For the first time in decades, animal control services on the Big Island will soon no longer be the responsibility of the Hawaii Island Humane Society.
The HIHS Board of Directors declined to bid on a new county contract after functioning on a string of three-month deals since 2018, citing a desire to increase their focus on community outreach, programs and education as their new Animal Community Center in Kona is set to open this summer. In both their yearly and subsequent three-month contracts, HIHS has been paid more than $2 million annually to perform animal control services at three locations in Kona, Keaau and Waimea.
“We feel that being able to pivot and devote all of our attention to those community programs allows us to better fulfill our mission,” said HIHS CEO Dr. Beth Jose. “The discussion with the board about where we really want to focus our efforts became more and more poignant… We determined it was the perfect time for us to be able to pivot and really start to focus on our community programs.”
The deadline for proposals to be submitted to the County of Hawaii was last Wednesday. At least one bid was submitted, headed by Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary.
“Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary is the proposer with four other groups as the sub-proposers: AdvoCATS in Kona, Aloha Animal Advocates, Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network and the Kohala Animal Rescue and Education Services,” said Mary Rose Krijgsman, founder and president of Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Necessary animal control services include issuing dog licenses and county-funded spay and neuter coupons, removal of deceased animals on public property, intake of stray or trapped animals and responding to calls for strays, dangerous animals and loose livestock.
With the current contract scheduled to expire at the end of June, a short-term extension with HIHS may be necessary to ensure a smooth transition to a new contractor.
“We actually have offered and are in discussion with the county and the police department regarding a one-month extension; they had already talked to us about it prior to us informing them of our decision not to put in a bid,” said Jose. “I do not think that we could do it in two weeks, but within a six-week period, we should be able to transfer all of that information and have time to sit down with the police department, with the county, to try to put into place the mile markers we need to make sure everything happens smoothly as we transition.”
The future contractor for animal control will continue to deal with the persistent problem of pet overpopulation on the Big Island. Though HIHS has made recent strides in reducing the county’s high euthanasia rates, dropping to 57% of the 11,912 animals received from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, and 54% over the final six months of 2019, the issue remains significant.
As for HIHS, Jose stated the organization is looking forward to assisting the group that ultimately takes on the responsibilities.
“I’ve started talking with the police department regarding what things I think are most important to start lining up,” said Jose. “… The [HIHS] Board of Directors’ directive to me, as the CEO, was ‘Let’s ensure that, in this transition, continuity of care for the animals occurs and continuity of care for the people who need the programs that animal control provides occurs.’ That’s my job moving forward.”