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Police Close to Getting $2M For East Hawai‘i Animal Shelter

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HPD Maj. Aimee Wana

The Hawai‘i County Council agreed to help the Hawai‘i Police Department secure an animal control shelter in Puna to help the department in its new role as animal control officers.

The council on Wednesday approved first reading of a bill to allocate $2 million to purchase an East Hawai‘i facility where significantly more animals can be sheltered than the current 21 kennels for which the county is paying rent.

HPD took over animal control duties last year after the contract with the previous operator, The Hawai‘i Rainbow Rangers, was terminated due to the organization being unable to perform all its requirements, despite having good intentions, several media outlets reported at the time.

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If the council approves second reading of the bill the department will have more acreage and kennel space to help with officers’ new workload. It passed Wednesday unanimously. 

“I really like the direction this is headed,” Councilman Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder, who introduced the bill, said.

The precise location of the facility, other than it will be in Puna, wasn’t disclosed, as the county is in negotiations to secure it. It will not be the shelter in Mountain View that officers are using now, a location that has been a noisy burden for some neighbors who live nearby, the District 5 councilman acknowledged.

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“We’re not going to just wear down the community,” Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder said of the new location.

HPD Maj. Aimee Wana, tasked with leading the animal control duties, said the new facility will help the department in numerous ways. Police are handling 138 animals right now in their facilities, which the major said is quite a lot. The workload, combined with a lack of space, has officers only responding to priority one calls, as in, only the most urgent. To date, the department has taken in and transferred 1,000 animals, while redeeming 200 with their owners.

“We have a lot of success stories,” Wana said.

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The new shelter would provide much more space than the current 21-kennel site the department works with, she said. The facility, if the county were to relinquish animal control duties after its interim commitment ends, would still be a valuable space for other animal agency partners the county is always working with.

Also on the county and department radar is securing funds to refurbish the Kona animal shelter. Money to do that has been identified, but wasn’t a part of the $2 million request.

“I’m just so excited to see this today,” Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas said, agreeing with Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder that the new facility would give the police department the “resources needed to be successful,” and in a relatively short timeframe. “I’m really excited to see this already coming forward.”

 

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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