Dog bills deferred again

The Kaua‘i County Council Parks and Recreation Committee endured a fourth round of discussion and public testimony on three proposed ordinances related to dogs, yesterday, at the Historic County Building.

The stirring debate, which first entered Council Chambers on May 17, centers on a bill to allow leashed dogs on the multi-use path that fringes the island’s Eastside. Some 4.8 miles of the planned 16-mile route from Nawiliwili to Anahola have been completed.

Supporters say responsible pet owners should have a right, especially as taxpayers, to walk their dogs on the path. They point to national norms, health benefits and polls that show a majority on island wants this privilege.

Critics, however, say the liability is too great and it is a deviation from the path’s original transportation intent. They argue that allowing dogs on the path with bicyclists, joggers and children would create a dangerous mix that could result in serious injury or a potential lawsuit.

The committee deferred its decision on the bills for the second time. They noted absent council members, unfinished amendments and needing more time to review legal opinions on the matter.

The path, which falls under the county Parks and Recreation Department’s management, is 80 percent federally funded, 20 percent county.

Councilman Tim Bynum introduced the legislation 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 other implement for doing such whenever they are out with their pets in public areas. Violations would carry fines and citations.

Laura Wiley, speaking on behalf of the Kaua‘i Humane Society, addressed concerns aired at previous council meetings and reiterated support for the proposed bills.

She also said the society is willing to commit to sharing the enforcement responsibility with daily patrols at varied times and locations on the path.

“We will have zero tolerance for dogs that are off leash and zero tolerance for people not picking up after their dogs,” Wiley said.

Residents also offered their support for a suggestion to increase three-fold the dog licensing fees and earmark those funds for enforcement of the proposed ordinance. The current rates are $1 for neutered dogs and $5 for unfixed dogs.

Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing has proposed a bill that would establish provisions and provide an area for pet owners to bring their dogs “to enjoy being off-leash.” This legislation has garnered total support from those who have testified, but some residents caution that it should not be a substitute for Bynum’s bills.

State law says the owner or harborer of an animal shall be liable if the animal causes either personal or property damage. The statutes do not specifically exempt the county from a lawsuit.

The absence of Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a vocal critic of allowing dogs on the path, was excused. Councilman Jay Furfaro, who had to leave early for an afternoon appointment, was also excused.

Furfaro circulated an amendment at the previous meeting that would establish an 18-month trial period. It would also restrict leashed dogs on the path south of the Wailua River bridge, specifically banning them in the higher activity Lydgate Park area.

Despite his absence, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura successfully introduced the amendment. Its incorporation into the bill pends a committee vote.

In a reference to John Lennon’s “Give peace a chance,” Kapa‘a resident Sue Hansen urged council to “Please, give dogs a chance.”

Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens said there are some dog lovers out there who still oppose the proposed ordinance to allow leashed dogs on the path because of safety and liability concerns.

Bynum reset the deadline for amendments to the dog bills for July 16. The committee will hear the proposed legislation again on July 23.

For more information, call Council Services at 241-6371 or visit www.kauai.gov

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