WAILUKU - Maui County Council members gave initial approval Friday to a bill lauded by animal lovers and animal rights organizations to clarify and strengthen animal control requirements.
The bill would expand the responsibilities of people to treat animals humanely. It also maintains discretion for animal control officers to determine whether a dog is "dangerous."
The bill must pass a second reading by the full council before it advances to Mayor Alan Arakawa for final action.
Among the changes, the bill adds teeth to the Maui County Code by providing that pet owners who fail to treat their animals in a "humane manner" would be subject to penalties as provided in the state charge of second-degree cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
The measure defines "pet animals" as dogs, cats, domesticated rabbits, guinea pigs, domesticated pigs or caged birds that are not bred for consumption.
The bill provides that the owners of all other animals should treat them in a humane manner or face a fine of no more than $1,000 and jail for no more than 30 days.
Previously the "humane manner" provision called only for fines. The bill now also increases the fines as well the addition of jail time.
The bill also would allow an animal control officer to designate a dog as dangerous if it, among other things, poses a threat of serious injury or death to a threatened or endangered animal.
New language would protect wildlife from dog attacks.
Also, animal control officers under the bill "may" designate a dog as being dangerous under four provisions. The wording was changed from "shall," thereby giving animal control officers discretion in whether to designate a dog as being dangerous.