Hawai'i State News

Hawai‘i lawmakers to hold public hearing on vicious dog bill

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Bills that would increase the penalties for owners whose dogs have seriously injured or killed someone are moving through the State Legislature with a public hearing scheduled this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Click here to watch the hearing.

Senate Bill 2692 looks to charge owners of a dangerous dog or dogs that fatally maul a person with a class C felony without the possibility of suspension of the sentence. Those charged would be sentenced to no less than a year and no more than five years of imprisonment and pay a fine of no less than $1,000 and no more than $10,000.

This measure, along with its companion bill, House Bill 2058 Draft 1, is striking a chord with the Hawai‘i Island residents as communities have been plagued with packs of dangerous dogs attacking and even killing people, with the dog owners suffering little to no consequence.

If the house bill passes, punishment includes convicting dog owners of a class C felony for a dog attack that results in severe bodily injury, or a class B felony when the attack results in a death.


The family of Bob Northrop have been advocates of the passage of these bills as the 71-year-old man was mauled to death by four dogs while walking to a neighbor’s house in Ocean View last August.

Charges in his death have yet to be filed. The lack of action by law enforcement has his family frustrated.

Northrop’s daughter Shannon Matson submitted testimony for HB2058 saying more needs to be done to protect other animals and people from these dogs.

“Not enough has been done to hold dog owners accountable, and unfortunately, our family and others who have suffered similar losses or severe injuries have faced disappointing responses from the Prosecutor’s Office or the courts as our county laws and state laws are not in agreement,” Matson said.


Two years ago, Shalaye Newman’s daughter Violet was attacked by dogs in Puna while walking home from school with her sister.

Violet was 6 years old at the time of the attack and is partially blind in one eye as a result.

While the dogs that attacked Violet were put down, Newman said a judge involved in the case didn’t think it was likely the dog owners would allow an incident like that to happen again with another animal.

“He was simply given a $400 fine and required to write an apology letter,” Newman said.


After recently driving past the house where Violet was attacked, Newman said the residents have new dogs showing the same aggressive behaviors, barking and growling at the fence.

The Hawai‘i County Council worked to address the problem of vicious dogs with Bill 125, which passed in 2022, before Northrop’s death.

However, with no teeth to the current state laws, it made it impossible to enforce the county’s measure.

The council passed a resolution this month expressing support for the current measures being discussed by lawmakers, urging them to pass them into law.

“Victims feel hopeless and also fear retaliation for even reporting these issues,” stated Sylvia Dolena, with Aloha Animal Advocates, in her written testimony supporting HB2058.

If lawmakers pass the senate bill, it will take effect in January 2025. If the house bill passes, it would go into effect in January 3000.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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