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Tuesday, May 4, 1999



City & County of Honolulu


Calls to punish
dog attacks
put on hold

A Humane Society official
wants the city to consider a
national plan for dangerous
dogs due this month

By Susan Kreifels
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Nikko, a 10-pound miniature pinscher, had been the soul mate of Joseph Won's mentally handicapped brother as he lay dying.

So the family was devastated when two large "poi" dogs, of mixed breed, both on leash during a walk, attacked Nikko, mangling the small dog so badly that $1,000 worth of veterinarian services couldn't save it.

Won, testifying yesterday at a City Council hearing on a vicious-dog bill, called the police. They said they could do nothing. Neither could the Hawaiian Humane Society, especially since the dogs had been leashed.

The Wons' only recourse was a lawsuit. That threat finally convinced the owner, who couldn't control the dogs as she walked them in the Alewa Drive area, to pay the medical bill.

Won was one of three pet owners who described the tragic deaths of or attacks on their pets by vicious dogs. The Customer Services Committee tabled the bill because they believe it needs rewriting.

"We live in fear that these dogs will come back to the neighborhood," said Suzanne Okimoto of Kaneohe about two pit bulls that broke into her yard in March. They attacked Maya, her 17-pound basenji. "We had to build our wall higher. The victims themselves shouldn't hold the burden of responsibility."

Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said a national task force is writing model dangerous-dog legislation, due for completion this month. Burns wants Council members to consider that model.

Proposed penalties for dogs determined dangerous -- those that have attacked humans or domestic animals -- include muzzling, escape-proof kennels, liability insurance of at least $50,000, and in the case of further attacks, putting the dog to sleep.

Owners who refuse to comply with the law would face fines of $50 to $500.

The bill would also authorize police to kill any dangerous dog if that was the only way to stop an attack.

The bill would make the Humane Society the judge and jury in such cases. But Burns opposed that idea, saying a court should handle such matters.

Burns said she gets about 130 complaints a year of dogs biting humans or other animals.

James Manaku Sr. of Waianae asked Council members not to target particular breeds or restrain hunters, saying the problem is due to irresponsible owners, not the dogs themselves.

"If we put muzzles on our dogs, we can't provide meat for our table," said Manaku, a hunter who owns a pit bull shar pei bred to fight. "My grandchildren all play with him."

Manaku added that pet cats roam the neighborhood at night, provoking leashed dogs.

Capt. Scott Foster with the Honolulu Police Department said police hands are tied because there are no laws that apply to dog attacks. The most police can do is cite pet owners when dogs are unleashed.

Pet owners yesterday said police did not respond to their complaints. But Foster encouraged people to call 911 and said he wants officers to investigate and make out reports.

"I can't imagine an officer going to something like this and saying, 'It's not our problem, go to the Humane Society,' " Foster said.



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