Bills would allow leashed dogs on path

The Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday will consider proposed legislation to allow leashed dogs on the multi-use path that fringes the island.

The measure is expected to elicit passionate arguments on both sides of the fence.

The council’s agenda includes three bills that would strengthen the rules regulating the responsibilities of dog owners while expanding access in public areas.

“We really want to work with the community, the council and the administration on finding a way to allow leashed dogs and responsible owners to share the path,” Kaua‘i Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades said yesterday. “It’s a beautiful path, it’s just gorgeous, and we really want to share it.”

The county has finished the first two phases of a 16-mile shared-use path that will skirt the coast from Nawiliwili to Anahola. The completed segments include a 2.3-mile stretch from Kapa‘a to Kealia Beach and a 2.5-mile loop at Lydgate Park.

The path, which is managed by the newly formed county Parks and Recreation Department, is considered a linear park and as such falls under a county ordinance banning animals without permits.

Councilman Tim Bynum is proposing an amendment that would allow leashed dogs on the multi-use path and a bill that would create a “nuisances committed by dogs” section in the Kaua‘i County Code.

The new section would shorten the leash law from 8 feet long to 6 feet in all public areas.

It would also require dog owners to pick up their pets’ waste and carry a bag or something similar for doing such whenever they are out with their pets in public areas. Violations would carry fines and citations

“We need to strengthen regulations about dog ownership and send the message out to owners that they are responsible for their animals,” Bynum said.

The Kaua‘i Humane Society has offered to put in 12 DOGIPOT bag dispensers along the path to make compliance easier, Rhoades said.

“If you’re letting your dog run loose or not picking up after it, that’s wrong,” she said.

The Kaua‘i Humane Society believes in stronger enforcement to correct irresponsible owners, Rhoades said.

“It creates better quality of life,” she added.

After a verbal warning process ended in March, the Kaua‘i Police Department started issuing citations to owners walking their dogs on the multi-use path.

Some of these confrontations with law enforcement prompted residents to write their local lawmakers.

Bynum said he has received some 80 pieces of mail from community members concerned about the issue. All but three letters called for a change to existing law so that dogs would be permitted on the path.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “There are people who are intimidated about dogs, and sometimes dog owners just don’t understand that. But as a society, we’ve decided having dogs on leashes in public is the norm.”

Bynum said residents can currently walk their dogs on the sidewalks through downtown Kapa‘a, but not on the nearby 12-foot-wide multi-use path.

When drafting the legislation, the councilman researched existing laws regulating pets on paths. He said virtually all shared-use paths allow dogs and have rules regarding use.

Bynum said Maui allows dogs in parks, the Big Island bans it and O‘ahu has designated areas.

“What I’m proposing is consistent with or stronger than what happens around the country,” Bynum said.

Kaua‘i Path — a community group working to preserve, protect and extend access islandwide through the design, implementation and stewardship of non-vehicular paths — supports the proposed legislation.

It is appropriate to bring the path into a comparable use with other systems nationally, Kaua‘i Path Director Thomas Noyes said.

Rhoades said the path was paid for with taxpayer dollars, and one out of three households on Kaua‘i has a pet dog. She estimated there are more than 20,000 owned dogs on Kaua‘i.

“We, too, want to share our walks instead of being banned,” she said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. It’d be like banning driving for a few drunk drivers.”

A resident suffered a bite at Lydgate Park earlier this year, prompting some council members to call for stronger enforcement of existing laws regulating dogs in county parks.

Bynum acknowledged the attacks, but said stronger enforcement will foster more responsible owners.

Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing is proposing a bill on Wednesday that would establish provisions and provide an area for dog owners to bring their dogs “to enjoy being off-leash.”

Rhoades said another dog park would be welcomed, but not as a substitute for allowing leashed dogs on the path.

“Let’s enforce the law, not penalize all of us for a few people,” she said.

The council meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Historic County Building. The proposed bills are expected to pass first reading and then be scheduled for public hearings.

To view the complete agenda, visit www.kauai.gov

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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