Dog laws questioned

LIHUE — A Haena man whose child was allegedly attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull last month says he has struggled to get authorities to investigate the incident.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hector Salavarrieta told TGI during a recent interview. “The police and the humane society haven’t been helping us out.”

According to Salavarrieta, he was fishing on a beach in Haena on Oct. 14 when a dog ran out of a yard and started acting aggressively toward his infant son, who was playing in the sand. Salavarrieta said he picked his child up and held him over his shoulders, trying to keep him out of reach of the dog, who started jumping at him.

“I’m screaming ‘help, help!’” he said. “‘Whose dog? Help!’”

Salavarrieta said he tried to kick the dog while backing away but eventually the pit bull jumped up and bit his child in the face.

Finally, after “what felt like five minutes,” he said two people came out of the house and retrieved the dog, but one of the owners started “getting very aggressive” and refused to admit her dog had done anything wrong “even though my son is bleeding there right in front of us.”

The owner of the dog gave a different version of the story. She spoke briefly with TGI but did not want her name used.

During a phone call Wednesday, the woman said her dog is still a puppy and is not violent, insisting he was only playing with the child, whose injury she said amounted to little more than a scrape.

Salavarrieta said his son has recovered from the accident and is fine except for a scar beneath his eye where the dog’s teeth punctured the skin.

For Salavarrieta, the frustrating part of the ordeal came in the aftermath of the incident. He said police responded when he called to report the attack but did little to investigate the matter after visiting the house a couple times and finding nobody home. He said an employee at the Kauai Humane Society was very helpful at first but eventually stopped returning his calls.

But on Nov. 24, police issued the owner of the pit bull a “dangerous dog” citation.

Mirah Horowitz, Kauai Humane Society’s executive director, said the nonprofit organization was forced to abandon most of its efforts to investigate and respond to aggressive and barking dogs in July, when the County Council gave KHS two-thirds of the budget she had requested.

“We’re not paid to do that at this point,” she said, explaining that KHS’s new agreement with the county “excludes any dog-aggression cases” and is no longer in the financial position to respond to incidents, except when the dog in question is “uncontainable” or presents an immediate threat to the community.

Horowitz said she hopes to get funding for the enforcement of dog laws in the following fiscal year and is working with county officials to negotiate a larger budget.

The county has increased funding for the humane society by roughly a third in the past five years, going from $760,000 in the 2015-2016 fiscal year to a current annual budget of just over $1 million, according to county officials.

But Horowitz told County Council members during budget deliberations earlier this year that KHS has been forced to operate at a deficit for several years, despite the increases in funding.

According to Horowitz, KHS has an annual operating budget of around $3 million, including fundraising and donations, but she estimated spending will exceed that amount by over $150,000 in 2019.


Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. billyjoebob December 1, 2019 2:32 am Reply

    Why anyone would own a dog that bites a child is beyond me.
    No excuse, no second chances. Next time it might not be a
    ” scrape “.

  2. Khsgrad December 1, 2019 4:22 am Reply

    It sickens me how irresponsible people here are with their animals. So many animals are not taken care of, left to wander, not fed….. Pitbulls are not bad dogs- it’s the OWNERS ignorance that has given these dogs a bad rap. Leash your animals people…..

  3. ruthann jones December 1, 2019 6:48 am Reply

    Ah yes….good ol’ boys at it again…KPD turns a blind eye while busy arresting old ladies for throwing eggs.
    Kauai must be so proud of their ‘men in blue’.

  4. kimo December 1, 2019 8:39 am Reply

    “We’re not paid to do that at this point,”

    I would be interested to know what services are provided to the public/taxpayers in the budget of $3 million per year. Is the KHS budget even available to the public?

  5. Valerie Weiss December 1, 2019 9:15 am Reply

    The owner said the dog was just playing though she was not out with it at the time to know that? And got aggressive with the father holding his bitten infant?

    We should be able go to the beach with our children without something like this happening. We all love our dogs but we cannot be blinded by that.

  6. 3Mili December 1, 2019 10:02 am Reply

    3mili to operate a human society?

    Audit please!

    We have seen this in many county depts and non profits. Where the over-bloated budget is manufactured by over-bloated salaries.

  7. Oingo boingo December 1, 2019 11:55 am Reply

    The county should Audit the KHS cause $3 M sounds kinda excessive if you ask me.

  8. behappy December 1, 2019 2:47 pm Reply

    $8,500 a day at seven days a week to operate the humane society? It doesn’t sound possible. I thought they had a lot of volunteers. It would be interesting to find out where all those funds are spent. That poor man holding his child out of reach of the dog. I cannot imagine how that must have felt. Dog owners have responsibilities especially if they have aggressive tendencies. SMH

  9. rk669 December 1, 2019 4:15 pm Reply

    Filing a lawsuit against the dogs owner,Humane Society and KPD will get some Action!

  10. Jake December 2, 2019 4:08 am Reply

    Many of you are too much. Spend a Saturday afternoon at KHS, and you will get an idea of what they do. KHS is the “punching bag” for the, oh-so-great “Culture” on this island that couldn’t care less about their animals. From “I’ve found someone’s dog” to “There is a dead dog on the road” to “My neighbor’s dog keeps barking” to “My neighbor keeps his dog chained to a tree, in the sun 24/7” to “I’m a local, and can’t afford to feed or fix our animals….can you help”?……

    “$3 M sounds kinda excessive”….until you have to board every lost animal on an island because no one licensed, tagged, or chipped their animal. Never mind the medical attention each animal needs when they arrive at KHS, or the endless litters of animals dumped at the front desk at KHS because their female animal got pregnant,……wait for it….. yet again. Much of the manpower at KHS is volunteers, including Veterinarians, not getting paid anything for their time, effort, and community sacrifice. Food costs money, electricity costs money, Doctors cost money, cutting the grass costs money, maintenance cost money, office supplies, labor cost money….get a clue.

    Most complain, very few actually try, or do anything. Tell ya what, before you complain about KHS, spend an afternoon just sitting at the front desk.

  11. doug henry December 2, 2019 9:41 am Reply

    I thought that any time a dog bites a human, the dog had to be put down. Somebody is not doing their job.

  12. Dog lover December 2, 2019 4:40 pm Reply

    If a dog sinks it’s teeth into a human, it should be put down. It’s sad but we should not allow dangerous dogs in our communities, especially when they have dodo owners.

  13. jake December 2, 2019 9:16 pm Reply

    Don’t these errant dog owners realize how much they could get sued for if their dog injures someone because of their negligence in obeying local leash laws? Dudes, you could lose your house, your trucks, and heaven forbid, your beer money, if the victims are awarded huge sums for pain and suffering along with medical and legal expenses. My wife and I never walk in our neighborhood without some kind of anti-dog weapon or device. If you’re dog approaches us in a threatening manner, it goes home blinded by brake cleaner or with a fractured skull from a collapsible police baton. The KPD and KHS have left it up to us. They simply do not respond or assist with dog attacks.

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