Hundreds of thousands of dogs go unlicensed on Oahu

Local News

Thousands of Oahu dog owners are breaking the law and getting away with it.

Owners are supposed to license their dog with the city. They pay a $10 fee for dogs that are spayed or neutered. If not, the cost is $28-$50.

The license must be renewed every other year.

But once we started looking into it, KHON2 learned hundreds of thousands of dogs on Oahu alone are not licensed.

Dog owner and sitter Donna Shimabuku makes it a point to keep her dog licenses up-to-date. Even though her dogs are microchipped, having the tag is extra assurance that she can get her dogs back if they ran away.

“It is definitely (peace of mind). We have to get our dogs licensed because I want to make sure they come back to me,” she said.

But Shimabuku is in the minority. The city says a study done by the Hawaiian Humane Society estimates that there are 250,000 dogs on Oahu, but only about 15,000 are registered each year.

That means at least $2 million in fees are not collected every two years–money that’s supposed to go to the city’s general fund.

Dog owners question why it’s necessary.

“I don’t really even know what it’s for. Why do we have that? I don’t know, because they’re microchipped so that’s how we identify who they are, where they live, who owns them,” said dog owner Shannon Ellis.

Police officers can take a dog that is not licensed and the owner would have to go to court to get the dog back. But the city says it’s low on HPD’s priority list considering their overall duties.

“Right now, we don’t have any strong enforcement policies. We’re hoping people as responsible pet owners will do what’s right and register their dogs,” said Sheri Kajiwara, director of the city’s Customer Services Department.

The city is looking for ways to get at least some of that money and one option is to work with veterinarians who would actually do the renewals.

Most dog owners will go to the vet regularly and Kajiwara says it’s already being done in other cities. But there are some concerns.

“You’re dealing with private businesses and it’s always difficult to marry the private businesses and the public sector responsibilities and how much of a fee each person gets,” Kajiwara said.

The city points out that it’s money that could go to animal care services.

Article 3. Dog License


7-3.1 License fee.

7-3.2 Disposition of fee.

7-3.3 Impoundment of unlicensed dogs.

Sec. 7-3.1 License fee.

(a) The biennial license fee for dogs over four months through seven months of age and for neutered dogs eight months of age and over with veterinary certificate shall be $9.50; $28.00 for unneutered dogs eight months of age or over. Upon receipt of the license fee, the director of finance shall issue a metal tag of such form and design as the director may designate with a serial number and the year for which it is issued inscribed thereon, charging therefor the sum of 50 cents, which tag shall be attached to a collar of the dog for which the license has been issued.

(b) If the license fee is not paid when due, a penalty of 10 percent thereof shall be added to and become part of the fee.

(c) The full amount of the fee shall be paid for any fraction of any year for which a license is issued.

(Sec. 13-33.1, R.O. 1978 (1983 Ed.); Am. Ord. 92-69, 95-33)

Sec. 7-3.2 Disposition of fee.

All moneys received by the director of finance under this article shall be paid into the general fund of the City and County of Honolulu. (Sec. 13-33.2, R.O. 1978 (1983 Ed.))

Sec. 7-3.3 Impoundment of unlicensed dogs.

Impoundment of unlicensed dogs shall be as provided in HRS Section 143-8. (Sec. 13-33.3, R.O. 1978 (1983 Ed.))

§143-8 Seizure and redemption of unlicensed dogs. Except where licensing requirements are dispensed with, every officer shall seize any unlicensed dog found running at large or found upon any public highway, street, alley, court, place, square, or grounds, or upon any unfenced lot, or not within a sufficient enclosure, whether in the immediate presence of the owner or otherwise, and confine it in a pound or any suitable enclosure for a period of forty-eight hours, during which time it shall be subject to redemption by its owner by payment of the license due, if any, and a penalty to be set by each county council; provided that until and unless provided by ordinance the penalty shall be $2.50. If not so redeemed, the dog shall be sold by the officer for the amount of the license and penalty due, or as much more as can be obtained therefor; provided that the officer may neuter or require the neutering of the dog prior to sale, and if not so sold it shall be humanely destroyed. The owner of any unlicensed dog impounded and not claimed within forty-eight hours as provided in this section, may redeem the dog at any time before sale or destruction of the dog by paying to the officer, in addition to the amount of the license and penalty, an impoundment fee per day for the number of days over two days the dog was impounded. Each county council shall have the power to fix the impoundment fee for dogs; provided that until and unless otherwise provided by ordinance the impoundment fee shall be $2.50 a day. Of the money so received the amount of the license fee shall be paid to the director of finance and the balance shall be retained by the officer to defray the expenses of collecting, keeping, and feeding the dog. [L 1941, c 268, §7; RL 1945, §7157; RL 1955, §156-8; HRS §143-8; am L 1973, c 146, §3; am L 1983, c 227, §5]

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