Thursday, Dec. 08, 2022|
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Council members are set to get an update today on animal control services provided by the Hawaii Police Department.
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball requested the 30-minute discussion with the department before the Committee on Parks and Recreation and Public Safety about the status of services, facilities and future plans for the program.
The discussion comes in the wake of a Change.org petition started in July by resident Lori Johnson, of Hawaii Island Pets Alive, and signed by over 30,000 people calling for changes to Hawaii County’s animal control program.
“The system needs to change in order for animals to have a fair chance and for animal control staff to be able to do their job. And, this system includes the County of Hawaii, the Animal Control Laws, and the Community. We are proposing a better system by bringing to light that the old system no longer works and has not worked for decades,” she said in July announcing the petition.
The Hawaii Police Department assumed responsibility over animal control services in July 2021 after the county terminated its contract with Hawaii Rainbow Rangers. The rangers took over animal control services after long-time contract holder Hawaii Island Humane Society declined to bid in 2020.
The police department currently manages two animal shelter facilities on the island, one in East Hawaii and one in West Hawaii. Both shelters have remained full, with many animals getting transferred to nonprofit organizations for adoption.
As of the most recent shelter report posted on the police department’s website, the department reported taking in 273 animals in August, 208 of which were dogs and 57 were cats.
Twenty-five were returned to their owner while 87 were transferred to organizations for adoption. Sixty-nine cats and dogs were euthanized; two of those came at the request of an owner. Ten of the animals taken in died.
Over 40 people submitted comments ahead of today’s meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. and can be viewed online as well as in-person at Council Chambers in Hilo.
The comments ranged from personal and third-person accounts of interactions with the county-administered animal control with many offering complaints and some praising the department’s work, but noting more resources were needed than its current $3.4 million annual budget. Others demanded increased transparency, particularly when it comes to funding.
“You have to stop the problem at the source. Putting Bandaids and waiting for small, underfunded private organizations to do all the work on their own is not what our tax dollars are paying for,” wrote Volcano resident Lucretia Worster. “Our ask is that our tax money which should be already be going to controlling animal population, be made available spay/neuter services so that we can control the problem going forward. Greater transparency of what Animal Control is doing, how they are spending our money, and how many animals are being helped. I wanted a fully staffed Animal Control that provides the services our island pays for and deserves.”
Some offered possible solutions, like Margaret Bartelt who suggested the formation of a separate department for animal control within the county to “coordinate, provide and oversee the many phases of needed services for our animal population on the Big Island.
“Not only would services be provided but there would be a level of stability to these services and a path for community residents to take when seeking help for our animals on the Big Island. We have willing hands to help but we need a way to channel that help. An Animal Control Agency at the county level could address that need,” she wrote.
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