West Tisbury animal control officer Joan Jenkinson has confirmed an incident involving a farmer who shot a dog that was killing his chickens last week.
Mrs. Jenkinson told the Gazette yesterday that while everyone involved is upset over what happened, no formal complaint will be filed. And it was completely lawful for the farmer to shoot the dog, she said.
“What happened was between the farmer and the dog,” Mrs. Jenkinson said. She described the events that took place on Sunday, Nov. 11.
“Two dogs showed up at a farmer’s house who has chickens, he lets the chickens run loose, treats them like pets, they stay near the house. The dogs came onto his property and started chasing the chickens, they got a hold of the chickens and began ripping them apart. The man was upset and yelling at the dogs but they wouldn’t leave. The farmer had the right to go into his house and get a gun to shoot the dogs, and that is what he did. He shot the one dog right in the head and it died immediately. It did not suffer. The other dog ran away with a chicken in its mouth and blood all over it.
“I was not on duty, my assistant Allen Healy was. He went and picked up the dead dog and contacted me. I told him he could take the dog to Animal Health Care where it would be kept until the owner could be found.”
Mrs. Jenkinson said she then went immediately to the farmer’s house and took pictures. She said the farmer and his wife were extremely upset. “He felt terrible about it, his wife was crying, they had never had to do this before. But after he had shot the dog he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He did not know who the owner of the dogs was so he called the police, who contacted animal control.”
The farmer has not been named. Mrs. Jenkinson said she is not required to file a report with the selectmen because the dog was shot, not euthanized.
Later Matt Gordon, the owner of the dog that was shot, contacted animal control and was told what had happened and was able to collect his dog.
Mr. Gordon said that Chi, a year-and-a-half-old border collie mix, was a well-behaved, friendly dog who had lived on a farm and had never killed an animal before.
“I understand the law gives them the right to do what they’ve done,” Mr. Gordon said, adding that he grew up on a farm.
“I completely take responsibility for him being loose,” he said, adding that the outcome was something that had never crossed his mind. “You think you can trust your neighbors, count on your neighbors,” he said. “The person who shot the dog could say the same thing about me.”
Most of all, he said, he wished for a different outcome. “I would have paid 10 times the amount [of the chickens], or a thousand times . . . I would have given any amount for something else but what they’ve done,” he said, adding: “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again on the Vineyard.”
Mrs. Jenkinson she said the farmer is not filing a formal complaint and will not seek compensation for his chickens.
“What he did was completely lawful and you can read it in the Massachusetts General Laws. The dog does not have to be killing something, a farmer has a right to shoot the dog if it is only worrying the chickens or livestock,” Mrs. Jenkinson said. She concluded:
“Everyone is sorry that this happened, it’s a no-win situation for everyone. When dogs start killing they don’t stop and I know that because I’ve seen it. It’s just sad but there is nothing more to be done.”