How to Win the Battle Against Loose Dogs in our Community
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best way to maintain an exercise program is to be repetitive.
I’ve been waking up at 4:40 am every morning for over a decade, brush my teeth, stretch, put my running shoes on and hit the road by 5 am. It’s the same routine from Monday through Friday, and then on the weekends I give myself an extra hour of sleep before hitting the road.
My route doesn’t vary either, making my way along Nanialii Drive in Paradise Park and then up the hills of Shower Drive all the way to the highway and back down again.
The great thing about being repetitive is that I just do it without giving it much thought and without ever making excuses.
But for repetitive runners like me one of the few perils that I encounter is irresponsible dog owners that allow their dogs to roam free.
I’ve had an ongoing problem with one dog that has been off its property at least 10 to 12 times over the past few years and I’ve had to ward off its attacks with loud yelling for their owners to chain the animal up.
I was even confronted by the owner one day who said, “My dog has as much right to be running on the road as you, and if you don’t like it find someplace else to run.” Of course this is not true as we have a leash law and dogs are not permitted to roam free.
Everything came to a breaking point a few weeks ago when the animal decided to escalate our relationship by sinking its teeth into my leg, just above the ankle bone, which left six teeth marks and three prominent punctures which drew blood.
I’m partially at fault because I did not notify the Humane Society the 10 to 12 times that the dog came running after me, barking and growling.
I have since filled a police report and have notified the Humane Society.
This was the second complaint filed against the same dog within the last two months and, according to the Humane Society, the owner of the property must now appear in court.
But my case is not unique as many walkers, bike riders, joggers, and the like have been accosted by loose animals.
I didn’t realize this but once you’ve been bitten and file a police report the officer issues a citation to the dog owner and the Humane Society is notified which often results in a court date being issued.
The case then goes to the County Prosecutors Office and they will determine whether or not to pursue liability and seek monetary damages if you required medical attention.
According to Deputy Prosecutor Cody Frenz more than 80 percent of all dangerous dog citations end up in court.
“Victims of dangerous dogs can call the prosecutor’s office and provide the number on the police report to find out when the case will appear before a judge,” Frenz said.
“Citations issued by the police ends up going to the Prosecutors Office and depending on the severity of the case there is a potential for trail,” she said.
Donna Whitaker, Executive Director of the Hawaii Island Humane Society, estimated that seventy-five percent of referred police reports on dangerous dogs make it to court.
Whitaker does advise people who are confronted by loose dogs to make an attempt to speak with the owner prior to reporting the incident to the Humane Society.
“I think the first time we should try to keep the lines of communication open by talking with the owner of the dog,” Whitaker said. “If you don’t get a reasonable response or if the dog is habitually loose, then by all means call the Humane Society.”
“I see some people walking around my neighborhood carrying sticks to protect themselves against loose dogs, but I don’t think I could ever strike a dog,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker believes that the Humane Society is powerless in solving the problem against dangerous dogs saying that the courts have all the teeth in these types of matters.
“We rely on people to obey the law,” she said. “And we try our best to educate people on responsible pet ownership. If it gets to court it’s up to the judge to tell the pet owner what needs to be done.”
Officer Sandor Finkey at the Keaau police station answered a number of my questions and was extremely helpful in leading me through the process.
“Personally I would report every loose dog to the Humane Society and would advise that anyone threatened or bitten by a loose dog file a police report,” Finkey said.
Finkey also suggested that if the Humane Society isn’t open to take your call that you call the police non-emergency number at 935-3311 to report the loose dog.
“Our stance here at the police department is that we want to prevent people from being bitten by dogs and we ask the public’s help in reporting strays,” he said. “We do not permit dogs to stray and will issue a citation to the owner which could carry a $25 fine.”
I also asked a few of my exercise buddies for advice and here is what they shared:
Chris Seymour, owner of Hilo Bike Hub, believes that dogs instinctually want to chase and offered this advice:
“Dogs love to chase and we humans want to try to get away as fast as we can, but the faster we run the faster the dog will run,” Seymour said. “Keeping this in mind I’ll slow down and will start yelling ‘Go Home’.”
“Most dogs also understand ‘NO’ so this is another thing to keep in mind,” he said. “If you are persistently chased by the same dog, carry a water bottle with a fairly strong mixture of Chili Pepper water and if he gets close enough, squirt him in the face.”
Retired special education teacher, Sharon Lehman, follows the water bottle theory, but instead of chili pepper she uses a mixture of water and a fair amount of ammonia.
“It does sting like the devil and stinks like anything,” Lehman said, “but it does no lasting damage to the dog. After being sprayed the first time just the smell of the ammonia will usually send the critter running in the opposite direction.”
Hilo’s Jerry Chang said, “I know most people would be in a panic, but I was told to face the dog and firmly say “SIT! Then pray that it does.”
Firefighter Joe Wedemann swears by the effectiveness of pepper spray which is legal and available in Hilo.
“I always take pepper spray with me,” Wedemann said. “I’ve had to spray more than one dog in my years of running or biking and it worked every time.”
The message I’m trying to send here is to contact the proper authorities whenever a loose animal threatens your right to walk, run or bike on public property and do not wait until it actually bites you or someone else.
Remember to call the Humane Society to report a loose/stray dog and if it is after business hours call the police non-emergency number, 935-3311.
To learn more about the dog bite issue readers should go to the County’s website and check section 4-31.
And someday should you see a jogger doing repetitive laps up and down Shower Drive in HPP remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at email@example.com.