Friday, June 15, 2001

State of Hawaii

Law puts bite
on vicious dogs

The state law allows counties
to create their own ordinances

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Days after an 18-month-old boy was attacked and killed by a pit bull on the Big Island, Gov. Ben Cayetano signed a bill into law allowing the four counties to create their own ordinances against vicious dogs.

Sen. Avery Chumbley (D, East Maui-North Kauai), one of three legislators who introduced Senate Bill 643 relating to vicious dogs, said, "It was unfortunate the incident in the Big Island happened."

"The statute would allow the counties to adopt ordinances to individually regulate situations like what happened on the Big Island," Chumbley added. "It allows for more home rule."

In the Hawaiian Acres subdivision in Puna Saturday night, Sandy Hilderbrand killed a pit bull with a pickax after it attacked his 18-month-old son, Tyran Moniz-Hilderbrand, and mauled the toddler's mother, Luana Moniz.

Tyran died in the attack, and Moniz, 24, was taken to Hilo Medical Center in serious condition after suffering wounds to her arms and legs.

She remains in the hospital and has been upgraded to stable condition. Police closed their investigation after finding no evidence of a violent history of the pit bull.

The new state legislation, which takes effect June 30, clarifies existing state law about which government authority can control vicious dogs. The new law enables each county to enforce their own laws against people who own, harbor or keep a dog that has injured, maimed or killed another animal or person.

The change is welcome, said Honolulu City Councilman Gary Okino, who was recently reminded about what he called "the pretty weak" current state law against vicious dogs.

His 89-year-old mother's poodle, Kristi, was attacked by a Rottweiler near her Nuuanu home three weeks ago.

The poodle survived after suffering a gash to the neck.

Okino said the current state law is weak because of the "one bite rule."

The law states that a person can file a lawsuit against the owner of a vicious dog if that person has been bitten more than once by the animal.

The city, meanwhile, has tougher laws that can be better enforced after the new state law takes effect.

Under a city ordinance passed in December, owners of dogs who are considered "dangerous" face a fine of up to $2,000 and 30 days in jail.

The ordinance will take effect July 1.

Current state law allows a $20 fine.

A law defines as dangerous "any dog which, without provocation, attacks a person or domestic animal, causing bodily injury to the person, or serious injury or death to a domestic animal."

Dangerous-dog laws also exist in Hawaii and Maui counties. On the Big Island a police officer can kill a dangerous dog that cannot be tranquilized or impounded.

Also, dogs deemed "vicious" shall be confined on the owner's property or securely muzzled or caged whenever it is off the owner's property.

Big Island County Chairman James Arakaki said: "They're (vicious dogs) a weapon when you think about it, like a loaded gun.

"Hopefully, we'll have more teeth in the law to enforce the laws."

Eve Holt, spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Humane Society, said, "Our hope is that pet owners will understand that it's all about training, care and behavior that could make a dog become aggressive."

State of Hawaii

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