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EditorialIsland Voices

Hawaii should become ‘no kill’ zone for pets

Every year more than 45,000 companion animals are killed on Oahu.

They are euthanized because they have been deemed unfit and unadoptable. Some are ill or victims of trauma. Others have behavioral problems, are old or belong to a breed that has an undeservedly bad reputation. Some are feral and should be neutered but remain in their habitat. Others are homeless because their human "owners" have abandoned them.

Drawing on Hawaii’s culture and a progressive vision for the future, we are ready to become a "no kill" community. Hawaii should be part of a growing movement that rejects the institutionalized killing of animals in favor of protection, rehabilitation and education.

The animal shelter industry fuels the killing by promoting a culture of expedience rather than caring. Homeless animals are seen as problems to be managed, rather than living beings to be nurtured.

A progressive animal welfare movement that began in the 19th century to prevent cruelty to animals has become a national industry that kills more than 3 million dogs and cats annually. Sadly, Hawaii’s animal shelters are part of that industry.

While there are many in our community who work tirelessly to promote the welfare of animals, there are many more who see animals as simply resources for food, work or leisure. As a society, we take animals for granted, and when they no longer are useful, convenient or amusing, we abandon them to the shelter industry, which, more often than not, kills them for us. Out of sight, out of mind.

We talk about "pet overpopulation," but the fact is there are many more homes desiring animal companions than there are homeless animals.

According to Nathan Winograd, award-winning author of "Redemption" and "Irreconcilable Differences," less than 20 percent of the 165 million animals living in our homes nationally come from shelters. Yet we continue to purchase hundreds of thousands of animals from pet stores and breeders. We help support a reckless breeding industry and unconscionable puppy mills that further needless suffering and death.

The vast majority of animals that are killed could be saved if Hawaii, like many other cities, counties and even countries around the world, committed to a "no kill" policy.

Communities from California to Kentucky, Colorado to New York, Nevada to Indiana have all drastically reduced the number of impounded animals killed by implementing "no kill" laws.

But to do so requires courageous leadership, a commitment to ongoing education and a few clear steps:

» Replace regressive leadership at animal shelters and humane societies with those who believe in a "no kill" policy.

» Ensure that animals in shelters are treated well, to prevent disease, trauma and neglect.

» Create new incentives for adoption. Invest in rehabilitation programs for animals and humans to address behavioral problems.

» Implement trap-neuter- release programs for feral cats.

» Work harder to reunite lost companion animals and their human families.

» Build coalitions with other animal rights groups.

» Pass and enforce laws to promote a "no kill" culture.

» Examine all protection and enforcement policies to ensure that those very policies are not getting in the way of a "no kill" culture.

Hawaii is culturally tuned to adopting a "no kill" stance towards animal care. We already work hard to responsibly control the introduction of new animals to the islands.

We benefit from the Hawaiian cultural heritage of aloha and pono toward humans, animals and the land around us. And most of us love our companion animals.

Hawaii, through new leadership, education, policies and legislation could become a member of the "no kill" community. The question is: Will we?

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