Attacks on other animals andBy Gary T. Kubota
humans on Maui have increased
more than 70 percent over a
two-year period, figures show
KAHANA, Maui -- Five minutes after bringing her two infants into her house for lunch, Jill Eckenrode saw two pit bulls run up to her porch and attack the family's pet cat, Bunny.
Eckenrode pulled Bunny from the jaws of a dog, but another cat -- Marley -- owned by the nearby family of Debra Kruck wasn't as lucky.
"My cat looked like it has been gutted," Kruck said. "It was awful."
The attack and other dog-biting incidents have prompted the Maui County Council to consider an ordinance that would encourage dog owners to be more responsible about their animals. The bill is expected to be reviewed in March by the Council's Human Services and Parks Committee.
The Honolulu City Council is reviewing similar legislation.
While reported dog-bite incidents have not increased on Oahu, they have on Maui. Within a two-year period, dog-bite cases involving humans and animals on Maui have increased by more than 70 percent to 178 in fiscal 1999 from 104 in fiscal 1997.
On Oahu, dog-bite incidents totaled 147 in fiscal 1999 and 155 in fiscal 1998. Pamela Burns, Hawaiian Humane Society president, said she believes that the number of dog-bite incidents is significantly greater on Oahu and that many are not reported to authorities.
A number of Maui residents say they're alarmed at what they view as the lack of compliance with the leash law and the way some people allow their dogs to roam.
Eckenrode said she's afraid of what might have happened if her twin infants had remained near the cat on the porch.
She said she was bitten twice in the calf by the dogs. "I was hysterical, of course," she said.
Eckenrode and Kruck said the most disturbing part of the attack happened the next day when the dogs returned home from the Maui Humane Society, where they had been held overnight.
Gary Hendel, Humane Society executive director, said under the current law, his organization does not have the authority to declare the dog dangerous and hold it.
The owner received citation for a leash law violation and paid a minimum fine of $50.
Under the proposed bill, a dog could be determined to be "dangerous" if it kills any animal.
A board or commission would review the attack and determine the penalties, including disposing of the dog.
The proposal also places the responsibility on the dangerous dog owner for paying medical bills incurred because of the attack. It also requires the owner to obtain a minimum insurance policy of $50,000 for the dangerous dog.