Animal control programs provide lifesaving services to the community. They are as critical to the health and welfare of the public as any other public service provided by local government. And these services are no less expensive than any other service that is provided to the community.
It is the county’s responsibility to provide animal control services. They do so by contracting with the Kauai Humane Society, which they are legally-mandated to do. I imagine many of you have read the articles in The Garden Island outlining this year’s budget and KHS’s request for additional funding from the county council.
Over the last several years, the cost to KHS to provide for the county the mandated animal control program has exceeded, and continues to exceed, what the county has budgeted.
We have shown in public meetings the extent to which the money we receive from the county is vastly insufficient to meet the actual costs of the services necessary to fully provide for all the homeless and needy animals in our community.
In the past year, through these contracted services, the Kauai Humane Society has handled over 4,000 stray animals, and the humane officers responded to over 3,100 calls for service.
Hawaii State Statutes allows for a county, not KHS, to set, by ordinance, fees for its animal control program to include fees for stray dogs and licensing. These statutes allow the county to assess fees to owners of dogs found running at large and reimbursement fees for any boarding or care these stray dogs receive.
As it stands now, the county taxpayers are paying for irresponsible pet owners to have their animals cared for through the county’s Animal Management Program at no charge to the dog owners.
Implementing a fee to redeem an animal from the shelter will help finance the county program and target those who are using animal control services. The statutes also allow for the county to determine the license fees for dogs. The intent of these fees is to help offset the cost of operating an animal control program.
In an effort to provide the county with options to raise money instead of cutting services, KHS suggested increasing the fees associated with the licensing of dogs and implementing a redemption fee for all stray animals received through the county’s program. Fee amounts would continue to be based on whether or not animals are spayed or neutered. The county requested a proposal.
Although animal control programs benefit all of our citizens and are required by law as a public health measure, those of us who own pets derive the greatest benefits from effective, humane animal control.
Consequently, it is appropriate that those who enjoy the benefits of pet ownership should contribute to these programs through the purchase of licenses for their pets (which could include cats).
Ultimately, the decision to increase or create fees is the county’s. The costs to operate the program will not change. However, what can change is how the county and taxpayers will pay to have animal control services provided to the community.
• Penny Cistaro is executive director of the Kauai Humane Society.