‘End in sight’ for dog bills

The Kaua‘i County Council Parks and Recreation Committee on Wednesday again deferred three bills that would allow leashed dogs on the Eastside multi-use path, toughen the animal nuisance laws and create a new dog park.

But the committee’s chair, Councilman Tim Bynum, said the bills found some footing and will likely pass out of committee to the council floor at the next meeting.

“I see an end in sight,” he said yesterday.

Council members agreed to take up the proposed legislation as the first business item at 9 a.m., Aug. 20, at the Historic County Building, according to interim Council Chair Jay Furfaro.

Furfaro, who is an ex officio committee member, said at the next meeting they are expected to merge the proposed amendments to the bills into one cohesive piece.

Interim Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing, who introduced the proposed ordinance to create a new dog park when he served as council chair, presented a compromise package to the council that he said was “fair and reasonable.”

It involved establishing a dog park on some 2.8 acres of the 17-acre park at Wailua Homesteads, pursuing state legislation to create a beach park for dogs only and providing a one-mile stretch of the path on a 12-month trial basis for dog handlers to show they can follow the rules.

The committee pulled pieces from the mayor’s proposal for the sole amendment it passed at the more than 12-hour meeting, which included discussion and action on multiple agenda items.

In an amendment introduced by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura on behalf of Furfaro, “Dogs shall be permitted in the area beginning at Lihi Park to south of the picnic shelter closest to Kealia bridge for a trial period of 18 months. Dogs or other domestic animals shall not be allowed on the path system through Lydgate Beach park and the Lydgate campgrounds to the Wailua River bridge.”

“You cannot take the bike path and put it into a park and say the rules of the park should go out the window. It’s not right,” Asing said. “They just do not match with the dogs walking in the area. … Keep the park facilities for what they were intended to be used.”

Despite the passage of Yukimura’s amendment, further debate is expected next meeting on provisions some council members say are critical components.

The committee started its discussion late Wednesday evening on an amendment introduced by Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

It calls for a 12-month sunset clause, increased fines and a narrower trial stretch of the path (from the rest area just north of Otsuka’s building in Kapa‘a to south of the picnic shelter closest to Kealia bridge).

Her amendment also proposes nine restrictions for any dog handler using the path system in the designated area.

These include being 18 years old, having no more than one dog under his control, visibly carrying the necessary instruments required for the removal and disposal of dog feces, obtaining certification from a dog training program and ensuring that the dog not be “in heat” and free of communicable diseases and parasites.

Some council members said they would not support the bills without a plan in place for how the Department of Parks and Recreation will implement the new ordinances.

“I don’t want to say we’re ready and we’re not,” Councilman Mel Rapozo said.

Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho agreed to return to the council in two weeks to discuss an implementation plan.

Carvalho said the department backs Asing’s compromise package.

The bills first entered Council Chambers on May 17.

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.

Iseri-Carvalho said the county must also look into potential legal and union problems with Department of Parks and Recreation employees being required to deal with dog feces on and around the path, which is not in their job descriptions. Carvalho has started investigating this issue.

The council will also be sorting out how to measure whether the trial period was successful or not. Members debated including the criteria in the ordinance versus allowing the stakeholders to decide.

Additionally, Furfaro recommended that the administration talk to the Planning Department about notifying residents in the Wailua neighborhood that would be affected by the proposed dog park.

“The council should’ve never been involved in this issue,” Bynum said. “We’re giving such scrutiny to something that is reasonable and customary everywhere.”

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


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