Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Humane Society cites
owner of 7-time
runaway terrier

Question: I have a complaint about the Hawaiian Humane Society. They're supposed to promote goodwill between owners and their dogs and make sure dogs are taken care of. I admit my dog escaped seven times between May and September but that's because we have construction going on and the subcontractors let the dog out accidentally when we were at work. Every time I went to pick him up at the humane society, I paid the $5 fee and the people were very nice. I wouldn't have minded if I got a ticket because my dog did get out. But I never got a ticket until one day, two men from the humane society showed up at my home and told me they were going to give me four tickets, which had a fine of $50 for the first one, $100 for the second, $500 for the third, and a court summons for the fourth.

I showed them the fenced area that I was building to keep my dog in, but they didn't care about that. There had been no complaints from my neighbors -- it's not like my little terrier is big and aggressive. He's more than 10 years old. But the humane society made me feel like a criminal. I think this is a poor way of getting money for the organization. Can they just decide how to give out tickets? I don't think this is fair.

Answer: This is a classic case of how people can look at the same situation and come up with totally different interpretations.

While you were grateful that your dog was safely picked up each time and tended to by the Hawaiian Humane Society, the organization's staff was getting frustrated that you weren't doing enough to prevent further escapes.

The HHS says it has the authority to issue a citation for each infraction and could have issued you seven, basically at any time within two years.

"There is nothing in the law about the timing of issuing citations, however, the law does provide for increasing penalties for infractions within a certain time period," said HHS spokeswoman Eve Holt. In the case of the stray dog law, it's a two-year period for repeat violations.

She said your dog had been brought to the shelter so many times -- twice by concerned residents and five times by HHS investigators -- that its staff had become very fond of him.

That was seven times that "he has been in serious danger of being hit by a car or injured in some other way each time," Holt said.

Asked why you weren't given a citation after only the first couple of retrievals, she said the organization's "approach is always to educate a pet owner first about the possible harm that can come to a stray animal, and to provide advice on how to prevent it from happening again."

She said HHS's manager of customer service spoke to you about the danger your dog was being put in, and also explained the stray dog law and fines. She said your response was that you "were not interested in any advice we offered."

Holt said after your dog had been at the shelter "a few times," customer service staff left notes for the field services manager "asking for more serious intervention" to prevent your dog "from serious injury that they felt was inevitable" if he kept getting out.

"We made every attempt to get (you) to make sure (your dog) was prevented from becoming stray again but (you) failed to keep (your) dog safely confined," Holt said.

The decision was made to issue four citations because the fourth would have mandated a court appearance, which HHS officials felt was needed to force you into taking action.

Holt said it is up to the court to decide the fines. Money from fines does not go to the humane society, she said.

"The Hawaiian Humane Society's primary concern is for the pet's welfare, but public safety is also an issue as a dog running stray can cause traffic accidents with tragic results for people as well as the animal," Holt said.

Q: I just had my car damaged by debris on the freeway. As I was driving home at 7:30 one evening, my car was struck by flying debris that shattered my windshield and created a dent in my roof. The debris punctured a hole in my windshield and there was glass shattered everywhere in the interior of my car. I was wondering if the city and county or the state can be held liable for the damage. I've searched the City and County and the state Web sites, but, I can't seem to find out any information. Can you provide some information?

A: Whether the state or city will accept responsibility is one thing, but there are procedures for you to file a claim for damage.

If the damage occurred on the H-1, H-2, or H-3 freeways, which are maintained by the state, you should obtain a claim form from the state Department of Transportation.

Call the Highways Division's Oahu District Office at 831-6703 to have a claim form mailed to you. In addition to basic information about you and your car, you have to give details about the time/location the damage occurred and what part of the vehicle was damaged. The form must then be mailed to the Department of Accounting and General Services, which handles all claims against the state.

If the damage had occurred on a city road, you are advised to contact the city Corporation Counsel's Office at 523-4639 to request a claim form.

Books to Philippines

Thanks to two readers who called in response to the Sept. 16 Kokua Line, in which we asked if anyone knew about a local effort to collect donated books for shipment to the Philippines. The two callers provided us with the name and number of a Moanalua resident. We want to let them know that we never received a call back to our request for information.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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