Oahu’s Cats and Dogs on Death Row Deserve Better

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 CITY COUNCIL MEMBER TOM BERG – The City and County of Honolulu are responsible for writing the terms of the contract it has with the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) since the HHS receives $2.3 million to perform certain tasks for the county. However, instead of the City dictating to the HHS the terms and conditions it wants executed, the HHS is calling all the shots like it or not- a sort of take it or leave it approach.

I introduced Bill 57 to call on the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) to do a better job of notifying the public when it euthanizes over 10,000 cats and some 3,000 dogs each year. Bill 57 was deferred in the Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee a couple of weeks ago.


I have vowed to amend the bill and keep discussions going by simply instructing the HHS to list the number of cats and dogs that are to be euthanized 24-hours in advance on its website. This will permit members of the public and other entities in the No Kill realm to take action if they want and rescue those animals that are without a voice. Bill 57 CD1 would open up rescue efforts for those animals being put down for just being on this earth and have committed no crime other than to exist.

Right now, HHS does not conduct its business to alert those wanting to adopt an animal on death row to be apprised of such and keeps those animals about to die away from public view. If you walked in the HHS to view animals that are available for adoption, you will witness the void, the aftermath of purging thousands of animals from the very onset that are not on display that have been determined by HHS, to be unadoptable.

Bill 57 CD1 in its amended form would not create any added expenses for HHS nor would it hamper their operations since HHS already has a website and already has a list of animals scheduled to die each day.

A few years ago, I took in a feral cat that I saw trapped in a cage. I asked my condominium association that trapped the cat to let me have the cat. That very night, the cat gave birth to four kittens. When I first put my hand in the cage, the cat hissed and was frightened and wanted no contact with me. This is the criteria HHS uses – that if a cat hisses at you when you try to approach it while in a cage, it goes to the oven for disposal and deemed unadoptable and put out of sight.

After the feral cat gave birth, and it was given time to adjust to its new environment, it began to sit on my lap and followed me everywhere I went and loved to be petted.

I found homes for three of the four kittens and decided that after a few months I was not able to care for the cat and the remaining kitten and took them to the HHS for adoption. After about three days, I got sick to my stomach and felt so sad about leaving the cats at the shelter that I changed my mind and went back to the HHS to reclaim them.

The HHS stated that I had no right to know what happened to the cats and that when they were surrendered; the process is that the information remains confidential as to what happens next. I asked the HHS if they were adopted, they refused to answer. I asked it the cats were in a holding pen somewhere in the building and HHS refused to disclose that. Since the cats were not in the adopting view area, I asked to see the cats in cages waiting to be euthanized. HHS would not let me see those cats at all.

Bill 57 CD1 is that form of a stay of execution; only in this case it’s not the governor making that call, but we the people. Bill 57 CD1 is to allow one last chance of hope for those who have done nothing wrong to be given a chance of being saved.

Some dogs will growl at strangers and want to bite them and attack them while other people witness that same dog wanting to get their belly scratched. One cat may purr when held by a stranger and for another handling it, bite them. For HHS to determine who gets killed and who gets a chance for adoption is archaic and inhumane and for the state of California, it has a law to stop what HHS practices each day.

I will be holding a public hearing on October 9, at 10:30 a.m. at Honolulu Hale on this matter and encourage testimony on Bill 57 CD1 that if passed, will mandate that the HHS, if it wants to continue to receive city funds, must post on its website the number of animals about to be killed 24-hours in advance. This is the least we can do as a civilized society. We should follow in the footsteps of California law and offer hope, offer redemption, offer those unloved, to be loved…especially for those who have no say and are to be turned into ashes for no reason other than for monetary circumstances.





  1. Good for you! We have the same problem here in Fresno, CA- except that our CCSPCA kills over 100 animals PER DAY. No notice of animals being killed, no pictures of animals posted for adoption- an over 80% kill rate upwards of 35,000 PER YEAR.

    When we started demanding transparency about the high rate, asked what the 3 million in city tax funds and 3 million in private donations were being used for, they shut their meetings to the public. When we continued, they shut the doors to rescue groups and would not allow any of the animals to be rescued. When we pushed more, they took their ball and went home- cancelled their contract with the city. Even though city funds had been used to build the shelter and facilities, poor planning (50 years with this SPCA) left all of theland and property in their ownership, and though they refused to continue AC and public sheltering, they refused to let the city use their now-unused facilities until we could build a new shelter.

    Six months later, we still don't have a shelter, and now suddenly, the CCSPCA is willing to 'continue' their services on a 6-month at a time contract, terms dictated by them, not the city.

    I hope you are successful with your bill. We all need to start working toward a no-kill sheltering system that takes the profit out of animal services, reduces the numbers of unwanted animals, and eliminates the need for most of those services by default.

  2. Coming from the state of Delaware, that has enacted similar legislation, I encourage lawmakers to NOT pass this legislation. This legislation has a number of pitfalls from creating a logjam that does allow the opportunity for more health outbreak concerns, and yes we have seen more outbreaks, to taking the judgment away from shelters and forcing them to work with questionable rescues which can also have tragic consequences. In Delaware we saw this within a few months of CAPA being enacted. This first case was not only harmful to the animals, it was also harmful to the fosters that took animals from this rescue. To my knowledge, there is still an ongoing Attorney General investigation into this case, which is also costly to the taxpayers This is the report detailing. https://nokilldelaware.org/sitebuildercontent/site

    To see a picture of the healthy dog released to the rescue in question and the emaciated dog found while under their case, see this site. It should provide you with an illustration of what happens if you pass similar legislation https://delawarecapa.blogspot.com/2011/07/collabor

    Here was the rescue involved in that first case. Considering they launched this FB shortly after made their complaint on May 29, 2011, and the last post was days later on June 3, 2011, do you really think this was a legitimate rescue? This is what you will be opening your doors to with this legislation. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canine-Nation/2064

    CAPA has been divisive, costly, and harmful to the animals of our state, so I hope consider the ramifications before going down this road. There has been relatively no increase in transfers to rescues, and euthanasia statistics have not gone down in any significant amount. The only thing we have to show for CAPA is an exploding cat population which would be devastating ecologically to a state such as Hawaii. Unfortunately our state officials did not do their due diligence, but you still have an opportunity to consider the issues before you place your shelters and the animals in jeopardy.

  3. For a very different perspective on shelters in Delaware, I recommend that Hawaii readers follow No Kill Delaware on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NoKillDelaware?fref=ts

    A blog post today from No Kill Delaware paints a devastating picture of the Kent County, Delaware SPCA at the beginning of this year: https://www.nokilldelaware.org/?p=732

    Stockton, California's public shelter kills thousands of animals illegally every year and the city will do nothing about it: https://www.facebook.com/centralcaliforniapetsaliv

    New York City's public shelters are notorious for their filth, abuse, and needless killing: https://johnsibley.com/2012/05/30/the-myth-i-hate-

    Memphis Animal Services kills 70 percent of its intake and, in three different years, employees have been charged with animal cruelty. You can read an extraordinary and damning slew of stories by going to the YesBiscuit blog and typing "Memphis" into its search box.

    Minneapolis Animal Care & Control kills 60 percent of its intake despite being overpaid and underworked: https://fixmpls.blogspot.com/2012/09/lost-pet-post

    Animal shelters all over the country, in fact, hide behind the word "unadoptable," shut rescues out, ban volunteers who complain about the killing, and continue to kill animals who should find homes. Each shelter is overseen at the local level, but, whether in Hawaii, the Midwest, the Northeast, or the South, these facilities are really all alike — the system is one of institutionalized cruelty, and those who defend it are wrong.

    • And regarding that "blog post from No Kill Delaware paints a devastating picture of the Kent County, Delaware SPCA", let's make sure the Hawaii readers and council have the full story. The post was written by a person who works for the "no-kill" shelter Faithful Friends 2 days after one of the "no-kill" shelter's long term dogs attacked another dog in a local park, and had to be shot to death to get it to release the victim dog. Her post is halfway down, feel free to click on her profile to see who she works for. https://www.facebook.com/NoKillDelaware/posts/537

      I guess the bad press for her shelter jolted her into remembering details of this fantasy about another shelter from 9 months ago;) Fortunately it wasn't a child walking the victim dog. Paco sounds like the kind of dog everyone wants to adopt, but that's okay if a dog is aggressive, as long as the shelter meets the live release quota.

      "Paco, a resident of the Faithful Friends no-kill animal shelter in Wilmington for the last two years, was being walked in the park by shelter employee Lamotte Howard, 23, when the attack happened.
      Police say Howard had let Paco off his leash to let him run in the park.

      Police say Howard and Blythe tried unsuccessfully to separate the two dogs. Blythe then got the pit bull into a head lock, pulled out a .9mm handgun and shot the dog in the head. Paco died instantly.

      Fitz was taken to a nearby animal hospital to be treated for his wounds. He is expected to recover."

      And as long as we're discussing public safety, they may want to take into account the Austins bite rate increased 35%, while their population only grew by 4% from 2009 to 2011. https://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=

  4. Mr. Berg may be the worlds nicest gentleman, but he needs to do his homework. A study of the places where legislation has been passed that interferes witht he ability of the shelter to manage it's own population is self explaining. The language in that bill is extremely labor intensive, putting the shelter in the position of being victimized by the process of " false holds" where well meaning people put a hold on an animal to buy it time, not understanding that they have bought a time reprieve for one animal while taking the life of another.
    This is a mandate for the introduction of the No Kill Equation which has a tremendous negative impact on the shelter animals caught in it's maw. The surrounding community is simply bankrupted leaving no animal services for public safety.

    • Animal shelters have a duty to citizens to make publicly available information about the animals that are about to be killed in order to give people a last-chance opportunity to find their lost pets that had no business being in the shelter and on death row to begin with and to give rescue groups and individuals the opportunity to remove them from the shelter to give them a new lease on life. A very, very small percentage of animals entering the shelter system – anywhere on the planet – is unworthy of that. Citing one controversial case in Delaware (J Jacob Carter) hardly supports the claim that releasing more animals for adoption has had disastrous results in DE. I can't believe someone would argue that killing more animals/retaining a high rate of euthanasia is a good thing. Many animals that end of in shelters are or were someone's pets. Animals in shelters become stressed in that abnormal environment, so it's logical to assume that animal behaviors will be anything but their normal behavior within a shelter. No temperament test exists that can be used as a predictor of behavior outside that environment. No temperament test typically used by shelters today was ever meant to make life-or-death decisions for those animals; they were developed as a way to customize a behavioral modification/training plan for the animal being tested in order to help the animal. Neo's case (RIP, Neo) is unresolved.

  5. @ Karen F there is nothing substantive in your post, so I'm uncertain what you are trying to do other than post links to personal agenda blogs. Animal shelters serve the needs of many, sometimes performing public duties, often safety is part of that
    .Only a couple of states out of the many approached have fallen for this unfunded mandate, California is certainly doing it's best to shed Hayden's bill. I don't think Mr. Berg wants to be know as the next Hayden. My home state of Florida even fought to keep it out, and they're usually willing to try the wrong thing at least once.The animal welfare professionals should have the final say on the deposition of an animal in their care. If the animal its truly adoptable, it would not be on the list had the "rescue" acted in a prompt fashion. This is a feeble attempt by the rescue world to use shelter facility space to hold an animal they " may" want. This takes space away from incoming animals.

    • I think the point KarenF was trying to make is that shelters could do a BETTER job than killing 70-90 percent of the animals taken in (by being more open with the public, by giving ample opportunity for adoptions, or whatever). No one is trying to force shelters to hold animals indefinitely; it doesn't bode well for an animal's mental wellbeing to languish in a cell for a long period of time. What the public deserves is awareness of the animals that are about to die. KarenF mentioned a few places that are notorious for NOT telling the public about the animals in their care, for NOT working with rescue groups to get them OUT, and for NOT keeping them as healthy as possible (with BASIC care and cleanliness) while in their care. The majority of pets are not microchipped; dogs slip collars all the time and lose ID tags; many cats don't wear collars willingly; pets can go missing for months or years, and they don't all fare well while fending for themselves. Don't they ALL deserve a fair chance when they end up in a shelter?

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