Cat lovers rally
for right to feed
Supporters of the ban sayHave your say
well-fed cats pose a public threat
By Leila Fujimori
Dale Yasuhara is on a mission: to trap and neuter feral cats on Oahu to reduce their population. He spends 80 hours and $200 a month for traps, sterilization costs and cat food.
Yasuhara, a busboy at John Dominis Restaurant, also feeds the strays near the restaurant, near Kakaako Waterfront Park.
But a proposal to prohibit feeding feral and wild animals by the state Health Department's Vector Control Division has roused cat caregivers such as Yasuhara.
About 100, mostly against the proposed rule change, turned out last night for a public hearing on the ban at the State Capitol.
Many carried protest signs such as: "I'm Healthy and Spayed -- Caring for Me is Not a Crime" and "Compassion Not Cruelty."
Department officials say feeding the cats poses a serious health threat. Feeding causes the cats to proliferate, and helped the rodent population go up as well. Officials would prohibit feeding animals in public parks, public property and common areas.
A third of the complaints received by the Vector Control Branch deal with animal nuisance problems, said Gary Gill, Deputy Director for Environmental Health, who oversees the Vector Control Branch.
But Gill wanted to make clear "the rules are not targeted against cats." Rather, he said, cat fanciers have made them an issue.
"Rat lovers who feed rats could also run afoul of this rule," he said.
Gill said opponents have wrongly implied that people would be criminalized and cited for feeding feral cats, though he said that rules to fine, as drafted, could apply.
Proponents of a feeding ban were also present. Jan Yokota, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Community Authority, a state agency that owns Kakaako Waterfront Park, said colonies of cats and the presence of rodents, flies and manure have generated many complaints. She said the authority has been cited many times for cat manure.
Michael Kliks, a veterinary microbiologist who spends time at Kakaako Waterfront Park, testified that the cat feces, rotting cat food, fleas and flies at the park can cause serious diseases in humans.
He favors trapping and neutering, and taking the cats someplace where they can be fenced in, on private or leased land.
Animal Rights Hawaii supports enforcing a law to make it illegal to abandon animals, as many of the cats have been. But a feeding ban is unnecessary and inhumane, said Cathy Goeggel, the group's director of research and investigations.
A zoo volunteer said feeding keeps the cats healthy, so disease will not spread, and added that the feeders are doing the Health Department a favor.
Gary Gill, Health Department Director Bruce Anderson and Gov. Ben Cayetano will have the final say, but the public may yet comment on the proposal to prohibit the feeding of feral animals in parks, beaches and other recreation areas, and in common areas, which include public and private driveways and sidewalks.
You can have your say
Written testimonyUntil Jan. 19: Send to state Department of Health, Vector Control Branch, 2611 Kilihau St., Honolulu 96819.
More hearingsBig Island: 2 p.m. tomorrow, Hale Halawai in Kailua-Kona. 75-5760 Alii Dr.
Maui: 2 p.m. Friday, Department of Agriculture conference room, Kahului. 635 Mua St.
Kauai: 2 p.m. Tuesday, Lihue Health Center conference room. 3040 Umi St.