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Protection for puppies

Tips from the public suggest there are more large-scale breeding operations in the state than previously thought

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 10:52 a.m. HST, Jul 31, 2011

Tips flowing into the Hawaiian Humane Society since Hawaii's largest puppy mill case was uncovered on Feb. 28 suggest there are 20 more puppy mills operating on Oahu, with 10 more scattered across the neighbor islands.

"Before, we guessed there were maybe half a dozen, a dozen at the most, but we really didn't know," said Keoni Vaughn, director of operations for the Hawaiian Humane Society. "These are large-scale operations."

Humane Society officials hope the Waimanalo case represents a major turning point in their efforts to regulate puppy mills in Hawaii, and it already has spurred neighbors to report more allegations of animal neglect, abuse and suspected puppy mills. The Humane Society and Honolulu police officers seized 153 dogs on Mahailua Street in Waimanalo in the biggest case of its kind.

Fecal matter and urine were found in some water and food bowls. Some of the dogs had fur matted with fecal matter and some could not walk because their legs were bound together by matted fur, Humane Society officials said.

After the dogs were seized, three died and 79 puppies were born. All of the animals that survived are now in emergency foster care.

From March 1 — the day after the dog seizures — through July 27, the Humane Society received 490 calls alleging animal cruelty. Investigators issued nine misdemeanor citations for animal cruelty, which require court appearances and carry penalties of one year in jail and fines up to $2,000.

In the same period, Humane Society investigators also issued another 56 warning citations for animal cruelty, which could lead to misdemeanor citations if problems persist.

"We really rely on the community to be our eyes and ears and people are now a lot more aware since the Waimanalo case," Vaughn said. "And we're definitely getting a lot more tips on puppy mills."

While the Waimanalo puppy mill case heads toward a criminal trial, a bill in the state Senate would require all puppy mills — technically known as "large-scale" breeders of 25 dogs or more — to be licensed.

The Humane Society last week finished collecting 940 responses to a statewide, voluntary online survey that found 98 percent of the respondents favored licensing puppy mills.

Some 30 percent of the respondents reported having issues with their dogs after they bought them — and 32 percent spent $2,000 or more to address problems that included hip dysplasia, infections and heartworm. About 23 percent of the respondents had paid $1,000 or more for their dogs.

A key provision of SB 1522 for the Humane Society would require puppy mills to allow unannounced inspections by Humane Society investigators, or risk losing their licenses.

Humane Society investigators currently can only enter private property with the owners' permission — or if they personally witness neglect or abuse.

Gathering enough information to obtain a search warrant "requires the courts and prosecutors and can be a tedious, long and difficult process," Vaughn said. "There has to be probable cause — and sufficient probable cause — to obtain a search warrant."

FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS, Humane Society investigators had been allowed into the Waimanalo puppy mill — and had issued multiple warning citations for animal cruelty.

Because of the pending criminal trial, Vaughn declined to say why misdemeanor citations were never issued.

After a new state law took effect on Jan. 1 that more clearly defines how animals must be confined and cared for, Vaughn said Humane Society investigators were no longer welcomed onto the property.

"When we had weaker laws, we were never denied access," Vaughn said.

Then on Feb. 28, a Honolulu police officer responding to a barking dog complaint from the dog-breeding operation — as well as another allegation that a woman with five dogs was trespassing — was allowed onto the property and saw something that prompted him to call the Hawaiian Humane Society, said Vaughn, who declined to be specific because of the pending criminal trial.

Humane Society investigators have since visited the other suspected puppy mills that have been identified from tips since Feb. 28, but have not been allowed onto the properties to inspect the dogs or the conditions, Vaughn said.

"We always try to work with people," Vaughn said. "But anytime someone doesn't let us on to their property, it's for a reason. They're trying to hide something."

He declined to provide details on where the suspected puppy mills are located or who operates them, saying he did not want to jeopardize the Humane Society's investigations of the operations.

Attorney Jason Burks, who represents Bradley International — the company that owned and operated the Waimanalo breeding operation — said the dogs that the Hawaiian Humane Society showed to reporters in March did not represent the majority of dogs at the site, nor the conditions that existed.

The Humane Society is "trying to portray it as nothing ever got cleaned, the whole place was absolutely filthy and there were all these diseases and all these animals were unhealthy," Burks said. "That's simply not the case. They're cherry-picking particular animals. … A good portion of the animals were in good health. Somebody shows up on the wrong day and your house may be a mess. If you go to the Humane Society, look at the animals there. There may be situations where you come at the wrong time and things are dirty. You can't take one small look at one small area and make a conclusion of the entire situation."

The officers of Bradley International have not been charged, but the corporation faces 153 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty for each dog that was initially seized. Each count carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and $2,000 in fines, but the corporation can only face financial penalties, Burks said.

A "forfeiture" hearing in the case to decide the future of all of the dogs was scheduled for Aug. 9 and the criminal trial was scheduled for Aug. 22. But Circuit Judge Ed Kubo last week filed a motion to voluntarily recuse himself from both proceedings, citing his wife's "Hawaii Pet Nanny" business.

Bradley International has shut down its Waimanalo operation and no longer has any animals, but wants its dogs returned, Burks said.

He would not say what the corporation plans to do with the dogs if it succeeds in getting them awarded through the forfeiture hearing.

"I'm not prepared to answer that at this point," Burks said. "But without the animals, Bradley International essentially doesn't have any income."

Burks said he did not know if any of the corporation's officers have other sources of income.

An attorney for the manager of the dog-breeding operation — who has not been charged in the case — previously told the Star-Advertiser the dogs were intended for the Pet Spot pet store in Pearl Highlands Center.

LAST WEEK, Humane Society investigator Vernon Ling drove to the Pet Spot in response to a complaint that animals were being kept improperly.

Instead, Ling found that more than a dozen puppies in the Pet Spot had plenty of room to stand, sit, turn around and lie down without touching the walls of their cages or another animal. And while the bottom half of their cages were made of wire, the other half of their cages was covered with solid surfaces, as required by the new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.

Wire floors make it easier to clean dogs' cages, but can injure or cause long-term damage to the dogs' paws, Ling said.

As employees cleaned the puppies' cages in front of Ling, a woman who identified herself as the Pet Spot manager declined to answer Ling's questions about where the Pet Spot gets its dogs — most of which were being sold for more than $1,000 each.

When Ling asked specifically about the Pet Spot's poodle puppies, the manager said they came from Hawaii island but would not provide details. When Ling asked her where the store got its other puppies from, she said only, "from Oahu" and would not give Ling any details.

"I personally went around to all the pet stores and spoke to the owners asking where they get their dogs from," Vaughn said. "There's not one pet store that will disclose where they get their dogs from. They've got something to hide. A responsible breeder would never, ever sell to a pet store, ever. A responsible breeder cares deeply how their puppies are going to end up and they actually care about the breed itself. A backyard breeder — or a puppy mill — doesn't care. It's all about the profit."

To report animal cruelty, abuse or suspected puppy mills, call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 356-2250.

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JPG wrote:
Too bad senator Hee is dishonest in presenting his bills to his fellow members. We have watched him puch his bill thru with no regards to the people and doing it the sneaky and undehanded way. There are hundreds of us that are aware of his practices and the list is growing daily. He took away our right to a due process and feels no pain about it. I just hope he has his same arrogant attitude come election day. As with everything else in life his shadeness will come to light and he will have a price to pay for being so dishonest twith the pucblic and thinking nothing of us!
on March 30,2012 | 07:39AM
lmuramaru wrote:
OPPOSING HB 108 SD1 Lynn Muramaru & Christopher Feld Kapolei, HI Dear Senators of the Senate Judiciary Committee AND Members of the Senate Leadership: We are extremely disappointed at not only the outcome of yesterday’s voting on this bill but the process of how this bill came to be! The legislative process is a long procedure with every day citizens given an opportunity through testimony to have input in laws. There is a series of checks and balances by allowing the Senate and House to review bills and amend. The actions of Sen. Clayton Hee disregards this system. He took away our right to have this system work for us! Sen. Hee acted very selfishly and went way overboard to protect his “babies” (SB2492 and SB 2504), bills that were amended in the House. SB2492 was amended so many times that it is now a poorly written piece of legislation that serves no purpose and should NOT be passed! We have concerns about SB 1522 which has similar wording to SB 2494 and SB2492. Are these bills clones that could easily be implanted in yet another bill should HB 108 get voted down? In the last hearing Sen. Hee said that if this bill does not directly apply to us, we would not be allowed to testify. On hindsight, that comment was totally out of place as it is our right as citizens to provide testimony on ANY bill, period! Sen. Hee had no right to decide who gets to testify and who does not! Directly because of Sen. Hee’s actions on March 28, 2012, this bill is now on the fast track and headed for the Senate floor for a vote. The content of the bill is secondary and Sen. Hee’s abuse of his power as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee is foremost! We’ve been told that this tactic happens a lot. We find this practice totally unacceptable! The number of puppy mill operations the HHS identifies as justification for this bill is based upon “tips” that were called in. (http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20110731_Protection_for_puppies.html?id=126476518) The same Star Advertiser article states: FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS, Humane Society investigators had been allowed into the Waimanalo puppy mill — and had issued multiple warning citations for animal cruelty. Because of the pending criminal trial, Vaughn declined to say why misdemeanor citations were never issued. After a new state law took effect on Jan. 1 that more clearly defines how animals must be confined and cared for, Vaughn said Humane Society investigators were no longer welcomed onto the property. "When we had weaker laws, we were never denied access," Vaughn said. This quote is directly from the lead investigator for the HHS! So Sen. Hee, what would this bill accomplish if the HHS doesn’t think stricter laws will work? Senators, a member of the dog fancy told me that she received an unsolicited call from a perspective puppy buyer. The woman told her that she had been to the Luke family‘s new store to purchase a pug puppy. The pug breeder tried to educate the woman on who the Luke’s were and about the new breeding facility in Mt. View. The woman replied she was fully aware of Waimanalo and the Lukes’s new store. She wanted a pug and they are the only ones she could find with one AND she would have bought it had it not had a condition called “cherry eye”. How far does this State have to go to try to protect the public from itself? We are NOT opposed to meaningful laws and we offer you the option of supporting HCR 141. This resolution had NO opposition when heard in ERB committee in the House. We have a wonderful alternative that all parties have expressed a desire to want (including the HSUS and HHS) and has been sent to CPC for committee in the House; we fail to understand why THIS (HB108) bill is the only acceptable measure to address another Waimanalo incident. Sen. Hee admitted on TV that he did not like what the House did to “his” bills and called this “gut and replace” a strategic move! We call it a selfish move! What is the purpose of having a process in place when politicians are allowed to do these tactics that maybe legal but highly unethical? http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Dog-fighting-bill-ripped-gutted-and-turned-into/vaD_d6QuP0W616ob59NZjQ.cspx The bottom line is: • These bills will not stop puppy mills • They reduce the supply of healthy puppies and the Public’s freedom of choice to buy the puppies it wants • They rely heavily on discriminatory and unconstitutional enforcement measures • They reflect ignorance of prevailing care practices and of the fundamentals of biology and dog breeding Our fight to end this bill is not over yet! You have another chance to redeem yourselves Senators. If anything, PLEASE restore some dignity and integrity to your offices as elected officials by voting NO when these bills (SB2494, SB2492, SB 2504, SB1522, AND HB 108 SD1) come before you! As a very wise politician recently told me, don’t forget “I work for YOU”! Lynn Muramaru (bjsreverie@aol.com) & Christopher Feld (cdfeld1@hotmail.com) Constituents of Senator Mike Gabbard and Representative Sharon Har Lynn Muramaru Voting member of the HGEA Licensed Social Worker (LSW) for 30 years in Hawaii President of Terriers In Paradise-Hawaii, Inc. (AKC Club)
on March 30,2012 | 09:33AM
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