Dog bills leave committee, have bite

Three dog-related bills squeaked out of the Parks and Recreation Committee yesterday at the Historic County Building after months of tense debate and hours of public testimony.

The proposed legislation to create a new dog park, toughen the animal nuisance ordinance and allow leashed dogs on the coastal path will go before the Kaua‘i County Council for final approval on Wednesday.

Bill 2265 was approved with amendments by Parks and Recreation Committee members JoAnn Yukimura, Tim Bynum and Ron Kouchi; Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho voted no.

The proposed legislation, as it currently stands, would create an 18-month trial period for people to walk their dogs on the county’s Eastside shared-use path on a roughly two-mile stretch from Lihi Park to the picnic shelter nearest Kealia bridge.

It was amended to require the handler to be in command and control of the dog at all times, have no more than two dogs under his control, leave if the dog gets aggressive, visibly carry the necessary instruments required for the removal and disposal of dog feces, pick up and dispose of any and all feces left by the dog, have the dog wear a current dog license tag and use a leash no more than 6 feet in length.

The bill also calls for the county Parks and Recreation Department and a stakeholder committee to develop measurable objectives so the success or failure of the trial period may be determined.

The minimum fine under the proposed legislation would be increased from $15 to $100 with a maximum of $500.

A primary reason Rapozo said he voted against the bill was because of statements made earlier in the morning session by Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho.

Carvalho said his department would need 90 to 120 days to pull all the pieces together to be ready to implement the legislation.

He said there are issues relating to the hiring of three new park rangers for enforcement, union concerns regarding hitting dog feces when mowing along the path, signage, maintenance schedules and finalizing with the county attorney a liability-related document pet owners would have to sign when they apply for dog licenses.

“I want to make sure everything is in place before we get this thing moving,” Carvalho said.

Bynum questioned the timing, calling the 90 to 120 days “excessive.”

Kouchi said he was hoping the department could be ready in a time frame closer to 60 days. This way the bill could be implemented by November before a newly elected mayor takes office, he said.

“The reality is this is not going to be the most important issue the new mayor is going to have on their plate,” Kouchi said. “If it’s going to be 120 days … it’s going to be passed on to somebody else.”

Carvalho, Yukimura, Rapozo and political outsider Rolf Bieber are the candidates for mayor.

Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro, an ex-officio committee member, said the council has debated the bill long enough.

“We got a real solid bill in front of us,” he said. “The bill has a lot of teeth in it … a lot of bite in it … more teeth than my dog.”

The committee in a 3-2 vote amended the bill to take effect Dec. 1 or sooner if authorized in writing by the director.

Carvalho said his department would need at least 120 days to implement the bill.

Rapozo said he plans to introduce an amendment on the council floor next week that will remove the implementation date and make the effective date at the director’s discretion.

“We shouldn’t be telling them when they’re ready,” he said. “120 days is optimistic in county government. It takes us a year to buy a lawnmower.”

Iseri-Carvalho said she too plans to introduce an amendment on the council floor on Wednesday that would require the dog handler to be an adult.

She said “all these juveniles who will be cited” will have to go to court and their parents will have to take them.

She had introduced such a clause in an Aug. 6 floor amendment requiring dog handlers on the path to be 18 years of age or older but it was not included in the amendment Kouchi introduced that the committee approved yesterday.

Kouchi said the age limit was removed after he witnessed family members of all ages walking their pets together.

“A lot of times it is a family event,” he said.

Bynum, who introduced the bill, said the language requiring the handler to be in control of their dog is sufficient.

“The age is arbitrary,” he said.

The committee unanimously recommended the council next week approve bills to create a dog park and strengthen the ordinance regulating animal nuisances.

Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing has proposed the dog park be on some 2.8 acres of the 17-acre park at Wailua Homesteads. He introduced Bill 2267 before he resigned from the council to fill the mayoral vacancy created when Bryan Baptiste died.

The other piece of legislation that moved out of committee, Bill 2266, would require dog handlers in public places to clean up their pets’ poop and have on their person an implement for picking up the material.

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