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Friday, February 2, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Bill would allow
dogs in public parks,
on beaches

By Pat Omandam

Hawaii should follow the trend of pet-friendly cities in U.S., Europe and Canada by allowing dogs in public parks and on public beaches, say three of the state's four humane societies.

Legislature Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said a 1996 Oahu survey showed 142,800 households (37 percent) have at least one dog. With an average of two people per household, Burns said, nearly 300,000 residents feel that dog companionship is an integral part of their lives.

That said, she and other pet advocates favor a Senate bill that allows dogs on public beaches and parks during all hours of the day. Owners would have to keep the dogs leashed, pick up all of their waste and obey all signs posted in the park or beach.

"We believe it is time to open parks and beaches to dogs and their owners, and that is the fair and reasonable thing to do," Burns told a joint Senate panel yesterday.

A decision on Senate Bill 516 is expected Tuesday. Senate Tourism and Intergovernmental Affairs Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim (D, Aiea) said she's uncertain how panel members will vote, but noted dogs on beaches do scare children.

"It could go either way," Kim said.

Senate Economic Development Chairman Rod Tam (D, Nuuanu) heads the other panel considering the bill.

Sheila Conant, president of the Obedience Training Club of Hawaii, testified there are very few parks and beaches on Oahu that allow dogs, primarily because handlers don't pick up their dog's waste.

Conant said the club welcomes legislation that permits responsible dog owners to take their animals to parks and beaches for exercise, recreation and training. She believes concerns would be resolved if police, the humane society and others are given the authority to issue citations to handlers of out-of-control dogs or for failure to pick up droppings.

But not all favor the proposal. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which would have to come up with rules for dogs on public parks and beaches, said the bill would preclude its ability to manage and regulate areas where it is not appropriate to have animals.

Department Chairman Gilbert Coloma-Agaran said there have been problems with ferocious animals and sanitation, and that enforcement has been problematic.

He suggested an alternative may be to identify areas where dogs are allowed, to protect the public from health and safety concerns.

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