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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 5, 2008

BUREAUCRACY BUSTER
Dog poop can mean $500 fine

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Columnist

Q. Am I responsible for cleaning up after my dog in public places? I've seen signs saying that I'm required to by law. Is that true? What if my dog goes on private property?

A. Is this a legal question or a moral one?

Really, even if it weren't against the law, cleaning up after your dog is the right thing to do.

However, in this case, there's a law to back it up, specifically the city's litter law (see Revised Ordinances of Honolulu Sec. 29-4.4 [9]).

In fact, the law doesn't just say you have to clean up after your pet on public and private property it says you're not supposed to let your pet go in the first place.

However, if your dog can't hold it until it gets home, you won't be cited if you clean up the mess promptly and voluntarily. Leave it there and you risk a fine up to $500.

Just to clarify: Those of you who clean it up while people are watching, only to toss the waste somewhere other than a trash receptacle, that's still littering and still against the law.

Q. I was walking my leashed dog recently at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park and encountered a woman with an unleashed dog. I asked her to put her dog on a leash. She stated that a leash was not required if the dog was under her control. I disagreed with her perception that her dog was under her control, given that it kept jumping up on me and completely ignored her repeated calls to come.

I told her that it was not an off-leash park. She stated that there was no sign stating that dogs had to be leashed. While most dog owners are responsible, I have had other encounters with unleashed dogs in this park, including an unleashed and out-of-control pit bull that bit my arm while trying to pull my dog out of my arms. Luckily my dog is light enough that I could pick her up and thereby save her from being killed by this dog.

While a sign cannot prevent all acts by irresponsible pet owners, wouldn't a sign stating "All dogs must be leashed and under control" be more cost effective than a lawsuit against the state, at taxpayer expense, for negligence?

A. Unless the woman had her dog "under her control" with a leash, cord, chain or other restraint less than eight feet long, she was violating a city ordinance.

Except in an off-leash dog park, an unrestrained dog on public property could be considered a "stray," subject to seizure or impoundment. That includes parks and beaches, some of which don't allow dogs at all, regardless of whether they're restrained.