Dog’s death defines problem

A regular afternoon visit to a friend’s home turned tragic Friday when John and Pam Crawford’s pet poodle “Kiani” was ripped from their arms by a marauding pack of hunting dogs.

“Right in front of my eyes they pulled my poodle apart,” said Pam Crawford. “They tore him apart like a rag doll.”

Several people witnessed the incident in Kekaha on Akialoa Road that happened around 4 in the afternoon.

“We were lucky that the grand-child wasn’t there,” said Florence Tomita, the owner of the home where the attack occurred. “When hunting dogs are in a frenzy they will attack anything.”

Crawford was frantic yesterday with the loss of her pet and the thought of what could have happened. “This can’t happen anymore. It easily could have been my grand-daughter,” Pam Crawford said.

The five dogs that came into the yard were owned by neighbor Danny Smith. Smith, said Tomita, raises the dogs to hunt wild boars. Tomita said the neighbor was upset over the incident as well, but that he still has his dogs, while the Crawfords are left with nothing but the memory of their poodle.

“We need to have some laws,” Crawford said. “We need to stop living in this barbaric age where dogs are trained to kill and then allowed to roam free.”

According to both Crawford and Tomita, the pack of dogs caught scent of the poodle and forced their way under a chain link fence to attack it. “They were in a frenzy and there is nothing you can do once hunting dogs get like that,” said Tomita.

She tried to pull one of the hunting dogs off the poodle, but it was intent on its prey, Tomita said. “Kiani was alive and looking at me … the eyes were pleading ‘Momma help me’ as he was being ripped apart while still alive,” Tomita said.

Crawford watched in horror as her poodle of 12 years was carried off in the jaws of one of the hunting dogs as it leaped the fence of the Kekaha home.

“Just like that — it was over,” husband, John Crawford said.

Smith realized what was happening too late and came around his home next to the Tomita’s home after the damage had already been done. The police and Kaua’i Humane Society were called as Pam Crawford hysterically called out for her pet.

The police arrived and tried to calm her while taking a report. “He (Smith) was written up under the dangerous animal code. The humane society didn’t take any animals … they decided they were legally in the kennel,” John Crawford said.

And though the animals were clearly not in the kennels when the attack occurred, an official response could not be attained why the dogs were cleared.

A call to the Kaua’i Police Department in Lihu’e inquiring about the police report was transferred to the Waimea substation. The call to the Waimea substation was answered and immediately put on hold until the line was disconnected. A call back to the Waimea substation resulted in a response that one of the officers involved would call back, a call that was not received by press time. Queries with the exact police report number and officer names had similar results.

A call to the humane society was not returned. The message at the humane society said that emergency calls should be made to the KPD.

Calls to Smith’s home were not returned by press time.

According to Tomita, Smith houses the hunting dogs in kennels and lets them out two times a day to roam his fenced yard. “But the dogs can leap the fences with ease,” she said.

Smith was cited under Hawaiian Revised Statute 663-9b. “The owner or harborer of an animal which is known by its species or nature to be dangerous, wild, or vicious, if the animal proximately causes either personal or property damage to any person, shall be absolutely liable for such damage,” states the statute.

“We need some legislation where we get some ordinances that control this kind of thing from happening,” said Pam Crawford. “Something that specifically addresses the way these dangerous animals are raised.”

Tomita said Friday’s event mirrored another attack that happened on the same block a few weeks ago.

“The exact same thing happened down the road. A little 5-pound dog was in the yard while the lady was inside taking her medication,” Tomita said. “The hunting dog had jumped the fence and took her little white dog and killed it right in its own yard.”

Mark Ruiz of Kalaheo feels there is something wrong when a hunting dog acts the way the dogs in Kekaha did.

“Just like any other dog, if the owners who train them … if they don’t train them properly, they can go wild,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz currently has 12 hunting dogs with his brother that he employs with his wild boar trapping business, M&D Trapping.

“The old style, they would have a pen and raise the dog (to hunt) by throwing it in the pen with a wild boar,” he said. “We don’t do that. We teach them to hunt in the mountains and they get raised up with the kids so that the kids can go right next to them and not worry.”

Some hunters raise their dogs by locking them in kennels, cutting them off from human contact and only letting them out to go hunt, Ruiz said.

“That results in some spooky behavior,” he said. “And for a dog to attack another dog like that, I blame the owner.”

Ruiz raises English pointers, black and tan Airedales, and pitbulls.

“A year ago I bought a fully papered Jack Russell. You are supposed to be careful with them around kids, but with the way we raise the dogs, he plays with the kids all the time,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz says sometimes his dogs get punchy if the smell of a female dog in heat is lingering around his yard, but he has never seen the kind of behavior in his dogs, like the behavior that occurred in Kekaha.

“Maybe this poodle took a walk every day outside the kennels and the dogs just decided they wanted it,” Ruiz said. “But that is no excuse. It is not supposed to be like that.”

Tomita said Smith came by the home later to apologize to the Crawfords for the loss of their poodle. But the fact remains, the Crawfords no longer have their beloved pet, while Smith still has his hunting dogs.

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