City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said he’s taking animal cruelty cases "very seriously."
"Our office will be more proactive on animal cruelty cases," he said, adding that he sent a prosecutor to the scene of an alleged Waimanalo puppy mill where more than 150 puppies and dogs were seized.
Dave Becker, manager of the large commercial dog breeding facility at 41-761 Mahailua St., faces multiple charges of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison, but has not yet been charged, according to the Hawaiian Humane Society.
Becker’s lawyer, Victor Bakke, called the Humane Society’s seizure Monday as "overzealous."
"They’re filthy but these are not household animals," he said, calling them "breeding machines." "They are equivalent to farm animals. They’re being housed, fed and bred, and that’s basically all that’s required."
The Hawaiian Humane Society held a news conference yesterday, allowing news media to photograph and videotape the seized dogs at the Waialae Avenue shelter, including some unwashed animals that reeked of feces and urine.
Some suffering from mange had large bald spots. Other long-haired dogs’ fur was caked with fecal matter. Some dogs’ fur was so matted, their legs were knitted together and they could not walk.
Humane Society officials announced that a bill to regulate large commercial dog breeding operations was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Bakke said the agency’s timing of the seizure is suspicious, choosing a day before the bill was heard.
"If it didn’t set this thing up, they definitely milked it for all it’s worth," he said.
But Pamela Burns, Humane Society chief executive officer and president, said "it was pure luck" that the police received a barking-dog complaint, leading an officer to call the society after seeing the poor conditions. Police, who were given consent to come onto the property, accompanied investigators onto the site.
Bakke contends the Humane Society should have had a warrant to search the kennels.
He objected to the agency taking newborn puppies, three litters of which were born Monday.
"They have no right to take those dogs," Bakke said. "This isn’t CPS (Child Protective Services). These aren’t kids. They’re animals."
The kennel’s puppies are sold at Pet Spot in the Pearl Highlands Center, which also sells puppies from other breeders, he said.
Bakke said the law is unclear as to the standard of care and welcomes legislation.
"My client is in trouble because he doesn’t know what the standards are," he said. "The statute is cruelty, not negligent care of animals."
Kaneshiro said that under the animal cruelty statute, people can be prosecuted if they don’t provide necessary sustenance for animals, including livable conditions.
Humane Society investigator Keoni Vaughn estimated about a dozen puppy mills operate on Oahu.