Over the course of nearly a year, Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Rhoades, staff members and volunteers at the Kauai Humane Society got attached to a dozen purebred dogs being boarded at the society’s Kipu shelter.
The dogs were taken from their O’ahu owner, suspected of neglecting the animals, said Rhoades, a veterinarian and Kauai Humane Society executive director.
The owner this week entered a deferred guilty plea to 55 counts of animal cruelty, which means his record could be cleared of the charges if he stays out of trouble for a year.
Then, the judge, according to Rhoades, did the unthinkable.
She ordered the animals returned to the owner, who has three weeks to sell them or otherwise get them licensed and relinquish ownership.
So, the dozen dogs at the Kipu facility might be flying back to O’ahu, if officials at the Hawaiian Humane Society tell Rhoades to put them on a plane or planes (only so many animals are allowed in aircraft cargo holds per flight, because of the limited amount of oxygen in the holds).
“We’re extremely disappointed with the sentencing. We could have placed them a long time ago,” said Rhoades, her voice heavy with emotion.
When the dozen dogs arrived at the Kipu facility, they were in terrible shape, with heartworm, parasites, skin sores and diseases from being kept in cramped cages and living in “filth,” and with behavior problems from not being handled by humans, she said.
“They were in really rough shape.”
It’s going to be “very sad” when the call comes to send them back to O’ahu, Rhoades said. “We’ve all gotten attached to them. We wanted them to have better lives.
“It’s very sad. It’s very difficult.”
Kauai Humane Society officials offered to board some of the 55 dogs taken from the owner by Hawaiian Humane Society officials, Rhoades explained.
The case is a year old this month, and the 12 male dogs of various purebred breeds arrived on Kaua’i in February or March.
And, while Kauai Humane Society leaders have been getting their standard boarding fee of $10 per dog per day, the judge also did not order the dog owner to pay restitution to Hawaiian Humane Society officials, who spent over $250,000 caring for the animals for almost a year, Rhoades lamented.
“I find it shocking and disappointing,” she said of the judge’s actions.
“We’re trying to enforce laws to protect animals, and then to get slapped with his court verdict, then have the dogs given back to the guy, I don’t get that at all.
“We can’t tolerate it. We can’t do our job.”
She told people not to come to the shelter to try to adopt the dogs, because they can’t be adopted by court order.
“We’re not going to be placing them here according to the sentencing” orders from the judge, Rhoades added.
- Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.