Calling for change

PUHI — An online petition is circulating, demanding changes to the contract between the County of Kauai and Kauai Humane Society. But some say the issue is not as cut-and-dried as it seems.

The goal of the petition is humane society reform through a change in wording in the contract between the two entitles to reflect a more “animal-friendly and pro-life” stance.

“We, the undersigned, call on the County of Kauai to change the wording of the current county contract with the Kauai Humane Society from ‘animal control’ of the population by ‘disposal and disposition’ to ‘animal- friendly, pro-life’ wording in order to stop the needless killing of animals,” the petition states.

The petition further alleges the contract, which was formed between the county and Kauai Humane Society in 1952, is outdated.

The petition was sent to Sen. Ronald Kouchi, Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, Rep. Dee Morikawa and the two candidates for District 14, Nadine Nakamura and Sandi Combs.

“If the ‘animal-friendly, pro-life wording and updated procedures, proven to save taxpayers money and animals’ lives’ is indeed a fact, then I’m OK with it,” Morikawa said. “After all, we cannot continue doing what we did so long ago. Times change and so must we.”

But Combs said she’s not so sure she can support the change to a no-kill shelter stance, since those don’t truly address the homeless domestic animal problem.

“Animals that would have been euthanized in a humane manner are left to die horrible deaths through disease, untreated injury and starvation,” Combs said. “The no-kill shelters result in over-crowding and turning away animals that have become abandoned and often continue to reproduce.”

Go to the root of the problem — overpopulation — rather than treating the euthanasia problem, Combs suggested.

A change in that wording would dictate a change in the role of the Kauai Humane Society, and could leave the county in hot water without an animal control entity.

“The county is required to do animal control by state law and they contract with KHS to do that,” said Penny Cistaro, executive director of KHS.

She continued: “The county doesn’t pay for an adoption program, so when we talk here about ‘more animal-friendly and pro-life’ wording, sure, but if they want a say in the adoption program, they’ll have to put money into that.”

Money is one of the reasons that Basil Scott, of the Kauai Community Cat Project, thinks the contract needs reworked.

“Fewer and fewer animals are being served every year. From 2010 until now it’s reduced from 5,000-plus (animals served) to 3,000,” Scott said. “It’s a services contract and they are, by the numbers, providing less service.”

The current contract, which runs from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, provides $780,000 for a base fee for animal control, according to Ken Shimonishi, the county finance director.

“This is $20,000 more than the prior year due to the additional responsibility of administrating the ‘Barking Dog Nuisance’ Ordinance 996,” Shimonishi said.

In addition to the base contract, KHS receives fees collected for dog and cat licenses, estimated by KHS at $60,000 for dogs and $14,000 for cats in the same time period, though the math gets tricky with dog licenses.

“The dog license has a high year and a low year because it’s an every-other-year renewal,” Cistaro said. “So this year, in 2017, it’s higher because it’s the year for dog license renewals.”

Shimonishi said the estimate for last year’s dog license fees was $31,500.

In addition, KHS could receive up to an additional $6,000 for reimbursement for costs incurred related to cruelty cases for animals, including livestock.

The money trail in the contract gets more complicated when you add in the fact that KHS has been subsidizing the contract throughout the length of the entire agreement.

In 2012, KHS contributed $400,000 to the contract, according to Cistaro. Now, KHS is subsidizing $130,000 of that contract.

“The county has never paid the full cost of the contract, that’s very important,” Cistaro said. “Because the animal population has gone down coming into the shelter, the cost of the contract is decreasing, as well as we’ve done some cost savings.”

One of those cost-savings plans was implementing the $20-$40 cost to retrieve a lost dog from KHS.

Scott said he’s not optimistic that the contract will be changed because a more complicated contract requires more oversight and that means a need for more work on the county’s part.

“The tendency is going to be to make it a simple contract because the county doesn’t have an infinite amount of people,” Scott said. “But a petition is a way for county managers to understand that the sentiment is out there.”

Since it’s the middle of the county’s fiscal year, Scott pointed out that the entities have six months to hammer out a new contract, if they are so inclined.

“They have ample time to adjust it and you know they’d have time to talk about it with the new director and the board,” Scott said. “I would be combining cost efficiency with quality of service and there’s multiple ways to reflect community cultures and ideals, but ultimately it’s the county’s contract.”

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