Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 |
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The Hawaii County Council on Wednesday passed a bill that would impose steeper penalties on owners of dangerous dogs.
Bill 125 creates a tiered system of penalties for owners of violent dogs based on the severity of the injuries caused by the animals.
Under the bill, owners of dogs that maim or kill a domesticated animal, or cause bodily injury to a person, could be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned up to 30 days.
An owner of a dog that causes substantial bodily injury to a person — which involves “major avulsion, laceration or penetration of the skin,” broken bones, concussions or damage to internal organs — can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to five years, and the owner of a dog that causes even more serious injury or death to a person can face fines up to $25,000 or 10 years imprisonment.
Dogs that cause substantial bodily injury to a person or worse are legally mandated to be destroyed under the bill.
The bill also requires dog owners charged with failing to control a dangerous dog to take certain efforts to control the dog or face further penalties.
Furthermore, animal control officers are, under the bill, required to seize and impound any dog whose actions cause its owner to be charged with failure to control a dangerous dog.
The bill coasted through the council and committees with strong public and council support.
Before Wednesday’s council meeting, Hawaiian Acres resident Sylvia Dolena said dangerous dogs remain a threat to rural Puna communities, adding that, since the previous council hearing on the bill, there have been five more dog attacks in Puna, three of which were against animals and people, and one of which was against a senior citizen.
The bill was introduced because of an incident last August in which 85-year-old Hawaiian Paradise Park resident Dolores Oskins was fatally wounded by three unrestrained dogs belonging to a neighbor. Oskins was critically injured and died at Hilo Medical Center 24 days later.
The council voted unanimously to pass the bill on final reading with little discussion. It now awaits the signature of Mayor Mitch Roth.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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