Jan. 1 will mark six months of the Hawaii Police Department’s hands-on management of animal control services on the Big Island — the same date a new law goes into effect requiring dog and cat owners to microchip their animals.
The county assumed responsibility for animal control services on July 1, at the beginning of the current fiscal year, after terminating a contract with Hawaii Rainbow Rangers for animal control.
HRR’s tenure after almost a year ended amid a litany of concerns, including alleged mismanagement of county funds, months-long delay to transition into full services, facilities not kept up to standard, and unfinished reports — including a financial report, and problems retaining staff.
Police assumed day-to-day operations of animal control as part of a pilot program expected to last at least two years.
“The mayor’s office is the driving force on that one,” said police Maj. Aimee Wana of the Administrative Services Division, when asked what the goal of the program is. “Really, what is the cost of operations? You know, we’ve been under contract with the Humane Society for a very long time. And I think the county needs to know what the true cost is and what the barriers are.”
“We did put it out, unsuccessfully, to a contractor,” she continued, referring to HRR. “And there were a lot of hiccups in that process.”
At the end of the pilot program, the county will decide whether to retain animal control services or again contract for the services.
No matter what, animal control continues. On Saturday, Christmas Day, Animal Control officers were hard at work responding to a 5 a.m. call of an injured dog in lower Puna. The extremely emaciated dog, estimated to be about 1.5 years old, had been left tied to a metal post in the rain.
The officers immediately took the dog to the county shelter and provided care. Staff conducted a telemedicine consult with a vet and the male dog, whom Animal Control has nicknamed Rudy, has been been fluid therapy, antibiotics, and intestinal parasite treatment. Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call (808) 935-3311.
and whom to call
Calls received regarding Animal Control services continue to be categorized as priority one, two or three. Animal Control staff continue to respond to priority one calls 24 hours a day islandwide. Since July 1, Animal Control staff have responded to 30-50 calls a day. An average of 20 of those calls require an immediate response.
Priority one calls include those for injured animals, any animal that is a public safety risk, animal cruelty — and situations in which an animal’s owner has been arrested or died with no family to pick up the pet. Police ask that the public call police dispatch at (808) 935-3311 for priority one, or emergency requests for assistance.
For priority two calls, those pertaining to lost or found pets and non-emergency issues, the public should call Animal Control staff at (808) 327-3558 or email at [email protected] When leaving a message, please leave your name clearly, and repeat your contact information so that staff may contact you promptly. Staff answer the phones and return calls during normal business hours.
“We’re just trying to look at bettering the process and making sure we can serve the public appropriately,” Wana said.
The county is leasing kennel space in East Hawaii and owns a kennel in West Hawaii. Total shelter capacity is for 135 animals, police said.
The county started transferring animals to partner agencies in August, and report having transferred 318 animals since then. Since July, they have returned 183 animals to their owners and have euthanized 171 animals. Police report average monthly animal control statistics as: 58% of animals transferred to partner agencies; 26% returned to owners; and 16% euthanized.
“We are moving animals on a weekly and sometimes, daily basis, where partners come in and make commitments,” Wana said. “Sometimes, we have to euthanize animals post-48 hours. If there are serious medical issues, it’s more humane to put them down, in that respect — not because of space, but because of their medical condition or their physical conditions.”
Plans are underway to make significant improvements to the Kona shelter, which is in need of repairs. Additionally, the county is exploring options to purchase a permanent shelter facility in East Hawaii in addition to the current leased facility.
Lost and found healthy pets
People who find a healthy stray animal or who lose a pet are encouraged to post it as lost or found on https://lost.petcolove.org/. Petco Love Lost is a searchable national database that uses patented facial recognition technology to make finding lost pets quicker and easier. This simple-to-use tool will be easily accessible to participating animal organizations nationwide, as well as any pet parent or person who finds a lost pet. Uploaded photos of a missing dog or cat are immediately scanned to determine whether the lost pet is at a participating shelter or with a neighbor in the community. The technology scans photos at the shelters every two hours to reunite lost pets and their owners as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Animal control is hiring
“Right now, we have five animal control officers in East Hawaii and two in West Hawaii. We’re looking for a total of 15,” Wana said. “We are looking for kennel technicians, as well as animal control officers on both the east and west sides. Kennel technicians are the ones who do the feeding, cleaning and caring of the animals once we bring them in the door. That’s an integral part of animal control in any rescue organization,” Wana said.
Recruitment for these contract positions will be forthcoming via the county website under job opportunities. In the interim, those interested in applying for positions may submit a resume to [email protected]
Recognizing that pet overpopulation is an issue on Hawaii Island, county Animal Control Services ensures that those animals that are transferred to our partner agencies are spayed and neutered before they are available for foster or adoption.
“I would encourage pet owners to spay and neuter their pets, as well as to microchip them,” Wana said. “You know, the microchip law goes into effect the first of the year.”
Email John Burnett at [email protected]