Open Season for Peacocks
Peacocks are among the most beautiful creatures on Earth, but on January 21, a Hawaii jury decided that looks aren’t enough to protect these majestic birds from being pests. A jury found Susan Maloney, age seventy, not guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree for killing peacock with a baseball bat.
Mrs. Maloney admitted to killing the bird after listening to a pack of peafowl cry for hours outside her condominium in Makaha Valley, located on Oahu. She ran outside with her baseball bat intending to only scare the pack of birds away but when one refused to leave her barbeque and began to defecate in front of her she claims she “lost it.” She grabbed it by the back and killed it with single blow to the head.
Under Hawaii statute §711-1109 “a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals in the second degree if the person knowingly [or] intentionally . . . beats any animal . . . or kills without need any animal other than insects, vermin, or other pests.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail time and a $2,000 fine.
Covering the verdict, MSNBC quoted Kenneth Kaneshiro, the city prosecutor, saying that the city would continue to “vigorously prosecute cases of excessive cruelty or ill-treatment of animals.” The article failed to examine the effects this decision may have on future animal cruelty cases.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources in Hawaii does not require individuals to obtain a permit to kill an invasive species. An invasive species is defined as a non-native species that is a threat to human health, the environment, or the economy.
While peacocks are not listed on the Hawaii Invasive Species Council’s high profile pests list, they could qualify under the current statute. Peafowl are not indigenous to the island. They roam in packs, have loud mating calls, and destroy rare, native foliage in public parks.
The destruction of rare plants was one of the reasons that island officials in Hawaii Kai, a town located about forty-five miles from Mrs. Maloney’s condominium, ordered the termination of eighteen peafowl that inhabited a public botanical garden. Oahu’s Department of Parks and Recreation has contracted with the USDA Wildlife Services to care for and manage the animals in the public parks. The peafowl were killed by either carbon monoxide poisoning or a gunshot to the head. Both techniques are recognized as humane methods for controlling nuisance animal populations.
Peafowl met the requirements for elimination in Hawaii Kai. But the peafowl that inhabit Mrs. Maloney’s condo village were spared elimination because the island’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has no jurisdiction over peafowl on private residential property.
The jury agreed with Mrs. Maloney that peacocks are pests. Its decision, paired with the island officials’ actions in Hawaii Kai, strongly suggest that Hawaii should officially consider peafowl to be an invasive species. And if the peafowl are recognized as pests, can the District Attorney still charge people with animal cruelty if they kill a peacock?
It is still the District Attorney’s job to charge those individuals who kill nuisance animals with animal cruelty because the law protects all animals, even pests, from being treated in a cruel manner.
When Mrs. Maloney was first charged it seemed that she would be found guilty of animal cruelty because she had beat and killed an animal, and both are actions that are prohibited under the statute. But the jury determined that she was not guilty for two reasons: The bird was a pest and she had delivered only one blow to the bird. The jury believed that hitting an animal more than once implied cruelty in the attacker and found her actions insufficient to fall within the confines of the animal cruelty statute.
Currently there are few ways the government can help with those living in residential areas that have been overrun by the local peacock population. But unless a higher court rules that these beautiful pests can be killed without any repercussions, those who react as Mrs. Maloney reacted had better have just as steady aim with their bats as she did.