Council close to losing barking law

LIHUE – It looks like the barking dog ordinance could be repealed.

A 4-3 committee vote Wednesday signaled that Bill 2590 will succeed on final passage if the sides hold when the council meets Aug. 5 to decide its fate.

It scores a victory for Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa, who criticized the less than 2-year-old ordinance as ineffective and an unfair burden on dog owners who he says are not given a fair opportunity to defend themselves from accusations.

“We messed up,” Kagawa said, referring to the council’s past effort to deal with the barking dog problem.

He said he is troubled that the ordinance relies on neighbor complaints and does not require third-party verification or video evidence of a barking dog.

“You can’t only have one side of the story and say it is fair,” he said.

Councilmembers Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali’i, Mel Rapozo, and Kagawa voted in favor of repeal, while Mason Chock, Gary Hooser and JoAnn Yukimura voted against.

Yukimura, who authored the original ordinance, asked the council to amend it, rather than take it off the books completely.

“It’s not fair to say the problem is with the complainers,” Yukimura said. “These are people who can’t live in their own home,” without being disturbed by excessive, incessant barking.

“To completely repeal it is to abandon a lot of people who have a genuine problem,” she said as she called for a compromise. “I beg you to not remove the law in place right now.”

Under the existing ordinance, a dog owner may face penalties if a dog barks, bays, cries, howls, or makes any other noise continuously for a period of 10 minutes, or intermittently for 20 minutes of a 30 minute period, regardless of the time of day.

Penalties do not apply, however, if the barking is due to a person trespassing or provoking the animal.

Penalties range from $50 for a first violation, to $100 for a second violation occurring within 90 days of the first violation. Penalties for subsequent violations can from $200 to $500, and a judge can order other remedies, such as obedience school.

According to the Kauai Humane Society, 75 complaints have been recorded since the law went into effect and 17 citations were issued.

Hooser and Chock joined in the call to amend rather than repeal.

“Amending this bill would have been the responsible way,” to deal with the issue, Hooser said, adding that the ordinance has reduced the overall number of barking dog complaints, which is proof it is working.

Kuali’i said he voted to repeal because “the (ordinance) is unfair and unenforceable,” but said that repeal doesn’t prevent someone from submitting a new bill to address the issues that had been raised.

“If someone wants to correct it and put it forward, then we can vote on that too,” he said.

Kagawa said the right move is to repeal the ordinance first.

“I don’t want to wait for an amendment and in the meantime the humane society will be issuing more citations and creating havoc for defendants,” he said.

Following the vote, Kagawa extended an olive branch and said he is open to working on a new bill to deal with the barking dog problem in the future.

Before casting their vote, councilmembers asked Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar and KHS Executive Director Penny Cistaro about the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Kollar explained how his office is involved and discussed the challenges of using the law in court.

“It appears that most of the complaints are resolved before they come to us, which I view as a good thing,” Kollar said.

He said that if he were to change the ordinance, he would recommend adding additional steps of mediation before a case could move to prosecution.

Cistaro defended the ordinance, and said that without it, there is no incentive for a dog owner to take corrective action.

“Right now, there is an incentive for them to stop their dog from barking,” Cistaro said.

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