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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, February 11, 2005

Legislation aims to criminalize eating dogs, cats

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Killing, selling or buying any dog or cat for food would be a felony under a bill that cleared the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.

The original House Bill 866 dealt only with stray or stolen dogs and cats, but the committee added language that included all canines and felines following overwhelming testimony at the state Capitol yesterday.

Cathy Goeggel, director of Animal Rights Hawai'i, said federal officials believe the use of dog meat is a thriving business in the state. "If compassion doesn't move you to pass (the bill), perhaps the public health aspects might persuade you," she said. "There is no oversight over the slaughter, packaging or sanitation of cat and dog carcasses."

Goeggel was among those who urged lawmakers to include all dogs and cats in the prohibition, not just stolen and stray animals.

Carroll Cox of EnviroWatch Inc. said he purchased a black labrador from a man who promised that he could get other dogs. "Healthy household pets stolen from their owners are being butchered for consumption," Cox said. The man, Cox said, agreed to sell him the dog for $50 less than the original $150 asking price because he told him he did not need to receive the animal dead.

Not all lawmakers are enthusiastic about the bill. Committee members Joe Souki, D-8th (Wailuku, Waiehu) and Alex Sonson, D-35th (Waipahu, Crestview), voted for the bill with reservations.

Sonson told reporters he believes consumption of dogs and cats is not widespread in Hawai'i and that the bill perpetuates an ethnic stereotype that he has fought against since arriving from the Philippines as a youth.

While eating cats and dogs may be a practice in some areas of Asia, Sonson said, "I've never seen it in Hawai'i, at least not in modern days. I don't think the bill is necessary. What I heard today doesn't convince me that it's happening," he said.

The Judiciary Committee also advanced a bill that would allow pet owners to set up trust funds that would provide for their pet's care after the pet owner dies.

"Most pet owners will find a person who is willing and capable of caring for their pet, but sometimes the person is unable to do so financially," said Pamela Burns, chief executive of the Hawaiian Humane Society. "By establishing a trust fund to pay for their pet's care, they can rest assured that their pet can live out its life in comfort and love."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.