Predator bill could outlaw feeding of feral cats on public land
Cat feeding would be against the law punishable by fine starting at $100 or up to $1000 for repeat offenses. But the Hawaiian Humane Society opposes the plan.
It's dinnertime at the Hawaii Kai Park and Ride. A colony of feral cats comes calling when their feeders show up with food in tow. Scenes like this are played out daily across the state.
Cat feeding -- or the feeding of other predators, like dogs, rats, and mongoose -- would be against the law punishable by fine starting at $100 or up to $1000 for repeat offenses.
But the Hawaiian Humane Society opposes the plan.
"We don't think this is very humane approach. What the DLNR is saying is that they don't want any feeding of any cats, which would starve them to death," said Mary Steiner, with the Hawaiian Humane Society.
"We are not condemning these cats to starvation. We want to have them handled as humanely as possible," said Joshua Atwood.
That is at the heart of the dispute -- what some see as cruel, some see as compassionate.
"We also want to stress that the status quo or doing nothing is not humane either because these cats do impact our native wildlife," said Atwood.
Atwood points to eight deaths of Hawaiian monk seals linked to toxoplasmosis, a parasite found only in cat feces.
He says the disease is a threat to endangered native birds like the Nene, the Hawaiian duck and Alala, the Hawaiian crow.
It also poses a health risk to humans too, in particular, expectant mothers and unborn babies.
The bill would not affect cat feeding on private lands, targeting state or public property instead.
The bill stands to affect the cat colony at the University of Hawaii campus in Manoa. It installed cat houses eight years ago in an effort to manage its feral cat problem.
"The University has a great program, registers cats, caregivers and feeders that have rules to follow, and that program seems to work," said Steiner.
The idea is that the colony managed on the concept of trap, neuter and release would eventually die off.
But Atwood disagrees and says the program isn't as successful as some would think. He says DLNR would work to help relocate cat colonies to private land or to have the cats adopted or placed in shelters.
Euthanasia -- or killing the feral cats -- would be a last resort.
Both sides do support funding education programs about pet abandonment and the environmental problems they pose.