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Hawai‘i Rainbow Rangers Fully Operational With Trained Enforcement Personnel By May

By Tiffany DeMasters
April 8, 2021, 7:44 AM HST
* Updated April 8, 9:01 AM
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HRR volunteer takes dog back to its kennel at the Kona animal shelter on April 7, 2021. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

Hawai‘i Rainbow Rangers (HRR) has assumed full animal control duties with Hawai‘i County as of April 1.

Initially scheduled to take over the contract from Hawai‘i Island Humane Society (HIHS) on Nov. 1, HRR needed additional time to secure an East Hawai‘i shelter location as well as establish programming, complete renovations to the Kona shelter and complete training for animal control employees.

“We are currently scheduling the training of these officers, which is slated to take place before the end of this month,” said Hawai‘i Police Department Administrative Chief Samuel Jelsma. “Until such time as the Animal Control Officers are properly trained, HPD officers will continue to perform all enforcement actions.”

HRR should be fully operational with trained personnel by May 1. The training for animal control officers is expected to take one day.

HRR has been offering interim services since August, which include, dog licensing — picking up stray, unwanted, trapped, or vicious animals — and spay and neutering services. Jelsma said HRR initially asked for three months to get up and running before assuming full contract responsibilities. However, that deadline kept getting pushed further down the road as HRR searched to secure suitable facilities in Waimea and East Hawai‘i.

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HRR has since secured three animal control shelter locations (Kona, Waimea, and Puna), as well as hired the required 15 Animal Control Officers. Jelsma said the Kona and Waimea facilities are the same ones used by HIHS, the Puna location is the Bar-King Dog Kennels in Orchidland.

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The Puna location is not a permanent solution to HRR’s need for an East Hawai‘i shelter. HRR Director of Operations Nick Lippincott said they are in the process of looking at suitable sites in Hilo.

HRR was operating with half of its budget since August, receiving an interim rate of $94,000 a month. Jelsma said the organization received its first full monthly payment on April 1 in the amount of $163,927. HRR’s annual budget is $1.593 million.

HRR is a branch of Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit founded in 1999 and dedicated to the well-being of abandoned, abused and neglected animals. Programming and services have been established with help from Utah’s Best Friends Animal Society. Lippincott was brought over by Best Friends as part of the organization’s embed program to set up animal services.

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“Our job is to set up a playbook,” Lippincott said. “The embed program is not forever. My thought is to be here until the setup is done.”

Lippincott said HRR is ecstatic with the full opening of animal control services.

“From the Best Friends perspective, this is without a doubt one of the more harrowing challenges. Getting them set up in the system has been a lot of work, but glad it’s been paying off,” Lippincott said.

When it comes to mission and vision, Lippincott said, the goal is to make a “live release” every day. A live release means getting an animal out of the shelter alive.

With this goal in mind, Lippincott said, it doesn’t mean euthanasia won’t happen.

“To say a shelter is 100% no-kill is usually not accurate,” he said. “Some animals come in old and sick and it’s the most humane thing to do.”

HRR may be reached at 808-666-9589 to receive requests for services and complaints regarding animals from the public. This phone line will be staffed Monday through Friday during business hours of 8 am to 5 pm. Messages left on the answering machine will be responded to on the next business day, inclusive of those concerning lost pets.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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