Some 50 residents packed Kaua‘i County Council Chambers yesterday at the Historic County Building to testify on three proposed ordinances related to dogs.
All but three residents who offered comments at the public hearing championed a bill that would allow leashed dogs on the county’s coastal multi-use path.
“Kaua‘i has shown itself to be dog lovers,” Kilauea resident Linda Pasadava said. “They are a part of our family. This is an issue that’s not going to go away.”
Community members shot down arguments against the bills, including liability and enforcement concerns, and cited several reasons in support, such as being taxpayers and responsible pet owners.
The legislation heads to committee on Wednesday when lawmakers will work on possible amendments before sending it back to the council floor for a final vote.
The proposed bills would strengthen the rules regulating the responsibilities of dog owners while expanding access in public areas.
Under the county Parks and Recreation Department’s management, the path is a linear park and as such falls under a county ordinance banning animals without permits.
Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho did not return calls seeking a more detailed explanation as to why the path falls under the park classification.
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.
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.
Residents said during the planning stages they listed walking their dogs as a top anticipated use of the path.
Veterinarians and community members said it would be a “huge disservice” to not give residents “the freedoms that everyone else seems to have.”
They cited statistics showing few municipalities restrict dogs in parks and virtually no municipalities bar dogs from multi-use paths.
“This is a really important time for Kaua‘i,” Kaua‘i Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades said. “To be known as a dog-hating visitor attraction is not what we want to be known for.”
Councilman Tim Bynum is proposing a bill 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.
The Kaua‘i Humane Society has offered to put in 12 DOGIPOT bag dispensers along the path to make compliance easier, Rhoades said.
The director, like several residents who testified, supported Bynum’s proposed bills for their tough stance on irresponsible dog ownership.
“I honestly believe we will have better dog stewardship if we pass these ordinances,” she said.
Some community members said their pets inspire them to exercise and the path provides a safe place.
“It’s senseless to take a walk without our furry friends by our side,” said Stephanie Krieger.
She said she used to push her newborn in a stroller while her husband walked the dogs beside her on the path until she learned no animals were allowed.
Council chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing proposed a bill that would provide an area for dog owners to bring their dogs “to enjoy being off-leash.”
Residents said another dog park would be nice, but not as a substitute for allowing leashed dogs on the path.
Bynum has 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.
“This is a serious issue,” he said in an interview last month. “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.”
Councilman Mel Rapozo voiced concerns over the financial liability of allowing dogs on the path and parks. He said even if the county is legally protected in a lawsuit, that case still costs taxpayers money.
“There’s absolutely no foundation for this argument of liability. Zero,” said Rhoades, who has worked with dog control for decades.
Liability for dog bites is limited to the dog handler by state law, she 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.
Thomas Noyes, the president of the group, testified as a concerned resident.
“These proposed amendments are necessary to bring the county’s code up to date, to improve animal control measures in general and to restore health and recreational benefits that residents owning dogs lost when the Department of Parks and Recreation assumed management of the new section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae from Lihi Boat Ramp to Kealia Beach,” he said.
“These amendments will bring consistency to our animal control measures for the community, and Kaua‘i’s County Code into parity with our Neighbor Islands’ regulations, none of which ban leashed dogs from their parks or paths in general.”
Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens questioned if there are 20,000 dogs on island, as a recent survey shows, will there be room for people to use the path.
He said it is unsafe for walkers, bikers and dogs to try to coexist on the same path.
The results of a survey last month by Ward Research show most residents own pets and want the right to walk their dogs on the Eastside path.
Eighty percent support the proposed ordinance allowing leashed dogs on the coastal path, the survey says.
Resident Ron Wiley said the council should “deal with the facts” and pass “good, timely legislation.”
“This is our opportunity,” he said.
Council members JoAnn Yukimura and Ron Kouchi were absent with excuse from the meeting.
To view council agendas, visit www.kauai.gov
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org