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MHS Addresses Animal Issues

August 5, 2010 - Trisha Smith

As reports of animal neglect increase, some question if our humane society has resources to resolve.

Kïhei resident Mike Moran recently reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Ghandi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

“Even though we’re an island with several thousands of loving caretakers, there seems to be a dark side too when it comes to the animal welfare,” he said.

An avid animal enthusiast, Moran is upset by what he’s seen on Maui. He struggles with understanding why “Maui County has so many issues” when it comes to animal welfare of our furry, feathered and underwater friends. Moran has also been an active advocate for our beloved humpback whales during the current sanctuary management revision process.

From the failure to pass legislative bills that would ban the “cultural” “sport” of cockfighting and prohibit the sale of foie gras—a long-battled food “delicacy” or “torture,” depending on your stance—Moran is saddened animals’ well-being is not a priority.

Several months ago, Moran made a report to the humane society concerning a horse he witnessed Upcountry that he felt did not have sufficient shelter.

Visit link below to read the recent Maui Weekly hard news story on this.

MHS Chief Executive Officer Jocelyn Bouchard said MHS is doing the best they can, and resolves many issues when it comes to animal neglect, including recently removing a confirmed, neglected horse from its owner.

She also revealed that the incidence Moran is referring to has been resolved and that the horse's owner has now complied with the Maui County Code regarding shelter.

Bouchard also said an issue her staff of approximately seven Animal Control Officers (ACO) has dealt with is “repeat offenders” when it comes to animal cruelty or neglect.

“‘Suffering’ is not being out in the sun for these horses, and luckily, we don’t have bad cases very often,” said ACO Debbie Redd, who has also been engrained in the horse community for over 30 years. “What we need is ‘unfit owner’ laws, because a lot of the serious cases are repeat offenders.”

Bouchard said MHS has worked hard to get legislation through so that convicted “unfit owners” will not be able to own another animal in the future—or at least be screened prior to ownership. She also said the organization struggles with identifying animals from public property, like a roadside, and that registration for the animals, such as horses, would be nice so that they would be able to track them more efficiently.

Bouchard stressed repeatedly MHS’ intent to continue to work with owners once ACOs do determine violations, such as lack of shelter. “Yet, we must look at economic factors as well when dealing with owners—food is more important than shelter,” she said. “But, we are trying to get a volunteer group together to go build shelters for theses animals if owners unable to afford.”

Bouchard also revealed challenges when those suspecting abuse or neglect wish to remain anonymous. If the ACO is unable to locate a horse, for example, the officer needs to contact the person who reported the case. “We can’t do that if they don’t give us their info,” said Bouchard. “If they did, these reports would move along much faster. And photos help, too."

Moran said “maybe the Maui Humane Society should transfer some responsibility” when dealing with animal issues.

He also stated recently in a letter to local publications that "nearly 80 percent of the animals going into our humane society are killed." Bouchard adamantly denied this statistic, stating that about 59 percent of the animals that came into the MHS last year were euthanized.

“It seems people are invested in us being the bad guys,” said Bouchard. “Until we have a “No-Kill’ community—which is a goal—people need to understand we’re hard at work to keep these animals alive, healthy and placed in good homes.”

Moran said they have already made cuts to “vital services” that deal with animal welfare, including a service with the means to reach an ACO for after-hour emergencies. “MHS eliminated that now due to budget cuts, so Maui Police Department (MPD) will have to handle it themselves,” said Moran.

According to fervent letter printed last month in The Maui News by Aimee Anderson, a Wailuku resident and a former longtime animal control supervisor at MHS, “MPD is in no way sufficiently-trained or equipped to handle these types of cases.”

“I am thoroughly disgusted by Maui Humane Society executive director's decision to eliminate emergency after-hours service (The Maui News, June 30) and equally appalled at the board of directors for approving such an irresponsible, inhumane decision,” she wrote.

Anderson relayed the services was a “small portion of MHS’ budget,” and the service is “simply too important to both animal welfare and public safety.”




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