In October 2016, the Hawaiian Humane Society took on one of its biggest rescue operations in their 130-year history. According to Hawaiian Humane communications and community events manager, Suzy Tam, they had received complaints about a locally owned no-kill shelter on the island’s leeward coast for years.
They heard rumors the dogs were mistreated and kept in inhumane conditions, but legal ties kept them from intervening. Then, in October, Hawaiian Humane staff received a tip from a credible source. With help from a search warrant and the Honolulu Police Department, the gates to Friends for Life animal shelter in Waianae, HI were finally opened.
Over 300 dogs were kept in squalid conditions, forced to lie in their own feces and urine. Dogs lay chained to ramshackle buildings or crammed together in small wire crates. Dead rats littered the ground while live rodents fed on rotting bags of trash. The area reeked of rancid food and animal waste.
Even worse than the condition of the property was the state of the dogs. They were thin, emaciated, and dehydrated. Many suffered from festering skin conditions that left their fur patchy and their skin pink with inflammation. Ticks, fleas, and lice thrived on the dogs’ shaking bodies. Many were too exhausted to even lift their heads to greet their rescuers. Tam told iHeartdogs,
“Some dogs suffered debilitating skin disorders, had open wounds and pressure sores and others were malnourished and starving.”
There were puppies, adult dogs, and seniors all in varying stages of health. Many were transported directly to local veterinary clinics to receive emergency care. It took all day, but over 300 dogs were removed from the property. They were individually checked by Hawaiian Humane veterinary staff to have their medical issues addressed. From there, the long journey to recovery began.
Unable to house the huge number of incoming dogs, the Hawaiian Humane Society reached out to the local community. Dogs were placed with foster families as police conducted an investigation. Without legal recognition, the dogs could not be adopted out. For months, they lived in limbo as they recovered. Tam said,
“Since being in our care, it has been amazing to see the transformation some of these dogs have gone through in such a short time.”
Then, on March 31, the Hawaiian Humane Society was officially granted forfeiture, and they could finally go about finding forever families for their rescued dogs. To start, they hosted an adoption event specifically for the Waianae dogs. Out of the 36 rescue dogs made available, 26 found loving homes. With the legal rights to move forward, the Hawaiian Humane Society has been working tirelessly to prepare the dogs for adoption and find them forever families. Many have been officially adopted by their foster families, and Hawaiian Humane uses social media to spread the word.
To date, over 200 have been adopted. But there are still many looking for homes. Willie, a six-year-old dog whose one remaining eye is completely blind, is one of them. Tam describes him as a “sweetheart” and says,
“It may seem intimidating to take on the responsibility of a dog with needs like Willie, but once he’s grown comfortable and used to his surroundings, he can find his own way pretty well. Seeing him find a family would be great.”
While Willie and his friends wait, the Hawaiian Humane Society has cited the two owners of Friends for Life with 310 counts of animal cruelty in the second degree. The trial is scheduled for July 14.
If you’d like to learn more about Willie and the other Waianae rescue dogs waiting to be adopted, visit the Hawaiian Humane Society’s adoption webpage.
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