Weak Hawaii laws make it tougher to regulate puppy breeders - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Weak Hawaii laws make it tougher to regulate puppy breeders

Keoni Vaughn Keoni Vaughn
Sen. Clayton Hee Sen. Clayton Hee
Dave Becker Dave Becker
Vernon Luke Vernon Luke
Mark Goff Mark Goff

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

WAIMANALO (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 60 percent of households own a pet, but do you really know where it came from?

An undercover investigation began when a former employee at the breeding facility in Waimanalo blew the whistle calling the conditions inhumane.  The Hawaiian Humane Society says it is concerned about puppy farms where profit is more important than animal welfare and many of the pet stores in Hawaii are feeding the problem. 

The undercover video taken by an animal rights group called Last Chance for Animals shows sick, injured and in some cases dead puppies at a farm in Waimanalo.  The organization showed the video to the Hawaiian Humane Society, which had already issued 17 warnings to the farm over the past two years.

With the evidence in the video they inspected again, but when they went to the farm there wasn't enough for a single violation and they weren't able to issue any citations.

"I'm really frustrated with the current law and I have been for a couple years now," said Keoni Vaughn, Hawaiian Humane Society Chief Inspector.  He was talking with Dave Becker, the farm's manager right after the inspection.

"If you were in the business because of your love for animals it's a whole different ball game. You're here for profit only," said Vaughn.

"Okay you can't say that," responded Becker.

"Yes I can.  What about when we were in there today, did you not tell me this dog is worthless it's been spayed? I have no purpose for this dog, did you not say that?" asked Vaughn, referring to a bichon frise dog that can't reproduce, but was still kept on the farm.

"I said I was selling him," answered Becker.

"But didn't you say she had no purpose?" said Vaughn.

"No purpose for us here, to keep there," said Becker.

"Why not?" asked Vaughn.

"Because," said Becker.

"Because you don't care for the animal, you don't love the animal or is it because it can't breed and you can't earn money off of it?" said Vaughn.

"Just because, it doesn't need to be here. It needs to be in a home," said Becker.

"Why can't it be here? Why can't you give it the same love and affection?" asked Vaughn.

"This dog here is for a home that wants a pet, that's what I said, I didn't make it sound like oh its cool, no don't put words in my mouth," said Becker.

They're barking at each other in large part because of Hawaii's lack of animal breeding laws.  Vaughn says the cute little puppies found in pet stores often come from dirty places.

"So we can have stronger laws and stricter enforcement but the bottom line is as long as there are pet shops and puppy swap meets and there's a demand then there always will be puppy mills," said Vaughn in a later interview.

A breeder normally needs a federal permit to sell dogs to a pet store.  Because the property owner in Waimanalo and the Pet Spot in Pearl City have the same owner no permit is necessary which the Hawaiian Humane Society says can make the breeder tougher to regulate.

Some consider it a loophole, but not the former farm manager and property owner's father.

"Well I don't think, you say loophole. That's what they have done in the relationship," said Vernon Luke, former farm manager.  "I would think if it is a big problem the Humane Society would come in and close it down because the Humane Society has told me that if you didn't do the job right they would close us down."

"Well dogs that are confined in a dog breeding puppy mill situation get injured because they're confined in these spaces they get illnesses because you're dealing with multiple animals in an enclosed area," said Mark Goff, Last Chance for Animals.

By law households are allowed up to 10 dogs, but a farm can essentially have an unlimited amount of dogs.  Right now there are no state laws that specifically regulate large scale breeders.

"Hawaii definitely needs stricter laws. I am surprised at a state with people that are so compassionate and so much about aloha that they're allowing situations like this just because I don't think they're knowledgeable about it I don't think it's been exposed that this is a serious problem," said Goff.

We exposed State Senator Clayton Hee to the video.  He has successfully championed animal rights in the past.

"After seeing this it's clear I'll introduce a bill requiring puppy mills to be regulated," said Sen. Hee, (D) Kahuku, Laie, Kaneohe.  "It's unfortunate that the profit motives of people are such that animals and pets in particular should suffer."

Senator Hee is already working on that bill and plans to work with local animal groups on the specific language.  The Hawaiian Humane Society says in addition to making conditions better for animals, it would also like to make pet stores disclose where they get their puppies.

Also Becker did voluntarily surrender two dogs.  One is the dog with the mange.  The Hawaiian Humane Society will nurse it back to health and adopt it out when its recovered. The other dog is the spayed bichon frise that sparked the argument between the Becker and Vaughn.  It was cleaned up and already adopted.

More about this story on HawaiiNewsNow.com:

Puppy farm investigation sparks animal debate

NOTE: The Ward Pet Spot at Ward Warehouse has no affiliation with the Pet Spot in Pearl City. 

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