Recent attack riles dog owners

The owner of a hunting dog that snatched a poodle from the arms of John and Pam Crawford at a Kekaha home April 14 and killed it with four other dogs was defended at a meeting last night as being “beyond a good man” who took care of his animals.

“Danny Smith is beyond a good man. He is a prime example of what every community member should exemplify,” said Billy DeCosta, a long-time South Kaua’i hunter, at a meeting at the Kaua’i Humane Society headquarters in Puhi.

The meeting was held to allow residents the chance to voice concerns about dogs, not necessarily to talk about the April 14 attack, said Rebecca Rhoades, the director of KHS.

“If the community feels there are concerns about biting dogs, I want to hear about it,” she said. “I want the community to feel they can do something regarding dogs on Kaua’i.”

More than 20 people attended, including more than 10 hunters who verbally sparred with Rhoades and others on what constituted proper care of hunting dogs.

The hunters were initially defensive, but by the end of the meeting, they, Rhoades and other audience members who were not hunters, had seemingly reached a meeting of the minds, said Sue Haynes, who has an on-going dispute with a dog owner in her neighborhood in Wailua.

“There was an opening up of a communication channel, where things like dog noise and health issues, as well as the dangerous problems were addressed,” Haynes said. “She (Rhoades) was great. She ought to be an attorney.”

Before he went into the facility for the meeting, DeCosta said the attack last week may have been beyond Smith’s control, but he showed his remorse and character by apologizing to the Crawfords for their loss.

“He was in an emotional state and he offered big-time compensation,” DeCosta said.

Other hunters at the meeting also defended Smith.

The meeting was held nearly a week after the April 14 incident in which a pet poodle by the name of “Kiani” was ripped from the arms of the Crawfords and killed in a dog frenzy while the couple visited a Kekaha home.

In an interview with the Garden Island, Pam Crawford said “they tore him apart like a rag doll” in the incident at the home of Florence Tomita and Teruo Oshiro around 4 p.m.

The dogs picked up the scent of the small dog and forced their way onto Tomita’s property under a chain link fence before the attack, authorities said.

Rhoades said the Kaua’i Police Department launched a investigation after the attack and cited Smith.

“This is a dangerous dog case, and it will go to court,” Rhoades said. The owner was cited under a dangerous dog ordinance that took effect in October 2002.

Rhoades said Smith, at the request of KHS officials, has secured all five dogs in kennels on his property since the day of the attack.

“It was a horrible tragedy,” Rhoades said.

One hunter who attended the meeting but asked not to be identified said the attack and the killing of the small dog saddened him deeply.

“Poor lady. I feel sorry for her,” he said. “I would cry probably if I was there (witnessing the attack). I love dogs.”

The hunter said the incident may have put all Kaua’i hunters and their hunting dogs in a bad light, but that portrayal is not fair.

“Yes, there are hunters who abuse their dogs — starve them so that they will be more predatory during the hunt for game, possibly even attacking a little dog, but that type of hunter is a minority,” the hunter said.

So that hunting dogs will become less likely to attack other animals or even people, they need to be socialized, recommended one woman audience member who was not a hunter.

As a way to encourage hunters to take better care of their dogs, hunters should form an association, said Linda Saloka-Pasadava, an attorney and a community leader from Kilauea. The hunters said “No.”

Rhoades said the meeting was not meant to target hunting dogs, that it was to discuss the issue of dogs.

Still something has to be done to prevent another incident like the April 14 killing.

“We need to group together to do something,” Rhoades said. “We, as a community need to do something about this.”

Exactly what remains to be seen.

  • Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com

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