Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Written forms are used
to verify animal complaints

Question: I called the Hawaiian Humane Society to report a noisy rooster. The answer -- that an investigator will investigate and may issue a citation -- is not as easy as the society says it is in your "Kokua Line" item about a noisy bird (March 21). The complainant has to sign some sort of paper and turn it in -- it's almost like a citizen's arrest. Most people will not sign a statement like that because of fear of retaliation, so it's very difficult to do anything about noisy pets. In our Pearl City neighborhood, we have had to live with a noisy rooster for years.

Answer: You're right -- enforcing the city's animal nuisance law is complicated, and complainants may have to get more involved than they want to.

While complainants often are asked to fill out a detailed complaint form, it is not necessary, society spokeswoman Eve Holt said, because inspectors are able to issue citations if they witness the violations themselves. However, that's often not possible, so without someone coming forth as a witness, the task of issuing a citation becomes difficult.

Holt said the Humane Society, under contract to the City and County of Honolulu, is the law enforcement authority for animal nuisance complaints. However, an investigator cannot issue citations without either witnessing a violation personally or receiving a statement from someone who has.

When the society receives a complaint about a noisy dog or rooster or any other pet, the first step is to send a letter to the owner, advising him/her of the complaint and the need to take corrective measures, Holt said. They are given "a reasonable time" to do so.

The complainant, meanwhile, also is told to give the animal owner seven to 10 days to take corrective action. If the problem is not resolved, the complainant is asked to call again. However, on the second complaint, the complainant will be sent two statement forms, encouraging the complainant to find a second person to be a corroborating witness, Holt said.

Sometimes the problem can be resolved via mediation between the neighbors, she said.

Complainants are asked for personal information, such as Social Security number and date of birth, "because that is the kind of information that is required if it goes to court," she said.

Through past experience, the society also has found that complaints often are not really about an animal, "but some sort of other neighbor-to-neighbor dispute," Holt said. "Because of that, the court has not accepted, except in special circumstances, a single statement to issue any kind of violation."

The need is to verify that the noise "is a community problem and not just neighbors fighting," she said.

It can issue citations based on witness statements.

Holt acknowledged that sometimes only one statement is needed. Also, if the noise follows a regular pattern, an officer may be able to monitor and actually witness a violation.

But "it's pretty hard to coordinate that sort of thing," she said, especially if there are other priorities, such as an injured animal needing to be rescued.

Holt noted that a citation has to be issued in person -- it cannot be left on the doorstep or mailed, and often the animal owner may not be at home.

"So people need to participate in the process as much as they can," she said. "It's a real tough issue and very frustrating for people who are living with noise issues. But we have to follow the mandates of the law -- what it allows us to do in order to protect the community."


To people who don't have any consideration for other people's property and don't pick up after their dogs. Around my house I saw three areas where dogs pooped. -- No Name

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