HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
RELATING TO animal caretakers.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that feral cats are non-domesticated cats that typically live outdoors in colonies with other feral cats. The fact that feral cats have not been socialized to interact with humans makes it impractical to place them into adoptive homes. Feral cat colonies create numerous problems for the cats themselves, as well as for as the communities that find their presence to be a nuisance.
The legislature also finds that mongooses are small animals similar in appearance to weasels that feed on small mammals, reptiles, and bird and sea turtle eggs and hatchlings. According to the department of land and natural resources, in 1999, it was estimated that mongooses caused approximately $50,000,000 in annual damages to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
The legislature recognizes that feral cats and mongooses have had a devastating impact on the State's indigenous wildlife, including indigenous birds, monk seals, and sea turtles. For example, in 2020, a Hawaiian monk seal died after suffering from a disease known as toxoplasmosis, which is caused by an infection with the feline-spread Toxoplasma gondii parasite.
The legislature notes that feral cats can reproduce at an alarming rate. It is estimated that one unspayed female cat and her unaltered offspring can produce more than four hundred thousand cats within seven years. Although counties may attempt to control the feral cat population by euthanizing feral cats, euthanasia does not address the problem of exponential increases in the cat population. When cats from a colony are euthanized, they leave a vacuum that is filled when other unsterilized cats enter the same colony and start reproducing.
The legislature further finds that the trap-sterilize-return process is not only more humane than euthanization, but less costly. In the trap-sterilize-return process, animals are caught in humane traps, sterilized so that they can no longer reproduce, and surgically ear-tipped or ear-notched on one ear so that they may be easily identified as sterilized. The process may also include removing fleas and vaccinating the animals. When sterilized cats are returned to their respective colonies, unsterilized cats are less likely to take their place. Thus, with the trap-sterilize-return process, colony populations can reduce gradually over time.
The purpose of this Act is to promote the humane treatment of feral cats and mongooses by:
(1) Requiring the department of health to contract with a nonprofit animal rescue group to oversee caretakers of feral cats and mongooses;
(2) Exempting registered caretakers of feral cats and mongooses from state and county laws relating to the feeding and confinement of cats and mongooses; provided that the caretakers are registered with the contracted rescue group; and
(3) Establishing a feral cat and mongoose trap-sterilize-return process.
SECTION 2. The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
FERAL CATS AND MONGOOSES
§ -1 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
"Caretaker" means a person who provides or attempts to provide food and care to one or more feral cats or mongooses within the State.
"Colony" means a group of feral cats or mongooses that congregate and live together at a location within the State.
"Contracted rescue group" means the rescue group that has entered into a contract with the department of health pursuant to this chapter.
"Department" means the department of health.
"Feral cat" means a cat that is not:
(1) Owned by any person, or has been abandoned by its owner; or
(2) Confined by any person to any real property.
"Registered caretaker" means a person who is registered as a caretaker pursuant to this chapter.
"Rescue group" means a society or organization that:
(1) Is incorporated and in good standing as a nonprofit corporation pursuant to chapter 414D;
(2) Is incorporated for the purpose of providing shelter to animals, promoting animal welfare, preventing cruelty to animals, or a substantially similar purpose;
(3) Euthanizes or arranges to euthanize an animal only after a licensed veterinarian has determined that:
(A) The animal is suffering from an injury, terminal illness, or other health problem that severely affects the animal's quality of life; and
(B) Euthanization is necessary to alleviate the animal's suffering; and
(4) Is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
"Trap-sterilize-return process" means a process that includes capturing a feral cat or mongoose, arranging for its sterilization, complying with other applicable standards, and subsequently releasing the feral cat or mongoose.
§ -2 Contracted rescue group responsibilities. By January 1, , the department shall contract with a rescue group to:
(1) Register caretakers of feral cats and mongooses;
(2) Maintain records of the names and contact information of registered caretakers;
(3) Submit an annual report to the department that includes, at a minimum:
(A) The number of registered caretakers;
(B) The number of feral cats and mongooses captured by registered caretakers;
(C) The location of each known colony; and
(D) An estimate of the number of feral cats or mongooses in each known colony that have been sterilized;
(4) Instruct and provide informational materials to each registered caretaker regarding the care of feral cats or mongooses, as applicable, and the trap-sterilize-return process;
(5) Distribute humane animal traps to registered caretakers at no cost or at a reasonable cost;
(6) Monitor registered caretakers' compliance with this chapter and any rules adopted under this chapter;
(7) Revoke the registration of any caretaker who fails to comply with this chapter or any rules adopted under this chapter; and
(8) Develop and distribute information and plan events to educate the general public on the care of feral cats and mongooses and the trap-sterilize-return process.
§ -3 Registered caretaker privileges. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, a registered caretaker shall be exempt from any state law or county ordinance that:
(1) Prohibits or requires a permit for the feeding of stray animals;
(2) Mandates the confinement of cats or mongooses; or
(3) Limits the number of animals that a person may own, harbor, or have custody of;
provided that this section shall not be construed to limit the enforcement of any law or ordinance prohibiting cruelty to animals if enforcement is not solely based on the fact that the registered caretaker is feeding feral cats or mongooses in a public or private location.
§ -4 Registered caretaker responsibilities; trap-sterilize-return process. (a) A registered caretaker who elects to participate in the trap-sterilize-return process shall:
(1) Use humane animal traps that, when in good working order and used properly, do not cause harm to cats or mongooses;
(2) Not leave a set animal trap unattended for more than four hours;
(3) Not leave an animal trap unattended for more than a reasonable time if the caretaker knows that the animal trap contains a cat or mongoose;
(4) Have each captured feral cat or mongoose sterilized by a licensed veterinarian;
(5) Have the left ear of each sterilized male feral cat tipped or notched;
(6) Have the right ear of each sterilized female feral cat tipped or notched;
(7) Have each sterilized mongoose appropriately marked in a manner that signifies that the mongoose has been sterilized;
(8) Have each captured feral cat or mongoose:
(A) Examined and treated for flea infestation; and
(B) Vaccinated from communicable diseases;
(9) After following the procedures in paragraphs (4) through (8), as applicable, return the cat or mongoose to the location where the caretaker initially captured the cat or mongoose; and
(10) Maintain a log of the number of cats or mongooses, or both, the caretaker has caused to complete the trap-sterilize-return process, and submit a copy of the log to the contracted rescue group not less than once per month;
provided that a caretaker shall not be required to comply with paragraphs (5) through (8) if compliance is cost-prohibitive.
(b) A registered caretaker shall be exempt from any requirement of subsection (a) if the requirement would adversely affect the health of a feral cat or mongoose or if a licensed veterinarian determines that a feral cat or mongoose should be euthanized because:
(1) The animal is suffering from an injury, illness, or other health problem that severely affects the animal's quality of life; and
(2) Euthanization is necessary to alleviate the animal's suffering.
(c) A registered caretaker shall comply with:
(1) This chapter and rules adopted under this chapter; and
(2) All state laws and county ordinances that prohibit cruelty to animals.
§ -5 Rules. Not later than January 1, , the department shall adopt rules, pursuant to chapter 91, necessary for the purposes of this chapter."
SECTION 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
DOH; Feral Cats; Mongooses; Sterilization; Animal Rescue Group
Requires the Department of Health to contract with a nonprofit animal rescue group to oversee caretakers of feral cats and mongooses. Exempts registered caretakers of feral cats and mongooses from state laws and county ordinances relating to the feeding and confinement of cats and mongooses. Establishes a trap-sterilize-return process.
The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.