The contentious and sometimes emotional debate over the possible euthanization of two Akitas came to a conclusion this week when the West Tisbury selectmen ordered the animals into the ownership of an off-Island rescue group rather than destroy the dogs. Per the agreement between the town and the dogs’ owners, the dogs are never to return to the Island.
The final order puts to bed a two-month long drama played out before the board of selectmen, coupled with last-minute attempts to save the dogs and a torn board of selectmen, who stood by their obligation to protect the farmers in town.
The dogs will be surrendered to the Lexus Project, a New York-based rescue group that helps canines facing euthanization or incarceration. The group will assess the Akitas and place them with an adoptive family.
On Wednesday the selectmen voted 2 to 1 to sign new agreements with the dog owners and rescue group that would spare the dogs’ lives. Chairman of the board Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd dissented.
The first agreement signed by the selectmen requires dog owners Anna Bolotovsky and Taggart Young to spay and neuter the dogs before giving them over to the Lexus Project. The owners must also pay damages to Richard Andre, the neighboring farmer who lost livestock in the attack, and costs associated with boarding of one of the dogs at the town pound.
The owners’ attorney, John Rankin of Framingham, and the town’s attorney will review the document one more time before the selectmen sign it, but they are expected to do so in the next week.
The second agreement is between the selectmen and the Lexus Project and mandates the rescue group not return the dogs to Martha’s Vineyard, nor will it allow the dogs to be adopted by any family member of Ms. Bolotovsky or Mr. Young. The new owners of the dogs are also bound by the agreement.
Both dogs are scheduled to be handed over to the Lexus Project by the end of next week, after they are spayed and neutered.
The two Akitas, Zion and Sensi, got loose in mid-December and killed chickens and geese belonging to Mr. Andre, and again a second time two weeks later. At a hearing for both of the dogs in January, the owners were ordered to construct a pen for the dogs. But the dogs pushed down the fence and killed again, destroying a total of 14 chickens and two geese in the three incidents.
During the third attack, Zion, a male, was taken into custody by animal control officer Joan Jenkinson. Sensi, a female, was taken to Newton and is currently there with Ms. Bolotovksy and her family.
The selectmen voted to banish both of the dogs from the Vineyard rather than destroy them; that decision was reversed when Mr. Young, attempted to free Zion from the town pound against selectmen’s orders. Citing a lack of trust in the animals’ owners and responsibility to protect the town’s agrarian culture, the selectmen unanimously voted to destroy both of the dogs.
But that decision was postponed, amid the protests of dog proponents, when the possibility of placing the dogs with a rescue group arose last week. The selectmen gave the owners one week to come up with a new arrangement that would turn the dogs over to a third party group.
Had the euthanization order gone through, it would have been the first order to do so in West Tisbury in at least 20 years.
The two dogs will be handed over at the same time to the Lexus Project, most likely in Woods Hole. Sensi will remain off-Island and under the custody of the owners until that time. The town’s animal control officer will bring Zion over on the ferry.
The selectmen said they would be amendable to that. “It doesn’t really disturb me, it seems like it’s a logistical puzzle that needs to be worked out,” selectman Richard Knabel said.
Mr. Manter urged for a speedy resolution. “We all want closure on this matter,” he said.
At the owner’s request, the selectmen also agreed to waive the town’s legal fees, which amount to around $2,000.
“At this point they’ve agreed to relinquish their dogs to the Lexus Project and pay Mr. Andre’s damages and the boarding cost to Zion, and they don’t believe it’s fair or reasonable to pay for the attorney’s fees,” Mr. Rankin said. “I think at this point, Mr. Young and Ms. Bolotovsky are willing to give up their dogs to save them.”
Mr. Young and Ms. Bolotovsky did not comment during the final proceedings, but after reviewing the agreement said they understood the new terms.
“We’ll definitely sign it,” Mr. Young said.