(KANEOHE) HawaiiNewsNow - The fight over the Waimanalo puppy farm dogs gets more intense. Not only is the Hawaiian Humane Society going after the breeders criminally, but they've added a civil lawsuit worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It's taken nearly three years to go from the original complaint to the courtroom, and along the way the fight against puppy mills has picked up support. About 30 animal advocates protested outside the courthouse and heckled the defense attorney as he walked by questioning how he could take such a case and yelling things like "pets aren't products" and "justice for the dogs."
"Its part of the process so we're expecting it and were prepared for it," said Jason Burks, Defense Attorney, in regards to the protestors.
What he wasn't prepared for was the actual case. Burks was hired last week to represent Bradley International, the corporation charged with 153 counts of animal cruelty. He says he hasn't had time to review the thousands of pieces of evidence.
"I don't have any of the reports, I don't have any of the information on it," said Burks.
Today Judge Lono Lee granted a delay in the case until July 20.
No one with Bradley International showed up to court but Burks says they plan to enter a not guilty plea.
"Our office is confident we can successfully prosecute these cases," said Andrew Park, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney.
The Hawaiian Humane Society also filed a civil lawsuit. They want Bradley International to forfeit the more than 230 dogs and pay for the $240,000 worth of expenses to care for them in just the first three months after the dogs were seized February 28. The expense total gets higher each passing day.
"The organization and its officers, Vernon Luke, Shannon Luke, Sheryl Luke, they need to do the right thing and what's best for the animals which is to allow us to find forever homes for them," said Keoni Vaughn, Hawaiian Humane Society Chief Investigator. "The forfeiture is to allow the Humane Society ownership of the animals despite the outcome of the criminal case and not having to wait through the lengthy process."
Dori Lovell feels especially connected to the case. She was one of the protestors shouting at the defense attorney. Not only is she fostering one of the dogs from the puppy farm but four years ago she bought her own dog Sugar baby from the Pet Spot. That's the store connected to the defendants and owned by Sheryl Luke-Kalani, who is also the landowner of the Waimanalo farm where the dogs were bred.
"The fact that I gave them a large amount of money for her and then to see what's happening now it's difficult, it's hard to take," said Dori Lovell. "It makes me feel terrible. It makes me feel guilty, but a lot of people didn't know. I'm not alone and it makes me feel lied to."
Other protestors are also fostering some of the dogs and offered an update on their condition.
"Oh they are doing wonderful. They came to me and they were underweight and one had to have most of her teeth removed because of infections and she is growing and having a great time," said Ruth Terna, volunteer who is fostering two dogs. "I love them they're a lot of fun and they just want to be loved and loved back."
"I'm here to show that the people of Hawaii do not want puppy mills in their community. It's such a disgrace to the aloha spirit and the aloha state," said Marilyn Bevins, volunteer who is fostering one of the dogs.
Prosecutors and the Hawaiian Humane Society are still looking for David Becker, the farms manager. He still has not been served with the court documents. Sources say he's left the state about a month ago and returned to the mainland.
Each of the 153 counts of animal cruelty carries a penalty up to a year in prison and/or a $2,000 fine.
Becker, Vernon Luke and his son Shannon Luke are all listed as officers of the Bradley International company. It still hasn't been determined which one would have to pay the fine and serve the prison time if the corporation is found guilty.
Becker and none of the Luke's returned calls for comment.