Barking dog law was too flawed to stand

With the recent controversy surrounding Bill No. 2590, Draft 1, I felt it was necessary to explain my reasoning of why the repeal was necessary. As a councilmember, it is my duty and obligation to pass good, sound laws and to repeal those that are bad and defective.

First of all, I do not condone people who allow their dogs to bark incessantly through all hours of the day and night. That is just plain wrong and inconsiderate. We live in the Aloha State where acting as good neighbors is a virtue that we should all live by.

However, there were serious flaws in Article 25 of the Kauai County Code 1987, as amended, relating to barking dogs. The Kauai Humane Society (KHS) admittedly does not have the resources to thoroughly investigate reports of barking dogs. The courts have ruled that reliance on citizens to keep a record and log of a dog’s barking is not enough to prove that a person is in violation of the law. This was a serious concern that could not be ignored during discussion on the bill; not when we heard from families who have undergone costly legal battles as a result of accusations by a neighbor that were later dismissed in court. Imagine if an officer showed up at your door to cite you because a someone claimed that they witnessed you run a stop sign on three occasions. Although there was no evidence to prove it besides their word, you were still cited.

When a neighborly dispute can be resolved through education and awareness, we should trust the inherent good nature of people to do what is right and take the necessary corrective action. This was proven to us in the information provided by the KHS that 53 of 71 complaints, or 75 percent, ended up in peaceful resolution with no logs submitted. This success was achieved by the mere notification to the dog owner, making them aware of their pet’s behavior. Not by the issuance of a citation. This shows us that the KHS’s educational efforts are working and should continue even without the barking dog law in place.

When this doesn’t work, a person still has the option of pursuing civil action. This right exists after exhausting all attempts to work in good faith to resolve the issue with their neighbor.

While the council repealed the current barking dog law at last week’s meeting, it is important to remember that this issue is still alive. Much has been said about “simply” amending the law rather than repealing it. What hasn’t been said is that the process to amend the current law is no different than writing a new law.

Amendments have to go through a first reading, public hearing, one or more committee meetings, and finally a second reading. This is no different than what a new bill has to go through. The amendment process is not a shortcut as some council members have inferred.

The council will be working on a new proposed barking dog bill that will be introduced within the next month. Each individual councilmember has a duty to pass good laws — laws that are legally sound and defensible in court, and laws that protect the health and safety of our residents. Had this bill not been repealed, dog owners would continue to get cited causing them pain and financial distress, while residents suffering from barking dogs will not be successful in court and afforded the peaceful paradise that we all deserve to live in. Without a sound law in place, both groups suffer and nobody wins.

Mel Rapozo is council chair of the Kauai County Council.

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