Wednesday vote, West Tisbury’s select board ordered a German shepherd named Stella to be put down after it allegedly bit a woman walking along Dr. Fisher Road. Stella had previously been declared dangerous by the board following an alleged bite incident in December.
Animal Control Officer Anthony Cordray told the board several other people told him they’d been bitten by Stella but haven’t previously reported it.
Select board chair Skipper Manter asked Cordray to focus on formally reported bites as opposed to those that hadn’t been. Cordray later told The Times that there were three reported bites attributed to Stella and an alleged 12 other bites informally reported.
Manter swore in Cordray, Stella’s owners, Jim Bishop and Martha Sullivan, and bite victim Carolyn O’Brien.
According to Cordray’s testimony and written report, as well as O’Brien’s testimony and written complaint, O’Brien was walking along Dr. Fisher Road on July 20 when Stella allegedly came up behind her and bit her on the rear of her leg.
O’Brien wrote in her complaint that she spied a dog moving “quickly and quietly” behind bushes. She then heard barking, she wrote, and the dog came onto the road. At this time, O’Brien said she reversed course and walked back in the direction she came from “but the dog pursued me, biting me on my right rear hamstring.”
O’Brien testified she was “very freaked out” from the bite incident with Stella.
Cordray said he went to the owners’ home following the bite incident and told Sullivan Stella had bitten somebody and had done so while off-leash. Cordray said he reminded Sullivan the select board had previously ordered Stella leashed at all times. Cordray testified he took possession of Stella and quarantined her.
Cordray also testified that he’d received a prior complaint about Stella being loose and allegedly causing a person to have to defend themselves from her with rocks and sticks.
Bishop testified that he was out of state when the alleged bite happened. He described Stella as “very protective of my wife.”
Sullivan testified she’d just returned from the transfer station and was unloading barrels from her vehicle when one of her dogs jumped out “and chased something in the bushes.” The dog, whose name wasn’t given, began barking at somebody on the road. Stella also ran out, according to Sullivan, because “evidently Stella took that as a threat to the property.” Stella decided to chase the person, Sullivan testified.
“I called her and she came right back to me,” she testified.
Sullivan testified that she was unaware at the time Stella had bitten somebody.
Manter said the board previously ordered the dog “restrained at all times” and ordered an enclosure be constructed.
“We deemed the dog to be a dangerous dog,” select board member Cynthia Mitchell said.
Bishop testified that he had tapped a builder to fence in 1.5 acres of land for Stella with seven foot high fencing at an estimated cost of $10,000 and a contract for the work was ready to be signed.
“If in fact that will keep us from having to put the dog down,” he said.
“I understand she’s nipped people,” Bishop testified, “but she’s not a vicious dog.”
Bishop testified the incident wasn’t Stella’s fault. It was a “slip” by her owners on that given day.
After closing the hearing, Manter said the dog once again brought up the fact the dog had already been declared dangerous and despite that, another incident took place.
“There’s a danger to the community here, a danger to the people that I don’t think we can ignore,” Manter said.
“I don’t make this recommendation lightly,” Cordray said, “but based on the aggressive history of the dog and the lack of control Sullivan has of the dog — also the fact that it’s morally not right to rehome the dog, it’s just leaving the problem for someone else — I would recommend euthanasia.’
Cordray also recommended he be allowed to maintain control of the dog until a 20-day appeal period had ended.
Cordray later told The Times 20 days was a mistake. The owners have 10 days to appeal the decision in Edgartown District Court. Cordray said the order that will be sent to Stella’s owners will have the accurate appeal window.
The board unanimously adopted Cordray’s recommendation.
“I’m extremely sorry for all the people involved, including the dog,” Manter said.
Cordray said the owner could visit Stella under supervision during the appeal period.
Updated to reflect the correct appeal window for the select board’s decision.