Bringing barking back up

LIHUE — Two months after Kauai County’s dog barking ordinance was repealed, another rule regulating noisy pups may be ready to get back on the books.

Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i is crafting regulation that would try to hold pet owners responsible for excessive barking — one that would require more parties to notify authorities of a potential problem before a dog owner could be cited.

“This newly proposed ordinance is similar to the prior one since we used it as our starting point,” Kuali’i wrote in an email Friday about the ordinance he’s working on that could be introduced to the council Nov. 4. “We primarily worked to make improvements that I found to be necessary based on the recent citizen testimony and council deliberations.”

One of the key differences between Kuali’i’s proposal and the one that was repealed Aug. 5 by a 4-3 vote, is the number of people and households required to initiate a citation.

Under the old rule, only one person needed to complain about a excessively loud dog to warrant a ticket. The new rule could require at least two people from two different households in the area.

“I’m delivering on the promise I made during the recent repeal vote,” wrote Kuali’i, who voted to repeal the previous ordinance on grounds that it didn’t give pet owners enough due process when a complaint was logged against them. “I’ve always supported neighbors having their barking dog complaints addressed. However, those complaints need to be addressed with a process that is fair, reasonable and relatively easy to administer.”

With more than one complainant, more probable cause could exist.

But language defining a noisy dog could mirror the previous ordinance that was repealed nearly two years after its adoption and that resulted in 17 citations.

That language says 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.

Those penalties ranged 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 range from $200 to $500, and a judge can order other remedies, such as obedience school.

The process was this: When someone was bothered by a constantly barking dog, they could call the Kauai Humane Society. A KHS officer then touched base with the dog owner and informed them of the complaint and the steps they could take to quiet the animal. The officer then informed the complainant how to log details of the time and amount of noise the dog made, should the problem persist. Should the barking continue, the information collected in the log could be considered evidence, and a citation could follow.

The proposal could follow those steps, but more than one neighbor would need to complain about the same dog to get an owner cited.

A couple of councilmembers declined to comment on the possible new rule on grounds they hadn’t seen the bill. Ross Kagawa — who led the charge to get the old law repealed — said he’d have to wait and see it. So did JoAnn Yukimura, who championed the former ordinance and argued against its repeal.

Yukimura did question, however, why more than one person would be needed to complain. She wondered if it was like needing more than one police officer to witness someone speeding in a vehicle to issue a speeding ticket.

“Why would you need another one?” she asked, adding that she would reserve all judgment until the bill is introduced and the public has time to weigh in.

For the seemingly simple topic of barking dogs, the issue received a lot of feedback when the old rule was introduced, adopted, then repealed.

Public testimony during hearings was ample, and several letters to the editor were printed in The Garden Island newspaper. Opinions ranged, with some calling the rule excessive regulation in rural Kauai where owning hunting dogs is a way of life, while others said the noise hindered their quality of life by keeping them up at night.

“It’s outrageous, really,” Sea Peterson, one of the TGI letter writers, said when asked about the barking dogs in her Kapaa neighborhood last week. “It goes on and on and on.”

Sometimes, as in Peterson’s case, one-on-one conversation with a neighbor just doesn’t work. She said simply having a rule on the books is important because pet owners know they can be cited, so they police themselves. When the rule was adopted, her neighborhood became quieter without anyone having to go to authorities, Peterson said, and when it went away, it suddenly got loud again. So just having an avenue of recourse is important.

“We just need the ability to address the issue,” Peterson said.

Kuali’i said he’s been working with council services staff, the mayor’s and prosecutor’s offices, and also received feedback from the Kauai Humane Society.

He said he hadn’t received a lot of feedback since the rule was repealed, but that getting an ordinance on the books again was a high priority because the repealing councilors promised they would address the issue.

“Constituents want a fair and easy process to have their barking dog complaints addressed, short of having to take a neighbor to court as a first step,” he said.

Penny Cistaro, KHS executive director, said she supports having a dog barking ordinance. She was against the repeal, but in favor of adopting a new ordinance.

One thing that surprised staff at the humane society, she said, was the number of people who testified that their neighborhoods got quieter — as Peterson described — simply by having the rule adopted.

That speaks to the importance of having something on the books. If the new rule requires more than one neighbor to complain to initiate a citation, Cistaro is OK with that. One complaint can still trigger a KHS officer to contact the dog owner to notify them a potential problem exists, which is important because education alone can be key.

“We would support that,” she said of the possible new rule. “I do believe the community needs recourse if there is a serious problem in their neighborhood and Kauai Humane Society has always felt that way.”

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