Puppy farm investigation sparks animal debate

Published: Aug. 16, 2010 at 9:36 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 18, 2010 at 2:28 AM HST
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Last Chance for Animals investigator
Last Chance for Animals investigator
Vernon Luke
Vernon Luke
Dave Becker
Dave Becker

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Exclusive undercover video shows disturbing images of sick and dead animals at a facility two animal groups call a huge puppy farm right here on Oahu.

The dogs are being kept on a farm in Waimanalo and some of the puppies are sold to a pet store in Pearl City.  A farm employee tells Hawaii News Now he was so concerned about what was going on he had to get help.

"That's their bed also serving as their food trough. You have three different breeds in one kennel for a total of seven dogs," said the now former employee on the video.

There are more than 120 dogs from 23 different breeds on the farm.  The former employee says the animals are neglected and left in filthy conditions with the rats and mice.

"I have never witnessed a dog being walked or let out of a cage for exercise," said the employee.

He says animal welfare was not a priority here and he contacted a nonprofit group called Last Chance for Animals.  One of its investigators then went undercover posing as a California surfer looking for work in exchange for a place to stay.  Some of what he saw is tough to watch, like a pug with a bad eye and a poodle with an injured leg and tissue oozing out of the wound.

"For seven days every day I asked the same question when are you going to fix the poodle? And they said today it's going to the vet so I got that answer for seven days straight. Today it's going to the vet, today it's going to the vet. It never went to the vet," said the Last Chance for Animals investigator that went undercover.

The investigator says there were examples of sick or dying dogs including one suffering from mange.

"His entire body was a scab, and that scab would crack and peel and bleed on a daily basis and that dog would just sit in the corner and shake and shake and shake and you'd come up to the cage and it wasn't responsive, it didn't care," said the Last Chance for Animals investigator.

Then there is video that shows a mother dog with four puppies.  The small pen is covered in urine and feces.  The undercover investigator says it's not only unsanitary, but unsafe.  He says he saw puppies die from collapsed lungs in the cramped quarters.

"Basically what would happen is the mother would roll over on the puppy and collapse the lung of the puppy and it couldn't breathe anymore and then the dog would die," said the investigator.

He says dead dogs are rolled up in newspaper and thrown out with the trash.

"It's disgusting is what it is," said the investigator.

Through public records we identified the owner of the property who also owns the Pet Spot in Pearl City where some of the puppies are sold.  She says she has nothing to do with the day to day operations at the farm but when we visited, her father Vernon Luke happened to be walking by right as the Hawaiian Humane Society went in to investigate as part of a probe that's been going on for two years.  We asked him about the allegations.

"I don't think it is that serious. As I said we work with the Humane Society. I mean they came out several times we worked with them, they see the dogs we have there wasn't that kind of problem," said Vernon Luke, former farm manager.

He also says he hasn't been involved with the operation for about nine months and sold the majority share of the business to an associate named Dave Becker.

"What's the big deal?" asked Becker.

We showed Becker the undercover video.  He says it's not as bad as the video makes it out to be and allowed our cameras on the property.  He says his staff picks up after the animals multiple times a day.  Some do get sick or hurt, but that he takes them to the vet.  As for the dog with the mange, Becker says it is a hereditary condition.

"The dog with the disease and everything I had medicine I was treating him with and just when it got too bad I took him to the vet and got instructions on how to take care of him," explained Becker.

And the poodle with the hurt leg he did take to a veterinarian.

"When I took him to the vet the vet said it had cancer and the tumors were growing out and he tried to save it. He said either we put this dog under or we amputate the leg. So he made the decision saying we know we didn't want anything to happen to the dog so he amputated the leg," said Becker.

They named him 'Lucky.'  They say he's healing and plan to adopt him out when he's recovered.

As for the puppies that died, Becker said no dogs are thrown in the trash.  They are buried in the back of the property which is allowed on a farm.  They had a response for everything and say they are doing nothing wrong.  In the end the Hawaiian Humane Society did not issue a single citation.

While Becker says the dogs have plenty of room, Last Chance for Animals called the conditions inhumane.

"I believe dogs when they sleep dream and we all dream and if you woke up in a place like that you'd be living a nightmare," said Mark Goff, Last Chance for Animals.

The story continues Tuesday night at 6:00 and 10:00 when we'll tell you why puppy breeding is so difficult to regulate and the plans to change Hawaii's laws to better protect animals.

More about this story on HawaiiNewsNow.com:

Weak Hawaii laws make it tougher to regulate puppy breeders

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

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