HONOLULU (AP) — Animal lovers in Hawaii packed a legislative hearing room Thursday with poodles and pugs, asking lawmakers to ban the practice of eating cats and dogs in the state.
The House Committee on Agriculture later advanced SB 2026, a bill to ban the practice.
The Humane Society of the United States says dog slaughter for human consumption is happening across Hawaii. The group receives at least two reports a year of dogs or cats being slaughtered for food, but it says it's hard for law enforcement to catch animal slaughterers.
"When we do get these reports of cases of dog or cat slaughter, unless they're caught in the act, law enforcement is not able to really prosecute," said Inga Gibson, Hawaii senior state director for the Humane Society, which pushed for the bill.
Eating meat from cats and dogs is considered acceptable in other countries, including parts of Asia. And while many Americans eat pigs or cows, consuming meat from those animals is vilified elsewhere.
The Oahu Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said dogs and cats are considered members of many families.
One woman, Sara Knaus, cradled a Pomeranian as she read a note that her son wrote to lawmakers.
"I love my dog too much and all dogs should be loved, not eaten," Knaus read. Dogs can help people with disabilities, she said, noting the letter was the first thing that her son, who has autism, had ever written.
Dogs also sacrificed their lives for the country while working with the military, said Jane Shiraki, a Honolulu resident.
"Dogs are people too, because they have the ability to experience emotions," Shiraki said. "Please protect these animals."
Rep. Romy Cachola emphasized that his family members have pets, but he questioned the need for a new law when one is already in place.
"I cannot understand why we're doing this," Cachola said.
Rep. Jessica Wooley, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the bill tightens existing law.
"There are cases every year, and they're not able to prosecute fully because of the way the law is currently written," Wooley said.
The committee amended the bill to include all pets, not just cats and dogs. Cachola and Rep. Clift Tsuji voted against the measure, and several other lawmakers expressed reservations.