Improperly chaining dogs could become illegal later this year if a pair of animal cruelty bills passes the state Legislature.
Two bills, Senate Bill 677 and House Bill 633, adds tethering dogs in overly restrictive ways to the state’s list of second-degree animal cruelty offenses.
Current Hawaii law prohibits tethering a dog to a stationary object using choke, pinch or prong collars, which are devices that cause discomfort or pain to the animal if it strains against the restraint.
The new offenses listed in the bills include using trolleys, pulleys or other systems to tether a dog to two stationary objects in a way that prevents the dog from eating or drinking, and outright prohibits the use of heavy chains if they prevent the dog from moving freely.
The bills also prohibit dogs under 6 months old from being tethered or restrained at all unless it is under the direct supervision of its owner or caretaker.
“This bill is pretty much for those owners that keep their dogs outdoors,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye, co-introducer of the Senate bill. “That still is cruelty to animals … and I don’t think they’re true dog lovers.”
The bills were first introduced in 2019, but failed to gain any traction. In their previous incarnation, they also contained language that would have made shock collars illegal, but that provision was removed during this year’s legislative session.
Mary Rose Krijgsman, founder of the Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kurtistown, said that not only can such improper restraints potentially injure the dog, they can condition animals to become more aggressive.
“What happens is the dog feels insecure,” Krijgsman said. “And because it doesn’t have enough freedom, it can become more aggressive. You see that a lot around here.”
Krijgsman said seeing improperly restrained dogs clearly in distress was a significant factor in her decision to found the sanctuary 21 years ago.
“It’s rampant all around the island,” Krijgsman said. “People do it because it’s the most simple option. Building a fence is hard.”
The introduction to the current bill specifies that the Legislature does not intend to make all tethering illegal, and “acknowledges that it is possible for individuals to humanely tether or restrain dogs.” However, Inouye said she has received complaints from people who believe the bill is unfairly severe.
“The bill can still be changed if it has to,” Inouye said. “But I think this is something that needs to be passed.”
Several other bills in this year’s legislative session prohibit other inhumane treatment of animals.
One Senate bill prohibits the use of castration bands — tourniquets or rubber bands placed around an animal’s genitals that cause the tissue to shrivel and fall off due to blood loss — to neuter pets, while a House bill prohibits confining animals in a cruel manner and prohibits the sale of animals confined in such a way.
“These animals can be kept in very deplorable conditions,” Krijgsman said. “What we humans sometimes do to animals, I just can’t grasp it.”
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