Tisbury selectmen add bite to dog hearing penalties
By Janet Hefler
Published: August 14, 2008
While August traditionally is a light month for town officials, for the Tisbury selectmen it was business as usual - and then some. What looked like a light agenda turned into a two-and-a-half-hour meeting Tuesday at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.
The receipt of a letter from Ken Garde late Tuesday afternoon appealing a pending decision by the selectmen to ban his dog from town prompted a departure from the agenda.
Animal control officer Laurie Clements reported that Storm, a Siberian husky owned by Mr. Garde and his wife, Nina, was caught running loose twice since a dog complaint hearing held June 3. Storm's rambles violated the terms of a six-month restraining order imposed by the selectmen.
Given the dog's history of killing several chickens on three occasions at four different places and being caught running loose eight times, the selectmen had agreed to ban the dog from town, if he were caught violating the restraining order.
Mr. Garde provided explanations for both violations, blaming the first on a child who left the front gate open. He said Storm got loose a second time when he and his wife Nina were off-Island on their way to her mother's funeral.
A dog-sitter staying at their home was asleep when Storm and their two other dogs got loose, and Mr. Garde said he was convinced someone deliberately coaxed the dogs out of the house and yard because, he said, they do not normally try to escape. At the June 3 hearing, however, he described continuing efforts to contain the dogs in his yard, including the addition of three feet to a fence and extra strong springs on a gate.
Asked by selectman Jeffrey Kristal for her recommendation, Ms. Clements said, although she sympathized with the Gardes, "If you don't enforce the rules and follow through, then you're opening a can of worms for future hearings."
Ms. Clements reminded the selectmen that another dog, this one owned by Jeremy Kroup, recently violated a restraining order and also faces banishment.
Mr. Garde responded that Tisbury's board of health, of which he is a member, considers matters on a case-by-case basis, even though rules are black and white.
Selectman Tristan Israel repeatedly expressed sympathy for the Gardes and said that Mr. Kroup had not demonstrated the level of caring about his pet that they had. "I do think Ken and Nina are trying, and maybe I'm more forgiving," he said. Ms. Clements reminded him that Mr. Kroup's dog had not killed anything.
Selectman chairman Denys Wortman agreed it was a sad situation that required a difficult decision. Nonetheless, he said, "It's tough, but rules are rules." Selectman Kristal made a motion to uphold the June 3 decision to ban the dog, as of Sept. 1. He and Mr. Wortman agreed, and Mr. Israel voted no, although he had voted in favor of the terms of the restraining order on June 3.
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Bless the Bullys