On Wednesday, July 9, my husband and I came across an extremely emaciated and malnourished dog — essentially skin and bones — on the side of the road in Wailua. We found ourselves in an uncomfortable position as we had just finished an over yearlong rescue mission of three abandoned pups left for dead, paying for their food, medical bills, training, and re-homing them while simultaneously caring for our other rescue pets who live permanently in our home. We decided we needed to do something to help this poor dog, so my husband went back for her and discovered she had a brother. Wishing we could bring them home, but knowing we needed help, we reluctantly took them to the Kauai Humane Society.
This decision will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Our hope was to partner with KHS to rehabilitate the dogs and find them homes. Very concerned for their welfare, we went back to KHS the next day to check in on the dogs and had actually hoped to visit with them and begin socializing and training. The KHS told us the only way we could see the dogs was to view them in their cage, and since they might belong to someone, we were not allowed to touch them. At no time did the KHS suggest fostering these pups or any other ways in which we could help. The elephant in the room was that we all knew that no one was missing these dogs, and our attempts to see them were being thwarted in what felt like some sort of a power game at KHS. We were informed we could come back in two days, when the dogs would have their evaluations, though KHS let us know they would euthanize them that evening should they not pass their evaluations. Two days later, my husband was notified that the female had passed the evaluation, but the male did not; he was, according to KHS, “too skittish” for adoption. We realized that both dogs were at risk of being killed at KHS, so to save their lives, we decided to adopt them both. The KHS instructed us to return later that afternoon because the dogs needed to be spayed and neutered before they could be released.
How could it possibly be safe to operate on such malnourished and weak dogs? I thought.
By late afternoon we paid the adoption fee for two extremely skinny and now sore dogs who were no more than 1 year old. Within 24 hours, the “too skittish, unadoptable” dog was eating out of my hand and following me around the yard. Within 48 hours we noticed he wasn’t healing from his surgery and rushed him to the vet. According to our vet, the male dog was too malnourished to handle the neutering. Suffering from a weakened immune system, he desperately needed antibiotics. We left the vet’s office hoping for the best. Sadly, later that night, that sweet boy died. He was simply too weak to have had the surgery that KHS recklessly performed.
I am saddened and angered with the inhumane treatment our dogs received at KHS, a place that has the word “humane” in its name. Deeming a starving and likely mistreated stray dog “unadoptable” and ready for euthanization simply because he is scared is not humane. Following an arbitrary, bureaucratic process rather than giving a scared dog the chance to be rehabilitated is not humane. Mandating a policy of neutering and spaying dogs, even if they are too weak to safely undergo surgery is not humane. Even over a month after her adoption, the female pup is still gaining weight and on antibiotics for skin bacteria. She was lucky to have survived this ordeal.
Early on in this story, I contacted the KHS executive director in our attempt to partner with KHS to help these dogs. She responded to my message after the neutering and adoption had been completed, and acknowledged that we should have been able to see and touch the dogs the day after they were admitted to KHS. She expressed sympathy over the boy’s death and asked to speak with my vet to discuss his condition prior to his death. While I appreciate the communication, it was unfortunately too little, too late.
However, this story is not without humanity. I shared our journey and KHS experience with others, in an attempt to find homes for the dogs, and received an outpouring of encouragement and support from kind and gracious people both near and far, most of whom I did not previously know. People want to help. They, like us, want better lives for Kauai’s animals, and not only shared our story with their contacts, but offered medicine, supplies, therapeutic massage, and money to help these dogs. To these people I am forever grateful, yet I can’t help but wonder why the KHS could not offer even a fraction of the compassion we received from friends and strangers alike. After all, is this not what a humane society does?
Clearly, changes need to be made within KHS, as currently their actions are earning them the new name: KIS- the Kauai Inhumane Society.
Dinah Chao is a resident of Wailua