As an investigator for the Hawaiian Humane Society, Kevin Martin doesn’t regularly bust down doors like his counterparts on the reality TV show "Animal Cops."
But Martin and the 11 other officers on staff do knock on doors to investigate animal cruelty complaints and rescue cats from storm drains, pick up strays and corral aggressive dogs on the loose.
They were also instrumental in rescuing more than 150 neglected dogs living in filthy conditions at a Waimanalo puppy mill last year.
Although the Honolulu officers aren’t being followed around by camera crews, they get their share of action.
The Hawaiian Humane Society logged more than 15,800 calls in the last fiscal year alone, including 1,827 rescues and emergencies, 1,543 cruelty investigations and 2,160 reports of loose and aggressive dogs.
HAWAIIAN HUMANE SOCIETY
» Location: 2700 Waialae Ave.
» Hours: Adoptions, lost and found animals, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays; admissions, emergencies, 24 hours daily
» General info: Call 946-2187, email email@example.com or visit www.hawaiianhumane.org.
» File a report: Call 356-2250 to report injured animals, cruelty cases, loose dogs and stray animals.
A DAY’S WORK WITH A HUMANE SOCIETY INVESTIGATOR
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser tagged along with investigator Kevin Martin on a recent shift.
» 8 a.m.: Check with dispatcher for the day’s assignments, including complaints from overnight.
» 8:30 a.m.: Head to Halawa Heights to pick up a feral cat trapped during the night in a cage set up at the request of a homeowner. Martin scans the cat, which has a pretty white coat and blue eyes, for a microchip ID (there is none), then transfers it to a cage that is put in a compartment in the back of his truck.
» 10 a.m.: Arrive at a Salt Lake townhouse complex to respond to a complaint about a black-and- white cat with an open wound on its paw. A neighbor reported that the owner had not taken it to a veterinarian. After some searching, Martin finds the cat hiding in a bush at the side of the complex. He knocks on the owner’s door, but no one is home. Martin speaks with the property manager and obtains a phone number for the cat’s owner and leaves a message as well as a notice on the door requesting a callback. He plans to follow up to make sure the cat gets the care it needs.
» 11 a.m.: Respond to a neighbor’s complaint in Kaneohe about a chained dog and another in a cage that is too small. Upon driving up to the address, Martin observes a large dog chained in the front of the driveaway and six to eight other dogs in a covered chain-link kennel farther back. They appear to be hunting dogs but also seem healthy. Martin calls the owner to notify him of the complaint and checks to see that each dog is licensed.
There is no law prohibiting a dog from being tied up outdoors as long as it can stand, turn around and rest comfortably. It turns out the hunting dogs are not licensed, so Martin gets permission from the owner to leave a few license applications in the mailbox. According to a city ordinance, every dog 4 months and older must have a license.
» 11:30 a.m.: An anonymous complaint leads Martin to another Kaneohe home where a dog is caged.
He finds the canine kenneled in the carport. Although the animal appears thin from a distance, closer inspection shows it is in decent shape and the cage is fine. Martin knocks on the door and speaks with an elderly man who says the dog belongs to his son, who leaves for work early in the morning.
The investigator issues a warning about giving the dog an adequate amount of water for an eight-hour period and asks the man to tell the owner to call him.
» 1 p.m.: Stray dog pickup in Hauula. After driving to the address, Martin makes a phone call and learns the dog owner retrieved her pet earlier in the day.
» 1:30 p.m.: Pick up a stray kitten in Kailua. When Martin discovers the orange kitten is not microchipped, he places the animal in a compartment in his vehicle. It will go back to headquarters for a checkup. Kittens have a good chance of being adopted.
» 2:30 p.m.: Emergency pickup of a stray cat with two broken back legs in Waimanalo. Resident Sylvia Teixeira called the Humane Society about the black cat, which she says lives in the storm drain across the street but recently joined her own cat during feedings.
"I hope they can help him and not put him to sleep," she says.
The cat is transported back to headquarters.Veterinarians later determine the animal suffered serious spinal cord injuries. It was euthanized.
The agency’s investigators enforce city and state laws and are deputized by the Honolulu Police Department. They drive in marked Ford trucks equipped with compartments to carry animals. Tools of the trade include a retractable net, a control pole for lassoing possibly dangerous or skittish animals, transfer cages, a stretcher, a microchip scanner, laptop computer, phone, camera, citation book and some dog and cat food.
People skills are just as essential as knowing how to read animal body language.
"We try to use education first and enforcement second," said Keoni Vaughn, the Humane Society’s director of operations. "A lot of people don’t know any better."
The agency has a city contract to pick up stray dogs on Oahu and charges $25 to collect stray cats. And there’s the occasional wallaby, bird or pig. (Roosters are handled by another contractor, Royos Farming.)
No day is routine for a Humane Society investigator, but many calls do involve picking up stray animals and responding to complaints, some of which lead to false alarms or dead ends.
In his 31/2 years on the job, Martin has been bitten only once — by a stray Shar-Pei that latched on to his finger as the canine was being loaded into the vehicle compartment.
Martin, 27, doesn’t dwell on it, saying the dog was "in survival mode."
During a recent ride-along, Martin recalled many of his cases. Like the time a dog was loose on the H-1 near town while the investigator was stuck in traffic getting to it. The dog, frightened by some well-meaning motorcyclists who were trying to herd it, jumped over the freeway median and was hit by a car.
It survived, and its owners took it to a veterinarian.
Then there was the case in December prompted by a video posted on Facebook showing two dogs attacking a pig in a small pen in Waianae. An investigation led officers to charge a 20-year-old man with misdemeanor animal cruelty. The dogs were surrendered to the society, evaluated and put up for adoption.
More recently, Martin brought two dogs that had been running loose near a protected marsh to a homeless woman in Waipahu. The animals had belonged to her boyfriend, who was arrested in an unrelated case and had asked that the dogs be put in the woman’s care.
Martin gave her flat collars for the dogs instead of choke chains and will follow up to make sure they are being cared for.
The most memorable case for Martin was rescuing 153 dogs from the Waimanalo puppy mill in February 2011. Many of the canines suffered from eye problems and mange. He remembers the stench, the mosquitoes and dogs unable to walk because of thickly matted fur.
"It was the worst smell ever," said Martin, lead investigator on the case. "It took a couple days for the smell to go away. That was the worst I’d ever seen it, hands down."
Bradley International, the company that owned the dogs, pleaded no contest to 153 counts of animal cruelty in December. The surviving animals were adopted.
While the puppy mill was shut down, the company was dissolved and never paid a cent of the $370,000 in restitution a judge awarded to the Humane Society last month.
"The bottom line is that these animals are no longer in prison," said Vaughn.
MARTIN says being an "animal cop" was "my little-kid dream job."
"I love animals and always volunteered at shelters in college," he said.
Growing up in upstate New York, he was raised with plenty of pets and watched "Animal Cops" on TV. He studied business in college and worked as a bartender and in a campus fiscal office. He was assigned to the adoptions department at the Hawaiian Humane Society before applying for the investigator’s position.
The most challenging part of the job, he said, is dealing with a high number of cases and finding mistreated animals.
The most rewarding? Reuniting a pet with its owner or finding new homes for unwanted animals.