Friday, January 30, 2009

Hawaii Legislators Consider Bans on Tethering and Pit Bulls

State elected officials in Hawaii are considering a bill that would prohibit the tethering of dogs to certain structures. The Senate Committee on Water, Land, and Agriculture & Hawaiian Affairs has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Friday, Jan. 30, at 3 p.m.

A measure that would prohibit ownership, possession or sale of a pit bull has also been introduced to the state Senate. No hearing is currently set for the bill.

Senate Bill 30 would make it illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie or restrain a dog to a dog house, tree, fence or any other stationary object. The proposed legislation does provide exceptions. A dog may be tethered pursuant to the requirements of a camping or recreational area. In addition, a person can tether a dog for a “reasonable period" in order to complete a temporary task. A reasonable period is defined as a period of time not to exceed three hours in a 24-hour period.

Other exceptions are made for herding cattle or livestock, cultivating agricultural products, and activity conducted pursuant to a valid state license that is associated with the use or presence of a dog.

The proposed legislation provides acceptable means of tethering. A person may attach a dog to a running line, pulley or trolley system, so long as the dog is not attached by means of a choke collar or pinch collar.

If the bill is approved, those found in violation of the tethering laws would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 70 would make it a misdemeanor to own, possess or sell a pit bull. “Pit Bull” is defined as any dog that is an American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of those breeds. It also defines a pit bull as any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of those breeds. A duly incorporated humane society is exempt. No public hearing has been scheduled at this time.

The Pet Industry Advisory Council (PIJAC) has issued an alert about both bills.

According to PIJAC, tethering legislation is popping up in many states, and several similar bills on the subject are floating around both houses of the Hawaiian legislature. PIJAC noted it is important for dog owners to be aware of the time restraints imposed by this particular piece of legislation as well as the length and kinds of tethers that are permitted.

With regard to the ban on pit bull ownership, PIJAC said it finds breed-specific laws “inappropriate and unnecessary.” In its alert, the organization contends measures selectively targeting status rather than behavior are “highly ineffective in addressing public health and safety concerns and tend to wastefully consume public resources in the process, as well as inappropriately invade the rights of citizens.”

According to PIJAC, most behavioral experts recognize that training and care — not the breed — determine an animal’s tendency towards aggressiveness.

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