New proposal could turn cat lovers into criminals

DLNR supports proposal that will criminalize feeding feral cats on State lands
Published: Feb. 13, 2016 at 4:38 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2016 at 4:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) supports the plan to outlaw the feeding of feral cats on state lands. But lawmakers need to get past some intense critics first.

There are an estimated 300,000 feral cats on Oahu alone. Most people agree it is a problem and something has to be done. But those who oppose Senate Bill 2450 said to stop feeding them is not the right answer.

"If someone says, 'I don't like you, you're a pest, I'm gonna kill you.' I'm sure you would come up with a solution really, really quickly," said one testifier Friday afternoon.

Senate Bill 2450 calls for criminal action against those who release, feed, water, or care for unrestrained predators on state lands. For this measure, "predators" mean feral cats.

The DLNR supports it.

"This does not address people's pets that they have in their homes or their private property. It doesn't address any action on private property at all. This measure is specific to feral cats that are wild animals living on state, public lands," said DLNR Invasive Species Coordinator Josh Atwood.

Under SB 2450, there would be an administrative fine of $100 for a first violation; $500 for a second violation; or $1,000 for a third or subsequent violation.

Atwood said the measure is needed because feral cats have a negative impact on native wildlife in Hawaii. He said the majority of all U.S. species extinctions have happened in Hawaii and cats are a contributing factor of that.

"The department is not in favor of inhumane treatment of any animal and we do not intend for this measure to result in the starvation of cats," Atwood said.

"Today you will likely hear a lot of testimony about a management process called T.N.R. or "Trap-Neuter-Release." There is an abundance of scientific evidence and peer review journals that "Trap-Neuter-Release" does not work as a long term manager tool," said Atwood.

However, opponents of the bill said not feeding is an indirect way of killing.

"We put our own money and time into doing this, and to criminalize that? I feel that's criminal of the people who want to do this. They should be put in jail," said the testifier.

The current state law states, 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.

"I'm sorry; it's a lazy man's process. Killing is lazy, killing is not a strategy, and that's what they do right now, that's the strategy that they embrace, it's the only one that they know," said Alicia Maluafiti, president of Poi Dogs and Popoki.

"This bill makes no sense. It's all about kill, kill, kill, kill, kill. When are we gonna stop this nonsense? This is not part of a scientific way of controlling an animal of overpopulation and it's all about hype. Let's blame the cats," said Frannie Pueo, president of Hui Pono Holoholona.

Lawmakers deferred taking action on the bill, but it could come back up again sometime next week.

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