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HOA Revokes Cat-Feeding Fines, But Condo Owner Still Unhappy With Decision

By Tom Hasslinger
June 23, 2022, 3:00 PM HST
* Updated June 24, 9:41 AM
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Pamela Cooper

The homeowner’s association that levied $26,000 in fines against a Keauhou condo owner for feeding two wild cats rescinded the fines.

The Keauhou Palena Board of Directors issued the reversal June 21 following a hearing on the matter involving condo owner Pamela Cooper, stating in a letter to Cooper that all fines levied against her are void. It goes on to tell her that should she continue feeding 9-year-old felines Bob and Carol after 30 days of the notice, she could be subject to new fines.

Cooper said she doesn’t know if she will adhere to the board’s direction. She said the rescinding of the fines seemed nice at first glance, but doesn’t address the problem directly, which is how and where the cats are going to eat.

“That looked real good on paper, but the bottom line is they still want me to starve the cats,” Cooper said. “The cats are going to continue to be fed.”

Cooper was getting fined $100 a day for 259 days in a row for feeding the two cats when she received notice of the penalty in March.

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The letter listed the bylaws that prohibit feeding and keeping animals and informed Cooper she had been warned since June of 2021 that such a punishment could be levied against her if she continued to feed the animals.

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But even after the fine notice, Cooper continued to feed the cats and the monetary penalties continued to mount, leading to a hearing June 16 between Cooper, her attorney, the board of directors and its attorney.

The cats eat on Cooper’s lanai. PC: KARES

Cooper maintains that the cats have lived on the grounds of the condo complex for nine years, longer than Cooper has owned her condo there. They don’t bother any of the neighbors and are healthy animals that keep other feral cats away. Cooper says they have come to rely on her condo as their feeding grounds and their home. To remove food from a place they come to expect it would be animal abuse by state statute definition.

That is why the board’s ruling doesn’t solve the problem, Cooper and her attorney, Sara Vargas, both said.

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Where is Cooper expected to feed the cats if she can’t do it on her property where they live? To feed them off property, where they wouldn’t be subjected to HOA rules, would be to trespass on someone else’s private property.

“We’re grateful for that,” Vargas said about the board rescinding the fines. “But that doesn’t solve the problem.”

Vargas said a more workable situation would have been to have the cats grandfathered into the property for the rest of their natural lives. That would allow them to continue to be fed without taking the no-animal, no-feeding rule off the books.

As it stands now, with the fines rescinded, Cooper isn’t facing a punishment, so there wouldn’t be an appeal process to lobby for such a decision, Vargas said.

At least not yet.

If Cooper continues to feed the cats and fines start to accumulate again, another appeal hearing could be the avenue the parties travel.

The Keauhou Palena Board of Directors provided this statement to Big Island Now on Friday morning stating, among other things, it couldn’t comment on specifics of the case but that not feeding the animals wouldn’t be a violation of state statute.

“The fining of an owner by the Association of Apartment Owners of Keauhou Palena and any resultant appeals process is a private proceeding between the Association and the owner. The Association will therefore not comment on any specific pending case or proceeding involving an owner. 

“However, the Association will generally state that the AOAO follows the procedures set forth in its governing documents for dealing with violations of the governing documents and in imposing fines. The Association does so to protect the health, safety and well-being of its owners and residents and the Keauhou Palena property.

“The Board of Directors of Keauhou Palena is responsible for enforcing violations of the governing documents which are brought to the Board’s attention. An owner who objects to or disagrees with a particular provision in the governing documents can seek to change or amend the provision.  However, an owner cannot unilaterally decide not to abide by the governing documents. In such instances, the Board has no choice but to enforce the governing documents and to impose any penalties and fines provided for by the governing documents.

It has been alleged that Keauhou Palena’s prohibition against feeding feral cats and other animals on Keauhou Palena property conflicts with Hawaii statutes relating to the feeding of animals.  The prohibition does not conflict with the statutes as it prohibits the feeding of feral cats and other animals only on Keauhou Palena property and does not prohibit or prevent such animals from being fed in places or locations other than Keauhou Palena property.”

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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