CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Yew holds his pug, Bugsy, on his shoulders at Ala Moana Beach Park. Bugsy is a certified service dog and is an exception to the "no animals" rule at the park.
Dogs create problems at parks
Who, if anyone, is responsible for enforcing the "No Animal" law at Ala Moana Park? Police? Lifeguards? Other park employees? The incidence of dogs being brought to the park over the past two years has increased tremendously. There has been no observable, official notice of these violations, thus encouraging the practice. Ala Moana is a family park with many children attending daily. It is just a matter of time before someone is attacked by a dog, leashed or unleashed. Wouldn't prevention be a better course? All dog owners should be informed they are in violation and given a list of dog-friendly parks where their pets can exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Then they should be directed out of the park and warned that a second violation will result in a summons.
Answer: Parks officials are well aware of the problem, saying it has become "worse and worse" over time.
Perhaps your complaint will serve notice that Ala Moana Park is off-limits to dogs and other animals, except by special permission. (Dog owners can check the Hawaiian Humane Society Web site -- hawaiianhumane.org/programs/dogparks/ -- for information on off-leash dog parks, as well as a listing of city parks where dogs are allowed to go as long as they are leashed.)
Neither parks staff nor lifeguards have any authority to enforce the law. Only police officers can cite someone, and only if they witness the offense.
"Officers are warning people that animals are not allowed" and do issue citations "at times," said Capt. Frank Fujii, spokesman for the Honolulu Police Department.
He pointed to Section 10-1.2(a)(9) of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, which says it is unlawful to "permit any animal to enter and remain within the confines of any public park area except as otherwise provided."
Officers generally ask people for compliance, Fujii said.
But the reality is that the officers aren't always patrolling the park, said Craig Mayeda, administrator of the city Department of Parks and Recreation's Maintenance and Recreation Division.
Most of the dogs are leashed, so it's not so much a problem with dogs running loose and possibly attacking people, he said. Rather, it's a matter of sanitation.
With dogs coming into the park and "doing their business, no matter how you clean it, how would you like to set up your picnic basket right next to where a dog had been?" Mayeda said. "Even though the (owner) cleaned it, you can't clean everything."
Your idea about passing out information about dog-friendly parks has been discussed but isn't feasible, he said. It's not just a matter of staff having to carry fliers to pass out, but also the belief that the majority of the handouts will end up tossed on the ground or in the trash can.
Staff have been instructed to inform people with dogs about the "no animal" policy, Mayeda said, but "some people just don't take kindly to being told not to do something, no matter who it is."
He asks dog owners to "be considerate by not coming to a public park."
Mayeda and other parks officials attribute the worsening problem partly to the Hawaiian Humane Society's annual Pet Walk, which moved to Ala Moana's Magic Island from Kapiolani Park three years ago.
Many people who participate in the event, allowed by special permit, apparently assume that they can bring their dogs to the park any time, even though the Humane Society "is pretty good at telling everybody" otherwise, Mayeda said.
The Humane Society does not believe the annual fundraising event is responsible for the problem.
The organization informs, alerts and warns all participants that bringing dogs to Ala Moana for the Pet Walk "is a one-day exception" thanks to the Parks Department, said spokeswoman Kawehi Yim.
That message is emphasized in all its printed materials, including pledge forms and notification cards; in all public service announcements broadcast on TV and radio; and by more than 50 marshals who constantly remind people on walk day that no animals are allowed on the beach or in the water, she said.
"We really do drill (that message) into people who participate in Pet Walk," Yim said.
The basic problem, Yim said, is that dog ownership has grown significantly, resulting in "a desperate need for more pet-friendly parks throughout the island."
Just a few years ago, studies showed that about 20 percent of all households on Oahu had a dog. By 2005, when the Humane Society did a market study, that figure had increased to 40 percent, Yim said. Today, estimates are that close to 60 percent of all Oahu households own a pet of some kind, she said.
In fact, the Pet Walk was switched to Ala Moana Park three years ago because the number of participants had grown so much that "we outgrew" Kapiolani Park, she said.
Yim also said people consider pets to be a part of their family.
"When you go out as a family, the trend really is that people want to bring their entire family (including pets)," Yim said. "Unfortunately, we have laws in place and we have rules in place that do not allow that."
Despite some concerns raised following last October's Pet Walk, Yim said the Humane Society still has a tentative date for the event set again for October.
"We are doing everything on our side to address (the Parks Department's) concerns, so we hope to have the event again," she said.
One solution would be to have an off-leash dog park in every community, Yim said, adding that she hopes the Humane Society can work with the Parks Department in making more such parks available.
Currently, there are only four off-leash dog parks on Oahu -- the Bark Park at Diamond Head Road and 18th Avenue; Moanalua Dog Park at Moanalua Community Park; Mililani Dog Park at Mililani Mauka District Park; and the Humane Society's McInerny Dog Park.
The good news is that another off-leash dog park is scheduled to open this summer in Hawaii Kai.
Mayeda said the Hawaii Kai Dog Park is a result of a public-private partnership between the city and the nonprofit Hui 'Ilio Hawaii organization (aka "The Dog Park People").
The park is set to open around June, at the site of the Hawaii Kai Park and Ride facility at Keahole Street and Kalanianaole Highway.
When completed, the one-acre site will feature park benches, picnic tables, trash bins, plus a fenced small-dog park within the larger dog park.
For more information, go to www.hui-ilio.org.
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
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