Critics call new rule to deal with Hawaii’s feral cat population inhumane

Local News

The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources says feral cats pose risks to public health and wildlife, and they’re all over boat harbors and facilities.

The Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation came up with a drastic rule change that authorizes the state to destroy feral cats or dogs by any means necessary.

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the rule change Friday that includes:

“(Page 50-51) Any dog, cat, or other domestic pet, while being a stray within a small boat harbor, may be seized by officers and employees of the department, or by any other person authorized by law, and shall be disposed of as provided in chapter 183D-65, Hawaii Revised Statutes.”

That chapter specifies:

ยง183D-65 Posting; destruction of predators.

 (a) On any game management area, public hunting area, or forest reserve or other lands under the jurisdiction of the department, predators deemed harmful to wildlife by the department may be destroyed by any means deemed necessary by the department.

(b) Where the predators are dogs and the methods of destruction may endanger pets or hunting dogs, all major points of entrance into the area where the predators are to be destroyed shall be posted with signs indicating that a program of predator destruction in the area is in progress. Any predator may be destroyed in a posted area without claim or penalty whether or not the predator is the property of some person.

The rule is meant to fix the issue of stray animals at boat harbors and facilities, but the wording has animal groups alarmed.

The Humane Society of the United States and the non-profit group Alley Cat Allies fear that gives the state authority to shoot and kill animals.

“I don’t know if that’s their plan, but these rules give them that authority, and that’s a very dangerous thing,” said Bryan Kortis with the Humane Society of the United States.

“We’re deeply concerned that they are using the most dramatic approach that won’t be effective and the majority of the people in Hawaii oppose,” added John White, who represents Alley Cats Allies.

After hours of public testimony, state officials passed the rule amendment, but on one condition. It won’t go into effect until January 2019, which gives the state a chance to work with animal advocates to track, neuter, and release feral cats out of boat harbors.

“At least they’re not going to go out tomorrow and start shooting cats, but they haven’t come up with a solution yet. Hopefully now they’ll talk to us a bit and we’ll try to find something that will work,” said Kortis.

When asked his response to those opposing the rule change, DOBOR administrator Edward Underwood said, “We did not want to have to put down feral cats. We’ve worked, reached out to the humane society on several occasions, to work with us on this issue. Hopefully now this will bring them back to the table, to relocate them outside of the harbor. We’re not set up to destroy animals. None of our staff wants to do that either.”

“But is that a possibility?” KHON2 asked.

“Well not until 2019. Hopefully what will happen is, we get together, come up with a plan and a better area to relocate these areas where they can control the intake, and they’re not in the small boat harbors,” Underwood replied.

The state also passed a rule amendment where no one can feed or add to the existing cat colonies at the boat harbors, something officials say added to the feral cat problem.

The new changes now head to Gov. David Ige’s desk for his signature.

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