After attacking a woman who was hiking in an Olinda pine forest earlier this month, a pit bull has been deemed dangerous, according to a notice from the Maui Humane Society.
The dog's owner was given the written notice Tuesday of the dangerous dog designation, which carries immediate restraint and confinement requirements, said Maui Humane Society Chief Executive Officer Jocelyn Bouchard.
She said the pit bull, an unspayed 1-year-old female who weighs about 70 pounds, is being kept in the Upcountry area.
The attack occurred at about 5:30 p.m. Aug. 2 while Upcountry resident Kathy Munsen was hiking with her 5 1/2-pound Pomeranian puppy, Bijoux, at Waihou Springs State Forest Reserve at the top of Olinda Road. Munsen said her dog was leashed, but then several people arrived along with the unleashed pit bull that charged up a hill toward Munsen and her puppy.
She was holding up her little dog to keep the animal from being attacked by the pit bull when it chewed on Munsen's arms, at one point having half of Munsen's forearm in its mouth. Eventually, the woman who owns the pit bull showed up to pull the animal off them, Munsen said.
After being helped out of the forest by a visiting nurse who happened to be hiking in the area, Munsen was taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center. She required 20 stitches to her right arm and up to 15 stitches on her left arm.
Because the Maui Humane Society still is investigating possible citations against the pit bull owner, Bouchard said Tuesday, the agency wasn't releasing the owner's name. The name, age and residence of a suspect become public when an arrest is made, regardless of whether the person is being charged.
Bouchard said that when a dog is deemed dangerous, the owner must comply with "a set of very-rigid requirements, including having the dog spayed or neutered."
The dog immediately must be confined to the owner's home in a closed structure, preventing it from leaving, or it is kept outdoors in a locked, fenced-in area that's fully enclosed to prevent escape, according to Maui County Code. When outdoors, the dog must be with someone 18 years of age or older, kept on a leash no more than 3 feet long and muzzled as well to prevent biting.
Within 10 days of the notice, the owner also must post signs saying "beware of dangerous dog" in a prominent and clearly visible location at the access point to the property and in the structure where the dog is confined. Also, within 10 days of the alleged incident, the owner must obtain liability insurance of at least $50,000 to cover medical and veterinary costs resulting from potential future actions of the dog.
Within 30 days, the owner is required to permanently identify the dog by microchip and also must spay or neuter the dog at the owner's expense.
The owner has 10 days to dispute the dangerous dog designation, which would result in a hearing by the Maui County Animal Control Board.
Munsen said the owner told her the dog hadn't attacked a dog or person before.
But Victoria Kray said she believed the same pit bull with the same owner tried to attack her dog in June and recognized it from a recent Maui News article on the Munsen attack.
Kray, who was living in Kuau at the time along the north shore, said her 18-pound female Cockapoo, Neko, was in the yard relieving herself while her owner was nearby.
"We start walking toward the door," Kray told The Maui News. "All of a sudden, I hear a dog come barreling around the corner from across the street. She tried to attack my dog."
Kray said a student of the dog owner, a teacher, was parked near the house and it was the student who pulled the pit bull away.
"The dog was throwing itself at the front door to get at the screen," Kray said. "My dog got away unscathed. That was a close call."
Eventually, Kray said, the owner came over and pulled the dog away.
Because her dog was not injured, Kray said, she didn't report the attack back in June.
But she said she recently called the Maui Humane Society and left a message to try to report the incident after learning about the attack on Munsen.
Bouchard said the agency encourages people to report such incidents when they occur.
"We do have people that will call us and say, 'I don't want this person cited. I just want a record of it, if there's another bite,' " Bouchard said. "That would give us more evidence. Then, we have something on record. Obviously, if we don't know about it, there's not a lot we can do."
Animal control officers have been making random checks on the pit bull that was deemed dangerous at different times of the day, Bouchard said. "The dog has been secured every time we check," she said.
She said there's sometimes a "spike" in reports about unleashed dogs. She said the agency and the county did receive calls about loose dogs at Baldwin Beach Park after a news report came out about the fatal attack by a Rottweiller on a much smaller terrier on July 2, near the entrance to the Paia park.
"Certainly, unleashed dogs are a hot topic right now," Bouchard said. "If the dogs were leashed, these incidents almost without fail would be eliminated."
A first-time leash law violation carries a minimum $50 fine, with penalties increasing for any subsequent violations. Fines also can be ordered for a dog-attack citation, which requires a court appearance for the owner.
Munsen, who is healing from her injuries, said the leash law fine should be increased to $250 as a deterrent.
"If they implemented that at the County Council level, that would really help the problem," she said. "It would be a win-win situation. The county would bring in some bucks. Maybe we would end this issue that's been going on for years."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This article includes a correction from the original published on Friday, August 19, 2011. Because of an editing error, a story published included an incorrect statement about when a suspect's name becomes public. The Maui News apologizes for the error.