Barking dog rule repealed

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council on Wednesday voted to repeal the county’s barking dog ordinance, which provides penalties for dog owners who fail to keep their animals quiet.

The repeal was approved by a 4-to-3 margin — just as it was by a county subcommittee in July — with Councilmembers Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali’i and Mel Rapozo joining Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa to vote in favor.

Kagawa led the effort to repeal the less than 2-years-old ordinance, arguing that it was ineffective and placed an unfair burden on dog owners who are not given a fair opportunity to defend themselves from accusations by neighbors.

Councilmembers Mason Chock, Gary Hooser and JoAnn Yukimura voted to uphold the existing ordinance.

“We have heard testimony from across this island about how neighborhoods have gotten better,” because of this ordinance, said Yukimura, who sponsored the original bill that was approved in March 2014.

Yukimura argued that changes should be made to fix problems with the ordinance rather than an outright repeal.

But that argument did not sway its opponents.

“I’m not in favor of amending it — I don’t believe a bad law should remain in place for even a day,” longer than necessary, Kuali’i said.

The hearing, which lasted for more than three hours, rehashed many of the same arguments previously made in prior council meetings, but minds did not change. If anything, councilmembers expressed their position with stronger conviction, and in the end, the vote came out exactly the same as when it passed the Committee of the Whole July 22.

But there were some new developments.

Council Chair Rapozo announced he intends to introduce a comprehensive noise ordinance that would include barking dogs, as well as other nuisance noises such as loud music and revving engines.

Rapozo did not have a set timetable for when he would introduce a bill, but said he intends to start the discussion at the next council meeting. Rapozo said he believes it will be possible to get a comprehensive noise ordinance completed within the next 90 days.

“I think that if at least four of us commit to get it done in 90 days, it can get done,” Rapozo said.

Hooser offered a compromise amendment that would delay repeal of the existing barking dog ordinance until a comprehensive noise ordinance is put in place, but his amendment failed, with only Chock and Yukimura supporting his effort.

Prior to final passage, Hooser called on the public to urge Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. to veto the repeal. If members of the public feel strongly about the issue, “they do have the option of reaching out to the mayor and asking for a veto of this,” he said.

Carvalho has not said yet which way he is leaning. Under the county charter, the mayor has 10 business days to either sign or veto the bill.

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.

The Kauai Humane Society is charged with enforcing the ordinance.

KHS Executive Director Penny Cistaro did not weigh in on whether the mayor should veto the repeal, but she did say that if the mayor doesn’t go that route, then a replacement comprehensive noise ordinance that addresses the barking dog issue should be done quickly.

“I think that the community needs something. Whatever way we get to that something I’m comfortable with, but there needs to be recourse for people,” Cistaro said.

Members of the public who want to voice their opinion on either side of the issue may call Carvalho’s office at (808) 241-4900 or email mayor@kauai.gov.

Ryan Kazmirzack, government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428.

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