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MHS Fields Complaints, Clears Misconceptions

As increasing numbers of cases of suspected animal neglect and abuse are reported, the humane society works toward resolution. “…misinformation and assumptions by others have become a problem.”

August 5, 2010
Trisha Smith

He estimated “nearly 80 percent of the animals going into our humane society are killed”—a statement that really aggravates Bouchard.

“Wherever he found that information, it is not current nor correct,” she said. “I just want to make sure that everyone knows this is simply not true.”

According to Bouchard, 59 percent of the animals that came to MHS this past year were euthanized. Seventy-seven percent of those were categorized as “unhealthy/untreatable.” A majority of the euthanized animals were specifically labeled as “feral/unsocialized.” Euthanasia statistics have steadily decreased each year, she added.

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Horse sense. Horse community member and ACO, Debbie Redd, said her primary concerns are horses’ nutrition and hoof-care, like avoiding rain rot—an ailment that can develop from poor living conditions.

“Euthanasia’s a last resort here,” said Bouchard. She said misconceptions exist about time limits for animals at MHS. “There are not,” she said.

“We appreciate his [Moran’s] and others’ concerns, but misinformation and assumptions by others have become a problem,” said Bouchard.

Moran’s latest issue with nonprofit MHS was the way it handled reports of  “mistreatment to horses.” He said the time it takes for MHS to follow through isn’t in the best interest of the animal.

“Horses seen along our roads suffered for months with no shelter, as required by law, in spite of required reports made,” said Moran.

Maui County Code (MCC) 06.04.010 states animal owners are required by law to provide “sufficient care to preserve the health and well-being” of an animal, with “sufficient” including—but not limited to—basics such as food, drinkable water, veterinary care and exercise space.

Requirements include “access to a barn, dog house or other suitable shelter sufficient to protect the animal from wind, rain or sun and with adequate bedding to protect from wet and dampness.” If the animal is confined, the area must be “kept reasonably clean and free from excess waste or other contaminants” which could affect the animal’s health.

Owners are responsible for finding animals another home or need to turn them over to MHS if unable to abide by codes.

Moran became concerned when he saw a young horse in a “small pen with no shelter.” He was unable to see any type of covered or “suitable shelter” from the road. He filed a complaint with MHS in May, but said he was refused information regarding the report’s status when he tried to follow up. Each time he was told, “It’s under investigation.”

“The horse continued to suffer, and it seemed to me, this was obviously not high-priority,” said Moran.

But Bouchard said that case was closed last week, and the horse now has adequate shelter due to the “patient and diligent” work of her Animal Control Officers (ACO).

No specific information is given out on ongoing cases,” she stated.

She said with equine cases, MHS’ perception of a violation may be obscured by numerous obstacles, including the inability to view a horse from a public road. Determining a horse’s owner can prove challenging as well—there is currently no county registration system for horses.

It may take an ACO several visits to locate the animal and then determine if action needs to be taken. “We can’t just go to owner without physical evidence and ‘shake our badges,’” said Bouchard.

“We always take immediate action in egregious cases,” she said. A recent case will most likely result in the horse being taken from its home.

Once citations are issued to “non-cooperative owners, it’s in the court’s hands,” according to Bouchard. It is unfortunate, but “not uncommon,” that these owners “receive a slap on the wrist.”

Senior ACO Debbie Redd has been involved in the horse community for over 30 years. She said this year she has “definitely seen an increasing number of reports regarding horses” suspected of being in danger. But the number of confirmed cases of abuse or neglect has only “very slightly increased.”

“One problem I’m facing is the multiple and repetitive complaints about the same horse, and most of the time, they are non-serious issues,” said Redd. “It’s frustrating because it takes away time to deal with more serious issues,” she said. ACOs don’t have the time or resources to deal with “not big issues,” like complaints a horse is not protected by a man-made shelter, but shaded by trees, which is more than sufficient, she said.

MHS employs approximately seven ACOs.

“Animals are an emotional and personal subject, and there’s differences in opinions,” Redd said. She added codes need to be revisited, and “an unfit owner” legislation is necessary.

“Too much time goes by and nothing’s done… animals suffer and their point-of-view is not being defended,” said Moran.

To report animal neglect, abuse, cruelty, abandonment or injury, call MHS Animal Control during their business hours at 877-3680, and press 5, then 2 to make report.

Call the MPD’s non-emergency line at 244-6400 afterhours.



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