No citations issued under Hawaii's feral bird feeding ban

Published: Oct. 7, 2013 at 9:08 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 7, 2013 at 10:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are some ruffled feathers over a new ban on the excessive feeding of feral birds. Some families believe the state isn't doing enough to enforce the law, but health officials said their hands are tied.

Theodore Nakamura, 66, has been feeding about 70 pigeons twice a day at his Honolulu home for decades. He recently received a warning letter from the state, but he plans to continue his hobby.

"I enjoy them. I like them. I like pigeons. I had them from when I was a kid, but then I stopped and raised again," said Nakamura.

Nakamura said his neighbors have never complained to him about the droppings or feathers. He was surprised to be one of a handful of feeders who recently received a letter from the state urging him to stop.

"Where is the nuisance? I don't see birds on the apartments, only on my roof and the pigeon loft, and sometimes in the driveway," said Nakamura.

A new law passed in July bans the excessive feeding of feral birds. The Hawaii State Department of Health can order a person to stop or insist that the mess be removed by an outside party. Violators can also be fined up to $10,000 per offense.

"There were all these remedial steps, but my concern is at this point, it seems that the only thing the health department is willing to do is to issue a letter of complaint," said State Rep. Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades). He introduced the bill to ban the feeding of feral birds.

"We did not find any of the complaints rising to the level where it was injurious or dangerous to health or tending to cause sickness or disease as the law prescribes," said Peter Oshiro of the Hawaii State Department of Health.

Over in Pearl City, neighbors said the letters seem to have curbed two feeders for now, but some wonder why the state isn't creating specific standards to enforce the ban.

"Unless you have a scientific correlation between the droppings and disease then you really can't create a standard. Anything would be arbitrary and capricious," explained Oshiro. "We don't have millions and millions of dollars to conduct long-term studies on the effects of bird droppings on public health."

Nakamura said unless he is ordered to stop, he'll continue feeding his flock.

"I'd like to keep my birds. I don't know who's complaining or if they're getting sick," said Nakamura.

Oshiro suggested a ban on bird-feeding in specific spots, similar to the rules around the Honolulu Zoo. Rep. Takayama, however, said that ordinance only covers city land, not private property. He also pointed out that a ban wouldn't allow a resident to have a small bird-feeder in their backyard.

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