Health rules place burden on cat owners
I want to know why dogs can't make a mess, but there's nothing about cats. On our street there are so many cats roaming all over -- going under our house and in our flower beds, leaving everything smelly. My daughter had cat scratch fever, which put her out of school for months.
Answer: According to the state Department of Health's Administrative Rules on vector control, the owner of an animal, "regardless if it's a cat, dog, etc.," is responsible for cleaning up its feces, especially if it's on someone else's property, said spokesman Bryan Cheplic.
The city's law on litter control also makes it a violation for an owner to allow an animal "to excrete any solid waste in any public place or on any private premises not the property of such owner."
The Health Department is a bit more flexible when it comes to animal feces being on the owner's property, so long as the feces are not attracting vermin, such as rodents, flies and ticks, or creating a health nuisance such as stench, filth and disease, Cheplic said.
Call the Health Department's Vector Control Branch (483-2535) for complaints about owners whose cats roam into other people's yards and create odor and fly problems, said Mark Leong, a Vector Control inspector. But "if the cats are causing a purely animal nuisance problem, then HPD should be contacted."
The Honolulu Police Department verifies that, but "we've got to be able to prove that someone's cat" is the culprit, notes spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii.
Q: Can you please tell me if it's legal to feed stray cats? A lot of people are doing it. The cats are really lovable, and I want to feed them, too.
A: You won't be able to do so in all city parks soon (see "Kokua Line," yesterday).
There is nothing legally barring you from feeding them anywhere else, but state Department of Health officials don't want people feeding feral or stray cats, because of potential health and sanitation problems.
In 2000 the department pushed for the passage of a specific law to prohibit the feeding of feral cats, but cat lovers rose in opposition and the law was not passed.
The department maintains its position against feeding the cats because of a number of concerns, said spokesman Bryan Cheplic. Basically, he said, feeding stray cats or other animals creates a "vicious cycle."
First, the people who feed the animals "in general, do not come back after the animals are 'finished' eating to clean up the food remains," Cheplic said. "This open food attracts other creatures such as rats, rodents, flies, mosquitoes, fleas, mites, ticks, etc.
"It is the high concentration and potential breeding possibilities of these insects and pests that the DOH is concerned with."
Secondly, the animals typically will congregate in the area surrounding the feeding ground, he said. "Hence, the feces and other wastes that these animals produce is also a concern to the (department) for obvious reasons," including stench and basic sanitation.
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