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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 26, 2002

Kaua'i bills target dog owners

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — The Kaua'i County Council expects to have more luck regulating biting than barking dogs.

The council is considering two bills, one to control excessive barking, the other to penalize owners who do not adequately control dogs likely to attack.

A recent public hearing saw no opposition to the "dangerous dog" bill, which the council expects to take up in committee at a meeting next Thursday.

The law would set penalties of a month in prison and fines of $50 to $2,000 if an owner "negligently fails to take reasonable measures to prevent the dog from attacking, without provocation." The attack must result in injury.

The measure allows a court to order that a dangerous dog be kept in a kennel or fenced area, be muzzled in public or killed.

Councilman Randal Valenciano said that while he supports the bill, he would like to see changes, such as allowing a consideration of the dog breed.

"If you're breeding pit bulls, it's different from breeding poodles," he said.

Valenciano also would make provocation a defense — excepting a dog that attacks in response to an attack.

Council members are having more difficulty with the barking dog bill. Similar bills have come up and failed to gain approval. Those testifying split on the issue, with some arguing that the annoyance of uncontrolled barking requires legislation, while others held that dogs often bark for a reason — warning of intruders, for instance.

Many of the same arguments were raised as in the past: that dogs are a traditional part of Kaua'i's lifestyle and that many people who complain are recent arrivals unfamiliar with the island's rural traditions.

The law would prosecute the owner of a dog that barks, howls or whines for 10 minutes continuously, or for 30 minutes intermittently.

Councilman Kaipo Asing said hunters, who often own several dogs, should have been involved in drafting the bill. They were among the most vocal opponents at the public hearing.

The council referred the bill to the Kaua'i Humane Society for comment, and two council members — Asing and Jimmy Tokioka — said they doubted it would pass before the general election, if at all. Valenciano said the island needs some kind of barking legislation, but not in the form proposed.

The existing bill applies only to barking in residential-zoned areas. It would require sworn affidavits from two unrelated neighbors of the dog owner. Fines would run from $50 for a first offense to $500 for a third offense.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808)245-3074.