Date: Dec. 4, 2019
To: Chair Ikaika Anderson Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi and Members of the City Council
Submitted By: Anna Neubauer, President and CEO Hawaiian Humane Society, 808-356-2217
RE: Testimony in strong support of Bill 59, CD1, Relating to Animals Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, 10 a.m., City Council Chamber
Aloha Chair Anderson, Vice Chair Kobayashi and Council Members,
The Hawaiian Humane Society is in enthusiastic support of Bill 59, CD1, Relating to Animals. This measure represents the biggest advance in our county animal welfare laws in more than 20 years and it will help us save lives. We strongly oppose the floor draft, which would result in a sharp increase in animal suffering, illness and euthanasia.
Bill 59, CD1 Proposed, has three main components:
Dogs are required to be licensed on Oahu, but compliance is low. Cats are not licensed. This bill eliminates license tags in favor of mandatory microchipping for cats and dogs.
Impoundment rules for dogs and cats require the Society to hold any pet with an ID for a minimum of nine days. This extended hold time predates modern communication, including cell phones and the Internet, and is far longer than the national average of three to five days. Extended stays in a shelter environment expose animals to stress and illness. The nine-day hold also delays the process of making abandoned pets available for adoption into new homes and reduces our capacity to care for other animals in need. This bill reduces the mandatory minimum hold for dogs and cats with identification to five days.
The current daily hold fee for stray animals is $2.50. This bill would raise that rate to $10, bringing it closer to the true cost of caring for each animal, which we conservatively estimate at $12-$15 a day. Hold fees in neighbor island counties range from $10 to $20 per day.
There are presently no penalties in the Revised Ordinance of Honolulu for dogs who are frequently at large. While this represents a small number of animals, it is a particularly vulnerable and potentially dangerous population. This bill would address this issue in two ways that are designed to minimize the risks to animals and people, and encourage owners to keep their dogs safe:
- It requires the spay/neuter of any dog brought in as stray three times in a 12-month period. Frequent strays are at grave risk themselves of injury and death, and have an outsized impact on pet overpopulation, perceptions of public safety and the safety of other animals. Also, fertile dogs are more likely to stray. The mandatory spay/neuter of stray dogs is increasingly common around the country.
- It imposes an additional $30 penalty for any dog impounded as stray three times or more in a 12-month period.
Some members of the community have expressed concerns that reducing the minimum hold time for stray pets with identification from nine days to five days might result in more animals being euthanized, but the goal of this measure is exactly the opposite.
Due to far greater connectivity than existed when the nine-day hold was implemented more than 30 years ago, stray animals are typically reclaimed by their owners very quickly. In FY 2019 more than 70% of animals with ID were reclaimed by their owners within 48 hours and nearly 90% were reclaimed within five days. Reducing the minimum hold time to five days will encourage the balance of pet owners to reclaim their animals more quickly. This measure is designed to increase the adoption rate and reduce the euthanasia rate by minimizing exposure to illness and stress, making animals who have been abandoned available for adoption more quickly, and freeing up more resources for intensive care and rehabilitation.
To be clear, Bill 59, CD1, only reduces the minimum hold time. The Hawaiian Humane Society regularly cares for animals for longer than the legal minimums when it is in the animal’s best interests that we do so.
We urge you to pass this comprehensive update to our county animal ordinance, which will allow more animals to be reunited with their families, help animals who are not reclaimed find new families more quickly, and better protect both pets and people.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on this matter. I am available for questions.