Friend of accused animal abuser gets temporary custody of dogs

Bracing herself to give up one of 17 abused dogs, Kaua‘i Humane Society staff member Lisa Donnan fought back tears yesterday — and lost.

Donnan bawled as she said goodbye to a healthy pit bull mix, after having spent months helping nurse it and several other nearly dead animals back to health.

The new caretaker is friends with the dogs’ owner, Steve A. Cummings, who faces 40 counts of animal abuse. Cummings’ dogs were taken into the custody of the Kaua‘i Humane Society Dec. 6 after receiving an anonymous tip that 20 dogs on his property were starving.

When officials arrived, only 17 dogs were still alive.

Cummings chose last week in court for the surviving dogs to be cared for by his friend, Brian Taniguchi, instead of members of the Kaua‘i Humane Society.

Care at the nonprofit, which has included emergency veterinary monitoring, has been pricey — roughly $11,000 so far, said Dr. Becky Rhoades, executive director for the Kaua‘i Humane Society.

Instead of continuing the estimated $10 a day per dog at the humane society, Taniguchi will care for the dogs until Cummings’ March 20 trial date.

Disheartened and disappointed, Rhoades said she had hoped Cummings would have allowed for the dogs to be put up for adoption.

“The dogs deserve better than this after nearly dying from starvation under the care of known pig hunter Steve Cummings,” Rhoades said. “Instead, they will return to the lifestyle of a hunting dog throughout the criminal trial process.”

Under a court order by District Court Judge Trudy Senda, the dogs will be routinely checked on by humane society staff.

“We’ll be checking on them everyday,” Rhoades said.

The dogs also will not be allowed to be bred, taken hunting or kept in an unfenced area.

Taniguchi, who has four dogs of his own, said he knew the dogs would need an investment of time, care and money.

“This is going to be a full-time job, and that’s OK,” Taniguchi said.

Rhoades said she hopes residents who use dogs for hunting purposes will be “put on notice.”

“Hunting dogs deserve to be cared for properly or we will enforce the animal cruelty law,” she said.

Each of the 20 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty Cummings faces is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

Each count of animal desertion carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

• Amanda C. Gregg, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or agregg@kauaipubco.com.

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