Lingle signs new laws in support of animals

HONOLULU — Gov. Linda Lingle joined animal rights supporters and pet lovers at the Hawaiian Humane Society to sign into law two bills to prevent cruelty to animals Friday, a press release from the governor’s office states.

“For many people, our pets are beloved members of our families,” Lingle said in the release.

The governor owns two cats, a stray she found in Hilo named Nani Girl, and another, Stripes, that she adopted from the Humane Society.

“These animals provide us with unconditional love and companionship, and they deserve to be protected from cruelty and neglect,” she said.

Senate Bill 2924, now Act 239, allows a law enforcement officer with a search warrant to enter property where there is probable cause to believe an animal is being abused or neglected in order to provide the animal with food, water and emergency medical care, the release states. The new law also allows the court to impound the animal and give it to a recognized shelter or organization to ensure the animal receives proper care.

Under Act 239, a hearing process will be set up to allow a humane society or other organization dedicated to the prevention of animal cruelty to petition the court for the forfeiture of the animal before a criminal conviction against the animal’s owner is handed down. The defendant would still have the ability to avoid forfeiting the animal by either posting a security bond to be used for the animal’s care or demonstrating that alternative arrangements to care for the animal have been made. Any animal confiscated in this manner may not be destroyed before a criminal charge has been handed down or unless the animal is severely injured or sick and cannot be saved.

The second bill, Senate Bill 2930 became Act 238, which ensures that the costs incurred by a humane society or other organization to house and care for an impounded animal would be reimbursed to the agency. Under the new law, the court can order a defendant to surrender an animal that is being mistreated to a recognized animal care facility. The court can also order the defendant to reimburse the organization for reasonable costs to care, feed and house the animal, the release states.

In a recent case, the Hawaiian Humane Society incurred several hundred thousand dollars to care for 69 abused dogs. The society was never reimbursed for its services and the owner was eventually allowed to sell the dogs.

Both new laws, which take effect immediately, are the latest in a string of animal-rights initiatives from the Lingle administration.

Earlier this year, the governor signed Act 117 to require the state to provide suitable shelters for pets in the event of a disaster, and last year, Lingle enacted a law, Act 160, to allow pet owners to provide for the future care of their animals through wills or trusts.

Friday’s bill signing also comes as the administration prepares to celebrate the third anniversary of the “Five-Day-or-Less” Animal Quarantine Program, which has been in place since June 30, 2003, following the approval of revised administrative rules by the governor, the release states.

The new program essentially eliminated lengthy quarantine for pets whose owners completed pre-arrival requirements and submitted required documents in a timely manner. Since the program was implemented, 83 percent of pets arriving at Honolulu International Airport have qualified for direct release to their owners, the Lingle Administration said. The program also allows Hawai‘i residents to travel with their pets and return to the state without quarantine if they follow the specified procedures before they leave.

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