I have been reading the arguments - both pro and con - of having a no-kill Maui Humane Society. Speaking from my experience working at MHS, that is easier said than done.
When I worked as an animal control officer, I was accustomed to euthanizing eight to 10 cats and six to 10 dogs every morning. It was not an easy job and no one was desensitized to the task of euthanizing animals.
Many have spoken for those who have taken on the job, but a majority of those lambasting the employees for not caring have not walked in their shoes. I remember workers being often emotionally distressed and sadden by the task and job - including myself.
I have read many statements about how so many agencies on the Mainland have no-kill practices. Let me remind everyone that, in many of those cases, we are talking about shelters that are located in heavy populated regions in which many local, county and state taxes are given to help the situation - regions where there are many more residents who are concerned with this type of operating procedure.
I believe the answer lies in education.
During my tenure, I remember many cases of dog litters that were abandoned after the owner kept maybe one or two dogs and then took the remaining pups and left them in cane fields, in boxes on the side of a road or at the shelter.
I remember investigating dog cruelty cases where owners had dogs just to have a dog, and all care and maintenance for the animal never existed.
I would find dogs chained in yards on 3-foot chains with no water and only scraps from last night's dinner. The same dogs would be covered with fleas and ticks, and would be emaciated and suffering from blood loss due to insect infestation.
Would anyone want these type of animal owners adopting dogs and cats?
I remember some people adopting dogs and cats with their welfare checks. Upon doing home inspections, I would find homes in disarray, unsupervised children and no setup anywhere on property for an animal, if adopted.
I remember responding to a dog-barking complaint. When I arrived, I talked to a 10-year-old girl with three siblings in her charge. The children were not dressed, the house was in disarray and the family dog was tied to a clothesline with no water or food available. She informed me that her parents were in Las Vegas and would be home within five days. I informed social services of the situation and the children were taken into protective custody.
Are these the type of people to whom MHS should be adopting animals?
There were instances where I found dogs with their muzzles duct-taped shut because they barked excessively.
Should these type of owners be allowed to adopt?
What the system needs is an avenue of education for aspiring dog and cat owners. I am sure many of the employees at MHS would love to have a no-kill system. But who will provide the financial assets for such a system? Who will guarantee the financial backing for feeding a daily growing number of dogs, cats, rabbits and more? Who will guarantee the financial support for medical staff whose job it is to maintain the health of all the animals in the shelter? Who will guarantee the financial support for kennel attendants, office staff, electricity, vehicles and maintenance?
Is the county prepared and ready to stand tall for this? Getting the county on board for financial assistance is a hurdle. When I was employed by MHS, Maui County wanted to cut financial aid as much as possible.
I truly believe that a low-kill system to begin with is a start. But for all of those who would like to have a no-kill system, I say: Do the homework and collect financially fit residents of Maui who are willing to give and give and give until it hurts. Maui is an island with limited financial assets. Are people prepared to obligate and commit a percentage of their incomes to MHS to bring this to fruition?
* William Johnson is a former Maui Humane Society animal control officer.