Johnston is developing a wild reputation.
“You heard of the horse with no name?” Asked Mayor Joseph M. Polisena. "We have a jackass with no name.”
Police started getting calls about a donkey roaming the streets of town late Sunday night.
“We have police officers on alert; animal control officers on alert,” Polisena said.
By Wednesday morning, the animal was still on the lam, and town officials were warning residents to keep their distance if they spotted the furry fugitive.
“Although a donkey is a domesticated animal, this one is not very tame,” said Johnston Police Chief Joseph Razza. “We encourage the public, if they encounter the donkey, to call us or Scituate police, and we will make arrangements to hopefully capture it safely.”
According to Razza and Polisena, the donkey was unloaded from a vehicle at a residence in Scituate, near the west side of town, when it escaped.
“On Sunday, we had a call for a sighting around 7:30 on Hartford Avenue, on the far west end, near the Johnston/Scituate line,” Razza said. “It went up a side street, but the person who called it in lost sight of it.”
An hour later, another call came in from Pine Hill Road, which also stretches from Johnston into Scituate.
“Officers arrived, but the donkey was not there,” Razza said.
Drivers spotted the animal running down Route 6.
“He was moving along pretty good,” Polisena said. “He’s not going to be easy to catch.”
Several passing drivers took photos and posted them on social media.
“It’s still on the loose,” Polisena said Tuesday. “We have our animal control officer looking for it, and we’re advising people to stay away from it. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Town officials have grappled with various animal issues over the past few years.
“Cows, turkeys … it is what it is,” Razza said. “We’re just waiting for the next animal to crop up. I consider these to be isolated incidents. It seems to be an oddity in the town of Johnston that we have these things happen now and then.”
A cow escaped from a slaughterhouse early this year, and roamed Johnston for months before it was located and sent to live on a Connecticut farm.
Turkeys have also taunted the mayor and town motorists in the past.
Finding a donkey in Johnston, however, is a little bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
The town is spread out over 26 square miles, and contains 175 miles of roadway.
“The donkey put us on the map again,” Polisena said.
The patchwork of Johnston contains large squares of rural farmland mixed with bustling urban corridors.
“We got certain parts of the community that are rural where animals can roam free and stay safe,” Polisena said. “We’re concerned about the animal, but most concerned about people.”
The donkey is a female, and medium-sized, according to police.
“The cow we had missing a while back was gone for 6-8 weeks,” Razza said. “But it seems like he stayed in town.”
The donkey, however, seems intent to travel.
“We have no idea where he could be right now,” Razza said.
The mayor and police are concerned the animal could be struck by a vehicle, so they’d like drivers to be especially alert.
“Route 6 is a very busy street,” Polisena said. “It’s one of the most dangerous roads in the state. It’s bad enough if someone hits a deer. We need the people to be our eyes and ears. We just don’t want anyone to get too close.”
Public safety is the mayor’s priority; the donkey’s successful capture a close second.
“We want to be sure no human being gets hurt, and of course the animal doesn’t get hurt,” Polisena said. “If people spot it, don’t try to corral it. Call the police. He’s an animal who’s afraid, and he could do anything.”
The donkey was last reported seen along Trim Town Road in Scituate around 8 a.m. Monday morning.
“That’s a considerable amount of distance away,” Razza said. “We don’t think that he’s in the area any more, but I can’t confirm or deny that.”