Gone to the dogs


POSTED: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Question: Auwe to all the dog owners who have allowed our beautiful parks to go to the dogs. Increasingly more dogs, often large and unleashed, are being brought into all parks by apparently many (inconsiderate?) owners. They do not realize their precious pets brought to where children play and to picnic areas are considered unhealthy and disgusting by many park visitors, tourists and local citizens alike. Dogs can carry fleas and other vermin and germs. Dogs frequently make messes within sight of people having a picnic. ... Dog-decaying parks include Ala Moana Park and Patsy Mink Park in Central Oahu. Note how beautiful, world-ranked Kailua Beach Park has become ruined by a proliferation of dogs, some brought into the outdoor showers by their owners. ... Police do not have time to follow each dog to see which are controlled properly. Isn't time overdue to hand out warning fliers and increase the cost of citations?

Answer: You express the sentiments of “;a lot of people,”; said Lester Chang, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The issue has been discussed many times, he said, involving both advocates of dogs in parks and those who don't appreciate their presence.

Kokua Line has brought attention to this problem numerous times, including two years ago, when parks officials said passing out fliers was not feasible (see

The bottom line is that “;the policy has always been 'no animals in parks,'”; Chang said. There are some parks where dogs on leashes are allowed, by exception, as during the Hawaiian Humane Society's PetWalk at Ala Moana Park or at Thomas Square, he noted.

But those exceptions are “;very limited and very restricted,”; Chang said. “;As a general rule, we don't allow dogs, and it's for the benefit of all (park) users.”;

Parks officials are looking at ways to be more pet-friendly, such as allowing animals on leashes on sidewalks around Kapiolani Park, he said. But people start taking advantage and “;interpret anything that's a walkway as being a sidewalk, including the interiors of the park.”;

The problem is that “;enforcement is always a challenge.”;

So, it comes down to this: “;We really ask for people to be civic-minded and community-minded and abide by (the law), even if you are a dog lover or animal lover,”; Chang said.

Beyond that, he said the Parks Department is working with communities to see whether specific dog parks can be set up.

Meanwhile, the Hawaiian Humane Society also says it boils down to responsible pet ownership: “;We believe that ... a bad owner makes a bad dog,”; said spokeswoman Kawehi Yim.

She pointed to the issue with dog droppings at the popular paved trail to the Makapuu Lighthouse. Because of that, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources moved to ban dogs from the trail.

But following an outcry from dog owners, the department changed its mind, allowing dogs not only on the trail, but throughout the Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline Park, as long as they were leashed and their poop picked up.

However, “;in addition to dog waste, there was also people waste,”; Yim said. “;People were being irresponsible—not picking up after their pets as well as not picking up after themselves.”;

Because of that, she said the Hawaiian Humane Society “;created a campaign that said being able to take your pet out to public places is a privilege, and we don't want to lose that privilege”;: Keep dogs on leashes and clean up after them whenever out in a public place.

The campaign spread the message of “;Leash it, clean it or lose it. Please do it. Mahalo for being pono on this trail.”;

Even though it was targeted for Makapuu trail users, Yim said the message is applicable throughout the islands.

She pointed to a survey conducted for the Humane Society by Ward Research, which showed growing numbers of households owning pets: In 1993, 40 percent of all Oahu households owned a dog or cat, compared with 60 percent in 2008. The majority are dog owners, 2-to-1, she said.

“;We are trying to work with the county to see about making more of their park spaces available to people and their pets on leashes,”; Yim said. “;We're not talking about segregating—putting the pet-owning population into a secluded area—but finding ways to integrate pet-friendly policies into our existing public places.

“;But again it goes back to being responsible pet owners.”;

Write to ”;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).