LAIE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police and the Hawaiian Humane Society are investigating possible theft and animal cruelty allegations after a malnourished pit bull, allegedly stolen 14-months ago, was found near death at a home in Laie.
Keli, a five year old blue nose pit bull, belongs to the Kamauu family in Hauula. Kahea Kamauu told Hawaii News Now Keli was tethered just outside the family home when, in November 2009, he vanished.
"At first I thought maybe he got loose and maybe he did start wondering the street. It wasn't until a neighbor had mentioned they had saw two kids walking off with him (that I realized he'd been stolen)," Kamauu said.
Kahea Kamauu and his kids were heartbroken.
"I called radio stations. I did anything I think somebody would do as if they lost their child because that's how I felt with Keli," Kamauu added.
He had just about given up when, on January 1, more than a year after Keli disappeared, Kamauu got a tip. A friend had heard people talking about Keli and that friend provided Kamauu with the name of one of the people who allegedly took Keli.
Kamauu said he confronted that person, an area resident in his 20's, and the man eventually confessed to taking the dog. He led Kamauu to a property in Laie where Keli was kept.
"Just a dirt road … back property. I waited for a few minutes and then up came the guy with my dog Keli. He was barely recognizable," Kamauu said.
Keli was skinny, skittish, and covered with scabs.
"The condition of his body was severely emaciated. Evidence of malnourishment. Multiple bite wounds in various stages of healing," said Dr. Dan Severson, medical director at the VCA Animal Hospital in Kaneohe, who treated Keli. Severson said Keli was near death.
Kamauu suspected Keli may have been forced to fight in an underground dog fighting organization. He contacted police and the humane society. On Saturday, January 8, animal officers with the humane society accompanied police to the property where Keli was found.
"It is an ongoing investigation, but I can say up until this point we haven't found any evidence leading to indicate dog fighting," Keoni Vaughn, manager of field services for the Hawaiian Humane Society, told Hawaii News Now.
Vaughn is trained to recognize bite wounds.
"In most dog fighting cases that I've worked on and investigated you'll see that the dog bite patterns on the dogs are primarily around the facial area and neck," he said.
Keli's bite marks are mostly on his legs and hind quarters.
The people who had Keli were given warning citations for not providing three other dogs with adequate shelter.
Police are still investigating the theft allegation.
Keli is gaining weight, but still needs expensive treatment for heart worms, hook worms and other ailments.
"You can't treat animals like that. Where as it might be a joke for some people, it's a family member to somebody else," Kamauu said.
Vaughn said to his knowledge there has never been a conviction for organized dog fighting in Hawaii. But, he said, the humane society believes dog fighting exists in Hawaii. He said the Hawaiian Humane Society will pay $5,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of people running dog fights.