How to deal with dangerous dogs
I walk around my neighborhood every day with my small dog or by myself for exercise. About every third or fourth house has a large dog in the yard, either tied to a chain, stuck in a small cage or behind a fence next to the sidewalk. These dogs go crazy when we walk by, and I really worry that, should they escape, they might kill us. I've already had to fight off at least one young pit bull who escaped from an open door and almost got my dog. In Virginia, where we lived prior to returning to Hawaii, pedestrians can complain to animal control if owners allow their aggressive dogs close access to the sidewalk. Is there any such law in Hawaii protecting people walking on a public street from assault by vicious dogs? Where does one complain? Assuming they survive, what rights do people have in case of a successful attack?
Answer: Honolulu has a leash law, which requires dogs on public property to be on a leash, no longer than 8 feet long, and a law that prohibits owners from allowing their dogs to become "strays," which means they can't be on private property without the property owner's consent, or in a public place except on a leash.
But there's nothing that deals with how close to a public sidewalk a dog "on the other side of a fence" can be, said Alicia Maluafiti, spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Humane Society.
The city also has a Dangerous Dog Ordinance (Section 7-7 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu), which makes the owner responsible if a dog bites or harms a person or animal when no "reasonable measures to prevent the dog from attacking" were taken.
Reasonable measures include preventing the dog from becoming a stray.
"Dangerous dog" is defined as any dog that, without provocation, attacks a person or animal.
In that case the owner may be required to appear in court, which will determine possible fines ($500 to $2,000), jail time (up to 30 days) and steps the owner must take to prevent further attacks.
The court may order the dog to be spayed or neutered, to attend obedience training, wear a muzzle, be kept in the home or in a locked kennel, or, ultimately, be "humanely destroyed."
The owner also may have to pay restitution for any financial loss or medical expenses due to the attack.
The Humane Society, courtesy of Maluafiti, suggests doing some things to make walking your dog less harrowing:
» Walk on the other side of the street or pick a new route.
» Start talking to the dogs every day you walk by so they get to know you and your dog. You might also check with the owner about bringing doggy treats to give to try to socialize the other dog.
The idea is to get that dog to eventually recognize you and your dog.
Regarding whom to contact, Maluafiti said to call either the Honolulu Police Department or the Humane Society (946-2187).
"If it is a dangerous or aggressive dog, then we will respond immediately and send an investigator," she said.
But, noting that Humane Society investigators are on the road and could be busy "all over the island," police officers might be able to respond more quickly, she said.
An officer who gets to the scene first is sometimes able to secure the animal, such as in a fenced-in yard, then call the Humane Society to make the actual capture, she said.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. See also: Useful phone numbers