Suckered

Remember the two young Akitas who got into such trouble in West Tisbury that, in great exasperation with the irresponsibility of their owners, the selectmen sentenced them to die?

A compromise was reached: The death sentence would be lifted if the irresponsible owners agreed to let the dogs be rehomed. The agreement further stipulated that the dogs could not be rehomed with either of the current owners, Taggart Young and Anna Bolotovsky, or their families and that the dogs could not return to Martha’s Vineyard. On Friday, March 2, the dogs, Zion and Sensi, were turned over to the Lexus Project.

Guess what? According to a source I consider reliable, the two dogs are back with the original owners and living with Anna’s family in Newton.

Correction: I misunderstood my source on this incident. It took place before the dogs were turned over to the Lexus Project. As far as I know, neither dog has come back to the island since then. More, on at least one occasion Tag has brought Sensi to work with him. On that particular occasion, Sensi disappeared from the job site. After a frantic search she was found — and Tag’s response was, it seems, to punish her for running off.

Any half-savvy dog owner knows that this doesn’t teach the dog not to run off. It teaches the dog not to come back.

On March 11 I posted “Doomsdog Coda,” reporting that the dogs had been turned over to Lexus, expressing my reservations about the arrangement, and hoping for the best. I mentioned that the day before I had e-mailed Robin Mittasch, co-principal of the Lexus Project, to ask if she had any update about the two dogs. She responded the same day: “They are decompressing and doing well in a foster home. That’s all the news we have.”

Were they already back in Tag and Anna’s hands by then? I don’t know.

The whole incident makes me a little sick. Sensi and Zion are back in the same incapable hands.

If I knew for an absolute fact that Sensi or Zion was on the island, would I call the police, the animal control officer, or the board of selectmen? Not without a guarantee that the dog(s) (a) wouldn’t be killed, and (b) would be turned over to BEAR or an equally competent rescue organization.

What’s most sickening, though, is that this was entirely, 100% preventable. A bona fide Akita rescue group, Big East Akita Rescue (BEAR), was ready and able to take charge of Sensi and Zion, foster them, evaluate them, and find them suitable new homes. Instead, the town let Young and Bolotovsky and their lawyer choose the Lexus Project as an intermediary — even though Lexus is a legal defense group, not a rescue, and it seemed reluctant to establish contact with BEAR. Two of us communicated all this information to two of the three selectmen and to the town administrator, who was charged with doing the research and making the arrangements.

The upshot is that the town got suckered: suckered by Young and Bolotovsky, suckered by their lawyer (one Jonathan Stone Rankin of Framingham, who specializes in “animal law”), suckered by the Lexus Project. At the feel-good meeting where the “compromise” was agreed on, the town even excused Young and Bolotovsky from paying the town’s legal fees in the case.

My biggest hope is that the next dog that gets in trouble in West Tisbury won’t have to pay for the town’s gullibility. And if you’re moved to donate money to an animal-welfare group, there are plenty of alternatives out there more worthy than the Lexus Project.

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About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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12 Responses to Suckered

  1. I believe the owners and lawyer should be put down as humanely as possible and the dawgs sent to Montana to be trained to live peacefully in a Yert.

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  2. Scotty says:

    Hey, you broke the code! I wouldn’t characterize the Town as “gullible”, rather humane. Well, maybe gullible, expecting this lawyer to honor his word.

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    • I admire the selectmen for going the humane route, trying to do the right thing by the dogs no matter how irresponsible the owners were. No problem there. As I see it, the gullibility lies in (1) trusting the owners and their lawyer to decide who they’d turn the dogs over to, and then (2) not thoroughly checking out the chosen group. I’d never heard of the Lexus Project until they were mentioned in a selectmen’s meeting. I went home, Googled — and within 5 minutes I had serious reservations about the choice. I know how good rescues work, and it was clear that Lexus wasn’t set up to do rescue — they confirmed this in response to my inquiry. Lawyer, owners, and Lexus weren’t interested in working with the Akita rescue group: another red flag. The town had the same info we “concerned citizens” had and they chose to trust the lawyer and owners instead. That’s gullible.

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      • Scotty says:

        Well, real gullibility would be allowing the snookering parties to get away this, with impunity. (or some other bitter sauce, like horse radish) It’s thankful we are for the keen eyes and ears of the bloggers. The welfare of the dogs is the main point.

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      • I totally agree: the welfare of the dogs is the main point. For the town, protecting livestock was the main priority — and I don’t think that’s been well served either.

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  3. dabodog says:

    Very disturbing; a dis-service to all parties, not the least of which to the dogs.

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  4. How about putting the owners down instead of the dogs? Don’t we require parents to pay for the damage their children do? Well…..

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    • Last I heard, irresponsibility wasn’t a crime, never mind a capital one. And these people did make restitution for the damage their dogs did, and for the time Zion spent in the town pound (aka the kennel at Animal Health Care). At least they were supposed to . . .

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  5. Scotty says:

    And, you’re right: pity the next poor pup who even sniffs a Selectman!

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  6. Scotty says:

    I’m doing a burn; not a slow burn, either. I’ve followed the story, and rooted for the dogs. I live in NY, but a love for the Island and dogs makes it my business. First, I feel the legal fees should be reinstated for the owners to pay. The “owners” should be under the care of a Proctiatrist. (Sp?) Then, obviously ,the dogs should be properly relocated. Then the lawyer should have some sort of sanction. Likely, this disregard for the law (and the animals) pervades his practice. Maybe there’s a lawyer joke in there for you, Susanna.
    I have a microwave oven, with which I have shared many happy meals. I can leave it unattended for days; no harm done. I would love to sit with a Martha’s Vineyard Mystery in one hand, and the other on the head of a well mannered Golden Retriever. I don’t, because I cannot commit to the responsibility due the dog. Maybe I’ll just put the microwave on the floor in the living room, next to the chair. It’s unnerving, replying to you, knowing I will be edited, In this case it’s worth the risk.

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    • Thanks for the comment — no editing necessary, and I very much agree. You may have just made up a new word: proctiatrist. I think it’s a cross between a proctologist (someone who takes care of assholes) and a psychiatrist. Could be useful in this and future cases . . .

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  7. David says:

    This makes me cringe to think of these animals back in the same hands again. The ball has been dropped at the expense of these dogs. This is very sad.

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