Aggressive dog is barking. Young man with angry black dog on the leash.

Surge in Dog Bite Incidents on the Big Island Raises Community Concerns

The Hawaii Police Department reports a significant rise in dog bite incidents on the Big Island over the last five years. In 2019, there were 87 instances of dog bites, resulting in two arrests and two citations for dog owners. By November 2023, this number had soared to 279 reported bites, with two arrests and 19 citations issued.

Lt. William Derr from East Hawaii Community Policing expressed uncertainty when asked about the cause of this surge, stating, “It’s really hard to say. Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.” Community Policing officers, together with patrol officers from each district, play a key role in handling incidents involving aggressive dogs.

Derr highlighted the role of community policing in managing disputes involving animals, such as loose or barking dogs, aiming to de-escalate conflicts between neighbors.

Although the peak in reports occurred between 2020, the start of the pandemic, and 2021, Derr couldn’t confirm if the pandemic influenced the rise in dog bite incidents. However, 2020 saw 107 reports, and 2021 experienced a sharp increase to 185 bites—a 72.9% jump—with 12 citations issued but no arrests.

A tragic event underscored the problem when Dolores Oskins, aged 85, was fatally mauled by three uncontrolled dogs in 2021. In response, local legislation was strengthened; Bill 125 was enacted, making negligent control of a dangerous dog a Class C felony, potentially leading to a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Despite the new law, 2022 recorded a 24.9% increase in dog bites, with 231 incidents reported. This trend continued into 2023, which was marked by severe attacks, including a fatal one where a man was killed by four dogs.

In one notable 2023 case, Amber Clausen was severely injured by dogs, leading to the arrest and subsequent indictment of the dog owner under the strengthened felony law. However, the charges were dismissed following a restorative justice process.

Another fatal attack occurred when Bob Northrop was killed by four dogs. Although the dogs and a litter of puppies were surrendered to Animal Control, no arrests have been made.

Matthew Runnells, from the county’s Animal Control and Protection, mentioned that their officers undergo six months of training to handle various animal-related incidents effectively, though they do not have arrest powers for felony charges, which require police involvement.
A dog bite lawyer can be a crucial ally for victims of dog attacks, providing expert legal assistance to navigate the often complex aftermath of such incidents. This specialized attorney understands the specific laws and regulations in Honolulu and the wider state of Hawaii that pertain to dog ownership and the responsibilities that come with it.

When an individual is bitten by a dog, they may face significant medical expenses, lost wages due to time off work, and enduring emotional trauma. A dog bite lawyer helps victims understand their rights and the potential avenues for compensation. They can guide clients through the process of filing a claim against the dog owner’s homeowners insurance policy, which typically covers injuries inflicted by pets. The lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of the victim to secure a settlement that adequately covers all medical costs and compensates for any pain and suffering endured.

Moreover, if the case goes to court, a dog bite lawyer is prepared to represent the victim effectively. They can help gather evidence to demonstrate the owner’s negligence, such as failing to secure the dog or not adhering to local leash laws. This evidence is crucial for proving liability in dog bite cases.

Legal representation is also valuable when dealing with more severe cases that involve gross negligence or malicious intent. For example, if a dog owner knowingly allowed a dangerous dog to roam free, resulting in a fatal attack, a dog bite lawyer could push for more severe legal repercussions against the owner, including criminal charges.

In addition to helping victims, a Honolulu Dog Bite Lawyer plays a role in advocating for public safety and responsible pet ownership. By holding negligent dog owners accountable, these lawyers help enforce dog control laws, potentially preventing future attacks and contributing to safer community environments. Their work not only seeks justice for individual clients but also promotes a broader awareness and adherence to laws designed to protect the public from dangerous animals.


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