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 firstname.lastname@example.org.