O’Hara withdraws resolution that would recognize animals as ‘sentient beings’

  • Tribune-Herald photo

    A dog sticks its nose through its cage Tuesday at the Hawaii Island Humane Society in Keaau.

I bark therefore I am?

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara introduced a resolution Tuesday recognizing animals as “sentient beings” but quickly withdrew it because of lack of support from other council members.


She said she wanted to “set the tone” for how the county deals with animal welfare.

Other council members said they support humane treatment of animals but were uncomfortable with language in the measure giving them rights.

“First and foremost, I think humans have a stewardship, have a responsibility, have an obligation for health and well-being for an animal and animals in general,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, who is a veterinarian, adding that animals are owed “respect and dignity.”

But he said the county would be getting itself into a “quagmire” if it gives them rights.

The measure says that animals have natural rights as sentient beings and that future legislation regarding animal control efforts should be consistent with the resolution. It says euthanasia of animals should only be used as a last resort and encourages live trapping of animals at county facilities.

O’Hara told the Tribune-Herald last week that the measure is in part intended to influence the county’s next animal control contract.

Critics of the Hawaii Island Humane Society, which currently holds the contract, say its euthanasia rates are too high.

“I do want to set the tone for action on any future contract,” she said.


O’Hara said during the Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee meeting that the resolution needs to be refashioned based on the feedback.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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