Date: Nov. 5, 2019
To: Chair Ikaika Anderson Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi and Members of the City Council
Submitted By: Stephanie Kendrick, Public Policy Advocate Hawaiian Humane Society, 808-356-2217
RE: Testimony in strong support of Bill 59, Relating to Animals Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 , 10 a.m., City Council Chamber
Aloha Chair Anderson, Vice Chair Kobayashi and Council Members,
The Hawaiian Humane Society is in strong support of Bill 59, Relating to Animals. This measure represents the biggest advance in our county animal welfare laws since the Cat Identification ordinance was passed more than 20 years ago. Bill 59 has three main components:
Dogs are required to be licensed on Oahu, but compliance is low. This bill eliminates license tags in favor of mandatory microchipping for cats and dogs. Benefits of this change include:
- Mainland jurisdictions that have switched from license tags to mandatory microchipping have seen increases in compliance and return-to-owner (RTO) rates. Dallas, for example, saw its RTO rate increase by 300% over three years after switching to microchipping.
- While tags can be lost, microchips are permanent.
- Tags must be renewed every two years at fees ranging from $10 to $28.50. Implanting a microchip is a one-time expense of $25 or less.
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 exposes animals to stress and potential illness and delays their availability to find new homes. It also reduces our capacity to care for other animals in need. This bill reduces the mandatory minimum hold for dogs with identification to five days. We are asking that the bill be amended to also reduce the hold time for cats with identification to five days. These changes are important for the following reasons:
- More than 70% of animals with ID are reclaimed by their owners within 48 hours. Nearly 90% are reclaimed within five days. This will encourage a small number of pet owners to reclaim their animals more quickly, reducing the stress and risk of illness for those animals and freeing up shelter capacity for other animals in need.
- According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University, the national norm for stray hold times is down to 3-5 days in recognition of the risks animals face in a shelter environment.
The current daily hold fee for stray animals is $2.50. This bill would raise that rate to $10 for the following reasons:
- The $2.50 daily fee was established in 1983 and is far below the true cost of caring for each animal, which we conservatively estimate at $12-$15 a day. The fees charged by neighbor island counties range from $10 to $15 per day. Getting closer to the true cost of care would free up resources for the most vulnerable animals.
- The increase also should discourage pet owners from using the high-stress environment of a shelter as a kenneling option, which puts their own animals at risk of illness and distress and reduces our capacity to help the animals who need us most.
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. The mandatory spay/neuter rule would have applied to just 40 dogs in FY2019. 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. Examples include:
- Floyd County, Ind., mandates spay/neuter for any pet impounded two times within a 12 month period;
- Charleston, S.C., mandates the spay/neuter of any impounded animal unless it is the first time the animal has been impounded and the owner of the animal pays a redemption fee of $500. There is no exemption for intact animals impounded a second time.
- It imposes an additional $30 penalty for any dog impounded as stray three times or more in a 12-month period.
- All stray dogs are at risk of injury and death and can pose a threat to other animals and people. This penalty is intended to encourage dog owners to keep their pets safe.
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.