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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 1, 2002

Dog attacks prompt review of Big Isle laws

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — Following the death of a toddler last June and serious injuries to a doctor Monday in Waimea, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim yesterday said it is time to reassess how the county controls vicious dogs.

Kim said current county laws essentially allow dogs a "free first bite" before the dogs are declared dangerous and their owners are criminally liable for their actions.

"I am going to talk with our chief (police chief Jimmy Correa) about this," Kim said.

Options include banning certain breeds or requiring that dogs be kept on leashes when outdoors.

In June of last year, 18-month-old Tyran Moniz was bitten to death and his mother seriously injured by a pit bull known as Bam Bam.

On Monday, Dr. Melissa Smith, 54, of Waimea was attacked by a pit bull that bit off her ear and spit it out when the 121-pound victim choked the animal known as Crusher.

Surgeons re-attached Smith's ear, and the physician faces subsequent plastic surgery.

In both cases, the dog owners were not charged with any wrongdoing.

Vicious dogs are not a new problem on the Big Island. In Hilo, Kona and Puna, livestock from chickens to lambs and goats have been killed in the dozens.

Police investigate, but little action is taken beyond an occasional civil lawsuit, generally settled out of court by insurance companies that issue homeowner liability policies.

Grayson Hashida, executive director of the Hawai'i Island Humane Society, said that the humane society does not endorse the banning of specific breeds.

He said the issue is one of owner responsibility, not the animal itself. He agreed, however, that the county laws need updating.