Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Courts must take animal cruelty seriously

By Pamela Burns


We at the Hawaiian Humane Society are extremely disappointed about the sentencing of David Becker, who was directly responsible for managing a large commercial Waimanalo dog breeding operation.

A six-month sentence doesn't provide justice to the animals that were harmed by his actions. We believe that given the 153 counts of animal cruelty, more jail time is warranted. Furthermore, the judge should have prohibited Becker from owning animals and disallowed him to own or work in any business related to animals.

Restitution to the Hawaiian Humane Society is also fitting — given that we provided more than $370,000 in care for these animals through the generosity of our residents.

It was our hope that this case actually proceeded to trial. The Humane Society helped to build a convincing body of evidence and the many charges were warranted: 153 animals were taken into our custody when the puppy mill was inspected by our officers, placing an enormous burden on our organization and the community. More than 20 veterinarians and clinics stepped up to help and more than 250 foster families provided day-to-day care. The dogs' health issues were pervasive and severe.

Before the dogs were rescued, the Hawaiian Humane Society offered Becker many opportunities to bring his dog-breeding operation up to minimally acceptable standards. He never did. Becker was personally responsible for the deplorable conditions at the puppy mill. These animals' lives were in his hands and at his mercy — they woke up to the same nightmare of filth, sick and suffering every single day. They were victims of greed — jailed and caged in deplorable conditions that clearly violated our animal cruelty laws.

This may be the largest case of animal cruelty in recent history. Sadly, it is not the only one. For the last two years, proposed legislation, strongly supported by the Hawaiian Humane Society, included provisions for standardizing housing, improving access to exercise and establishing licensing programs as a means to regulate dog breeding businesses.

These initiatives were defeated due to opposition from the pet shops and the fancier community.

We did succeed in improving the forfeiture law in animal cruelty cases this year to include in utero offspring. Should there be another cruelty case, there will be no question about whether unborn puppies are protected and included in the forfeiture process.

Every year, the Hawaiian Humane Society estimates, there are nearly 5,000 puppies sold on Oahu both on the Internet and in pet shops, resulting in about $4.5 million of revenue. Puppy breeding is big business and the welfare of a puppy's parents is often not the priority. We must rely on all of Hawaii's animal lovers to end irresponsible breeding in which profit is more important than welfare.

Anyone wanting to acquire a puppy should consider adopting from a shelter or contacting a responsible breeder where welfare is their priority. By purchasing a puppy through a pet store or online, you may unknowingly be supporting the continued suffering of animals.

Collectively we need to protect our pets and speak out against animal cruelty. If you know of a situation where animals are being treated poorly, let us know. Animal cruelty is a crime that hurts all of society and it's time the courts take such crimes seriously.

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