Council member Berg’s Pet Advocacy Legislation is Well Intentioned, but Needs Work

Hawaiian Humane Society touts record of 22 adoptions per day but advocates say more needs to be done to stop euthanizing animals
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Hawaiian Humane Society touts record of 22 adoptions per day but advocates say more needs to be done to stop euthanizing animals

BY TERESA LYNN CHAGRIN – Honolulu council member Tom Berg should be applauded for his concern for the plight of homeless dogs and cats (“Oahu’s Cats and Dogs on Death Row Deserve Better,” Sept. 24). The legislation he proposes, however, fails to address the source of the problem and would cause more animals to suffer.

Though it’s clear that Mr. Berg has the best of intentions, he fails to consider that the humane society is run by trained professionals familiar with all aspects of the animal overpopulation crisis. Their primary mission is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of animals while protecting the public, not to buoy the spirits of the people who bring animals to shelters.


California’s disastrous Hayden Law, cited by Mr. Berg as the inspiration for his bill, was put together by lawyers and aides with no experience running animal shelters, and it shows: Doing nothing to curb breeding—the real cause of the animal overpopulation crisis—it instead takes away shelters’ ability to keep animals healthy by controlling the spread of diseases and to give the most adoptable animals the best chance of finding a home through necessary means, including euthanasia of animals with little to no chance of adoption.

Under the Hayden Law, shelters couldn’t euthanize the animals they took in unless the animals were already to the point of death—even if that meant enduring prolonged suffering from diseases or injuries that made them unlikely prospects for adoption. One California newspaper, in an article titled, “Too Close for Comfort: New State Law Is Killing Animals,” explained how the law reduced adoptions while raising euthanasia rates.

We all want to see the number of euthanized animals decrease, but the Hayden Law debacle shows that this goal can’t be accomplished just by making it nearly impossible for shelters to use euthanasia to address the current crisis. As one former shelter volunteer explained after visiting an overburdened facility, “As I passed the kennels, each crammed with too many dogs and puppies, many of them sick or diseased, I was reminded again that euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen.”

To become a truly no-kill community means becoming a no-birth community by mandating spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to stop the flow of unwanted litters into shelters. Readers (or council members) who wish to learn more about helping homeless animals can visit

Teresa Lynn Chagrin is an Animal Care & Control Specialist for PETA in Norfolk, VA





  1. Finally, Mary Tully, there is absolutely nothing in the proposal that would stop HHS from implementing a s/n program to reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter. I hope they are already doing so. Aggressive low-cost and free s/n programs are crucial to ending shelter killing in any community.

  2. Valerie just isn't being truthful. Councilman Berg's proposed bill wouldn't just simply require the Honolulu Humane Society to post notification on its website regarding which animals are scheduled to be killed 24 hours in advance, it would require them to contact both registered non-profit and non-registered rescues at least five days prior to an animal's predicted euthanasia. In fact, it requires that ALL listed rescues be contacted five days prior. The language of the bill is this:

    "At a minimum, such notification shall include calling the orqanization’s
    regular and emergency contact numbers, and sending an email to its email
    address, if any. Notification is considered complete as to each individual
    group when this has been accomplished. All notifications shall be
    documented in writing by the animal control contractor and made available
    to the public for at least a year."

    Here's a link to the bill. There's so much more to this issue than 24 hour notification on a website:

    Reading through this bill, it's easy to see why the Hawaii Humane Society would fear crowded and unsafe shelter conditions. Perhaps Valerie should read the bill before commenting further.

    • Glad you finally read it, Mary. Now, can you share your source for your assertion that this kind of notification requirement leads to increased overcrowding and disease?

    • So if the options are killing the pet, or giving them to a rescue that they contacted, how would this cause "crowded and unsafe shelter conditions"?

  3. @xpetafile, PeTA simply echoed the same concerns the Hawaii Humane Society voiced in previous interviews about the legislation. I feel that the HHS has expertise in running a shelter, as well as expertise in assessing the potential risks of overcrowding. They certainly have more expertise in running their shelter than you or I do.

    I actually did read the legislation, and it's nowhere NEAR as simple as Valerie says it is. I suggest YOU read it. In fact, I suggest that everyone commenting on it read it. It is a recipe for perpetual overcrowding and handing animals off to unregulated rescues.

  4. @xpetafile, did you bother to read any of the previous articles on this topic? The HHS states that 40% of Hawaii's residents purchase animals from breeders, and an even higher percentage acquire animals from family members, friends, and casual acquaintances. Spaying and neutering the remaining 20% will reduce the number of unwanted animals, but history tells us that it will not slow the flow of animals into the shelter. The HHS has already been implementing a comprehensive spay and neuter program for quite a long time. Look, I get that you REALLY want PeTA to be wrong on this one, but they're not.

  5. @xpetafile, thank you for finally reading the bill. I see you are no longer saying that it's a simple matter of posting the fates of animals on a website in a timely manner. There's a LOT more to it than that.

    The Hawaii Humane Society isn't sleeping on the job. They adopt out an average of 22 animals a day. Their concerns are for the animals in their care. They fear that they very well may end up euthanizing MORE animals, because disease is extremely hard to control in overpopulated shelters. You really shouldn't disparage the efforts of the HHS without even knowing all of the ways they are already networking animals. Twenty-two adoptions a day is hardly shameful.

    It's a gross oversimplification to say that disease can be controlled by immediately euthanizing sick animals. Animals don't always appear ill upon presentation. Again. I defer to the expertise of the HHS on this, as they have experience that you and I don't have with regards to their shelter.

  6. You are a bad liar Mary. It was clear to me that you hadn't yet read the bill when you commented on Valerie's post earlier. If you had, you would have corrected her "untruth" right away, wouldn't you have? You didn't comment on the actual text of the bill until less than an hour ago. You don't fool anyone. You were simply regurgitating the same kinds of arguments used against similar legislative proposals, arguments with no evidence to back them up. In fact, there is no evidence that giving rescues notice that an animal is going to be euthanized leads to increased overcrowding or disease. Unless you can provide that kind of evidence, you haven't made a strong argument against the proposal. Conjecture is not very persuasive.

  7. If 40% of Hawaii's residents purchase animals from breeders and an even higher percentage acquire animals from family members, there is an untapped market for shelter animals in Hawaii, and shelters and rescues must do a better job of marketing those animals. As I mentioned earlier, that is something that good shelters do voluntarily, and it is why so many are seeing increasing adoption rates and lower euthasia rates.

    Look, I get that you REALLY want to believe that all rescues are hoarders and that killing cats and dogs is preferable to making an effort to save them, but neither belief is accurate. There are thousands of good, reputable rescues caring for and finding homes for animals. And there are millions of shelter animals finding new homes because someone believed those animals' lives were worth saving. The question is, why don't you?

  8. You are confusing me with Valerie, apparently. We are actually two different people, posting different things.

    My guess is that you have never worked in a shelter. Immediately euthanizing sick animals–when your shelter does not have a way to properly isolate them or the resources to care for them; a foster program; or a rescue willing to pull them–is in fact the best way to control the spread of contagious disease. Please don't pretend to be an authority on something you know nothing about.

    • When I've referred to you, I've used your moniker. When I've referred to Valerie, I've used her name. If there's confusion here, it's not coming from me.

      Please. Stop with the oversimplifications. It is said that hand-washing is the single-most effective method of reducing disease transmission, yet there is no shortage of people in doctor's offices and hospitals who have contracted communicable disease. In areas where animals are housed together there will always be animals who present as healthy and deteriorate later, and there will always be animals who have depressed immune systems from shelter stress. That is a deadly combination.

  9. I readily admit that I hadn't read the full text of the bill until last night, but that was not for lack of trying. I searched the bill on all the usual databases, and I couldn't find it. I clearly wasn't using the correct format in my search. A friend finally tracked it down for me, and I read it last night. I may be a dullard, but I certainly wasn't "lying" about anything.

    What I did do prior to yesterday was research Hawaii's Consolidated Dog Law, read archived articles about the issue, and contact the Hawaii Humane Society itself.

    It was clear from that research that this legislation isn't about owner redemption. Hawaii has some of the best owner redemption legislation in place that I have ever seen. Stray animals are held for owner redemption for 48 hours, after which time they are offered for "sale." Even after an animal is sold, his owner has a period of thirty days to redeem the animal, the only caveat being that the owner must pay the purchaser of the animal the full purchase price. If the animal is tagged or micro-chipped, shelters are required to notify the owner in writing and give them nine days to redeem their animal, They also have the lowest redemption fees I've ever seen ($2.50 a day). They also spay and neuter every animal they impound. Clearly this legislation wasn't simply about mandating that the Hawaii Humane Society post a euth list online. The Hawaii Humane society has repeatedly expressed concerns in interviews that the legislation would cause unsafe shelter conditions, and put even more dogs at risk for euthanasia. Simply mandating that the HHS post a euth list would not cause overcrowding. Again. It was not a stretch to assume that the legislation had a little more flesh to it than that, based on the existing legislation, and concerns as voiced by the HHS.

    This is just not a time for oversimplifications such as Valerie's "This is simply about posting a euth list online," or your "The 40% of animals obtained from breeders is an untapped market." That market is certainly being "tapped," in fact, it's being beat about the head and neck already. That is a market that targeted by affluent and powerful animal breeder registries who tell consumers they deserve "a better dog." The legislation we're discussing doesn't address or fund campaigns to wrangle customers away from breeders, that's all in your head. There is absolutely no evidence that that is legislation's intention, or will be its outcome.

    This legislation is about giving unregulated rescues unfettered access to animals, plain and simple, and at the animals' peril. That was obvious from simply reading the Consolidated Dog Laws. The Hawaii Humane Society interviews solidified that. Now, upon reading the text of the bill itself, there is no question that that is precisely what it's about.

  10. The Hawaiian Humane Society is open every day of the year. They comply with the state's generous owner-redemption laws, and they find homes for an average of 22 animals a day. They are open-admission, meaning they take any and every animal upon presentation, and they are dedicated to their spay and neuter program, and community education and outreach. They post pictures and bios of animals who are being offered for adoption on their website–available 24/7/365, and they are not, despite popular misconception–simply refusing to post a euth list. They are saying that becoming a rescue clearinghouse will put more animals at risk for medical euthanasia. HHS isn't the bad guy here. They're doing everything right.

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