Gathering Places


Sunday, November 10, 2002

Those irresponsible pet owners
ruin it for the rest of us

What? My neighbor's pit bull attacked my dog on my property while my dog was on a leash and the neighbor got only a $50 fine for a leash-law violation. Because my dog had only minor injuries that did not require a veterinarian's attention, I could not prove in a court of law that my neighbor's dog threatened my dog and me with vicious intent. So he got off a minor fine. Next time, this animal might go after me, or perhaps a child. Next time it might warrant vet and doctor bills, or worse.

In Hawaii, it's legal to own as many as 10 dogs, and apparently it's OK that they periodically escape and threaten my neighbors, but I can't walk my small dog on a leash at Kailua Beach Park with a poop baggy in hand. I thought of going to Kawainui Marsh to walk the dike trail with my dog, but that isn't allowed, either.

How about Lanikai Beach? The beach access I walked through did not specify "no animals," but I heard I can't walk my dog there, either.

I think our pet-law priorities are severely mixed up. I advocate responsible pet ownership, so somebody tell me, how do I find out where I can and can't have my dog, on a leash, with a poop bag?

Before you continue reading, ask yourself these questions: Do you pick up after your dog when you are in a public place? Do you keep your dog on a leash when off your own property? Do you keep your dog on the leash and under control when around other people, their children and their pets?

If you answer "yes," then please write your legislators to reconsider or rewrite Senate Bill 516, which would allow pets in places like Kailua Beach Park and Kawainui Marsh.

If you answered "no," then you are the reason my life and my dog's life are so restricted. I don't care if your dog likes to wallow in the swamp. I don't care if you think your dog is not a threat. I don't care if you just didn't happen to have a baggy to pick up the poop. Because of irresponsible pet owners, I am severely limited as to where I may enjoy my pet.

Non-dog owners may say, "Take your dog to the bark park." The only one in Kailua is in a corner park at a busy intersection. I've heard horror stories about small dogs like mine being attacked by larger dogs at these types of parks. I don't want to walk in circles in a park. I want to hike with my dog. I want to walk the beach with my dog. I want to jog trails with my dog, on a leash, under control, with a baggy.

Opponents of Senate Bill 516 said that enforcing the leash law in public parks would be difficult and that dogs scare children. Well, dogs often scare me. However, when a dog is on a leash and being controlled, that is not an issue. From the number of tickets my friends have received recently for walking their dogs on a leash in a public place, it doesn't seem that enforcing the current law is a problem. Why then would it be difficult to enforce different leash and feces laws?

I suggest that judges get tougher on leash-law violations and get serious about vicious dogs so that responsible pet owners can enjoy their dogs in public. This state needs to get tough on irresponsible pet owners, not those of us whose dogs are not a nuisance.

Write to your legislator and ask what happened to Senate Bill 516. Advocate responsible pet ownership. Pick up after your pets. Don't let your animals run loose. If you have a vicious dog, keep it in your yard -- or go ahead and take your dog to the beach, take your dog to the swamp, take your dog to Lanikai Beach, and flood the courts with stupid, time-wasting violations. Maybe then our legislators will get the picture.

Laurie Peterson lives in Kailua.

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