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Kaua‘i Humane Society ends feral-cat intake

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A feral cat walks away from visitors at Ahukini following an unsuccessful session of begging for food earlier this year.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island file

    Mirah Horowitz holds Zach at the Kaua‘i Humane Society shelter in Puhi.

LIHU‘E — Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kaua‘i Humane Society has halted its intake of feral cats.

This is in compliance with the National Animal Care and Control Association’s guidelines to not accept non-emergency intakes during this crisis, said KHS Executive Director Mirah Horowitz.

Usually, KHS takes feral-cat surrenders and charges $90 to take unlicensed feral cats that are brought to the shelter for the sole purpose of euthanasia. In a policy explanation Horowitz published in TGI in October 2019, she says about 30% of the cats that come into the shelter fall within that description.

KHS will continue to accept cats that are ill, injured or under eight weeks. But, for “those healthy, unlicensed feral cats that had no possible outcome other than euthanasia,” Horowitz said, this service will no longer be available.

“Whether we are able to accept feral cats for the remainder of our FY20 contract with the County of Kaua‘i will depend on when ‘normal’ operations (including feral euthanasia) can resume safely at KHS,” Horowitz said.

But the intake was set to end in the near future.

The humane society is changing it’s policy on the matter for FY21, Horowitz explained.

“We will not admit animals for the sole purpose of euthanasia, unless such euthanasia is medically required in the case of a seriously sick or injured dog or cat,” she said.

Euthanasia as a means of solution to feral-cat populations is not effective, Horowitz said. “Despite years of attempting to euthanize away the feral cats on Kaua‘i, our feral-cat population remains as problematic to people and native birds as ever.”

A possible solution, she said, may be combining trap-neuter-release programs with cat sanctuaries for cats that pose a threat to endangered-bird populations.

KHS is contracted as County of Kauai’s animal-control provider, and county code prohibits KHS from engaging in the TNR process, as Horowitz explained in her October 2019 TGI editorial.

Horowitz said the KHS has never been contracted “specifically” for feral-cat control, but has been asked to take in these animals. Because these cats are typically unsuitable for adoption and because of the county code, KHS would have to euthanize them.

County officials are now trying to decide how to continue feral-cat control without relying on KHS for euthanasia.

In a communication from the county Finance Department to the County Council, Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama wrote, “If the Kaua‘i Humane Society continues to adamantly oppose the feral-cat service, it is imperative that we handle this issue through another third-party vendor. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could penalize us even further if we do not comply.”

As the County Council has been reviewing the 2021 budget, a line item for special projects indicates an increase of $241,000 from $136,001 to $164,001 in the Department of Finance’s budget. While the department noted that there will be a revision of the budget released on May 8, an allocation of $50,000 for “feral-cat control” is “imperative.”

Dr. Andre Raine, coordinator of the Kaua‘i Seabird Recovery Project, said the decision for KHS to end its intake program “does nothing to solve the very real problem of ballooning feral-cat populations on Kaua‘i. It simply pushes it on to someone else to deal with.”

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can be found in cat feces that causes the disease toxoplasmosis, which is a leading cause of mortality among Hawaiian monk seals. As feral-cat populations increase, Raine said, so will cat-borne disease, which will lead to animal and human health impacts.

Cats also kill endangered birds on the island.

“Our native and endangered wildlife will continue to suffer the unsustainably high levels of cat predation that we record annually on Kaua‘i,” Raine said.

“It is vital that the county now find and adequately fund an alternative solution to KHS,” Raine continued. “Otherwise, the general public will have nowhere to take feral cats found on their private property.”

Horowitz said KHS “wants to work with the community to solve our feral-cat problem, but, to do so, we believe we must use science and data to craft an effective solution.”

“I don’t think just one of any of these strategies alone will solve our problem,” Horowitz said.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. Ruta Jordans May 4, 2020 7:37 am Reply

    The County Council in 2014 had the issue thoroughly researched and received a report with several options. The Council ignored it. Itt is past time to start by reading and acting upon the suggestions in that report.

  2. Uncleaina May 4, 2020 9:24 am Reply

    This is unacceptable. As monk seals and endangered species of birds are dying because of toxoplasmosis and predation, we’re going to CUT the feral cat program? This new Horowitz person is making many bad choices. I call for the county officials to require KHS to do their duty concerning cat control or have funding cut – even for FY2020. That’s the agreement- KHS handles feral cats. Are we going to let an outsider come, take our money then refuse to perform their kuleana? Does Horowitz even know what that word means? I’m interested to see if we can require KHS to obtain a take permit from the EPA or other punitive action in response to this irresponsible new policy. But I’m doing one thing immediately- I donate yearly – that’s over. If you care about the endangered species on Kauai, consider doing the same. TNR has failed! They’ve wasted untold money bringing in Animal Balance etc and deceiving us with PR stories. But you need to treat 70 percent of the feral cat population for TNR to work and they’ve never gotten above 3-5%. And now they saying TNR is the answer?? The Kauai Community Cat project? These are failed experiments; just because the director wasn’t here for the past 20 years watching the failure doesn’t change it into success – or even a viable option. Sad to see someone act so recklessly when it comes to putting feral cats and money above multiple endangered species and treating Kauai like you would a suburb of LA. But we’re paying for KHS to handle this and if they won’t then it should be reflected in their funding from the county.

    1. Aunti May 4, 2020 3:20 pm Reply

      You’re so right. And Horowitz doesn’t live here. She lives in Washington D. C. and runs KHS remotely and gets flown over every couple weeks. On the bill of your ex-yearly donation no doubt. It’s a nightmare over there. She understands nothing about the island, its people or its animals.

      1. Ann Pitcaithley May 12, 2020 8:56 pm Reply

        There is no scientific evidence that links toxiplasmosis in cat feces to death of monk seals. This is a unsound claim. If feral cat colonies are fed and cared for and there is trapping then free spaying /neutering provided provided by the Humane Society, then the cat population can be controlled. If cats are fed, there is less killing of birds. Cruel, heartless people who dump their unwanted cats should be severly penalized by a huge fine and jailed.

  3. Joe Public May 4, 2020 10:08 am Reply

    Should just be rid of KHS, stop all County funding to this organization

  4. randy kansas May 4, 2020 11:16 am Reply

    test: are you more concerned about cats or humans….how about using the wild/stray cats as a source of protein to feed the hungry and starving humans ??

    think that one over….

  5. Kauaibornandraised May 4, 2020 3:29 pm Reply

    We don’t need a cat sanctuary, we need to cut numbers down! Even if the cats won’t be able to reproduce, they can still carry and spread disease, they still cause a nuisance! I cannot believe how much money the county and other donors put into the humane society and how they are still such a disservice to our kauai community!

  6. Michael Mann May 4, 2020 10:46 pm Reply

    The $90 fee was ridiculous, Ending this intake is an affront to sanity. What part of “we live in an ecological hotzone” do people not get? Nobody claimed that having a few people bringing in feral cats, BY ITSELF, was going to solve the feral cat problem. It most certainly DOES help on a localized level for a period of time, and I know this with certainty because I experienced it DIRECTLY. The COUNTY and THE HUMANE SOCIETY should have ALSO been actively working towards cleaning up this infestation. But no…you leave it on certain individuals in the community to step up and put in the time, THEN you have the nerve to CHARGE THEM for it, THEN you have the nerve to end it altogether. The County and The Humane Society are inexcusably USELESS on this issue, and the people of Kauai DESERVE to lose all of the ecological splendor which makes Kauai a unique place on this planet. I have seldom felt this disgusted with a place.

    1. Galgen August 10, 2020 3:35 am Reply

      You do realize cats kill despite not needing food, right? That’s why they’re such a fucking problem to begin with because they surplus kill for joy and don’t even eat their prey. Spay/neutering and providing food doesn’t remove their kill drive. They should just handle the ferals like how they do in Australia, given if enough people complied the feral numbers would go down, cats don’t just appear out of thin air to immediately “take up” the space where one was previously.

      -owner of two cats

  7. ANAHOLA PAUL May 5, 2020 5:44 am Reply

    I could not agree MORE with ALL these comments…. Kauai is just kicking the can down the road for someone else to handle. THESE FERAL CATS NEED TO BE PUT TO SLEEP…. ITS TOO DANGEROUS…

  8. Johanna van de Woestijne May 5, 2020 10:58 am Reply

    Feral cats on Kauai are driving extinctions of native species on Kauai. Humane Society should not be in charge of euthanizing feral cats, rather a more reliable service should be funded, one that has the best interests of human health and wildlife health at heart. It has never been a sound practice to neuter and release feral cats and now it is a good time to stop those trap neuter release programs forever. Time to start licensing pest control services to field euthanize feral cats, save the money of transport and formalize the protocol for humane field control. People also need to be fined for letting their cats out near wildlife areas and watersheds. Think about the monk seals’ health needs, the birds, and people. Time to shut down trap neuter release altogether.

  9. KauaiFarmMan May 6, 2020 6:19 am Reply

    The feral cat population is out of control. All these crazy cat ladies with toxoplasmosis infected brains trying to protect these vermin don’t realize the devastation to our native bird species. I encourage all landowners to shoot and kill any cats they see. We need to protect our native species and marine life. Cats have no place here. Your cat comes through my yard and it will be met with a bullet to the head. Please see the humanity in killing these disease spreading, bird killing cats. Exterminate cats from Kauai!

  10. California Cousin May 6, 2020 10:03 am Reply

    I am grateful for the time of reflection & time to catch up on TGI. For me, the values I keep coming back to are good health of my family, our animals and wildlife. Unfortunately, feral cats are carriers of diseases – including Covid-19 and Toxo – and are damaging to pets and Kauai’s wildlife. Humane treatment is needed (and according to PETA) on a scale that will restore balance on the island.
    While my planned trip to Kauai this summer is now on hold & I am bummed to miss the lush forests and native birds, I have hope this respite will allow nature to bounce back a little from all the problems we have put upon it.
    I hope the Coutny can figure out another solution to this problem.

  11. merri June 3, 2020 7:28 am Reply

    I am all for County to defund KHS because they are not doing the job they are contracted to do. I was attacked by a pit bull on my property and KHS would NOT pick up the dogs. They could only be released to “owner” who had little control on the 2 hunting dogs. Then enter the feral cats. Eating my birds, not just some random foul but my specially bred and raised birds. I did not invite them on property and one was caught , taken to KHS who discovered it was microchipped. Now If it is chipped, call the owner and fine them BIG TIME.

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