Hawai'i State News

Hawaiʻi County Council approves new animal control agency with 45 full-time positions

Listen to this Article
5 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

The Hawaiʻi County Council on Wednesday passed the second and final reading of a bill that creates a new Hawaiʻi County Animal Control and Protection Agency. File photo.

The Big Island community has been unhappy with the way animal control has been handled, with social media often riddled with reports of stray, neglected and vicious animals.

Shelters and other Hawai‘i County animal control facilities are in disrepair. Complaints are many and frequent about the Hawai‘i Police Department not performing up to par after taking over animal control services in July 2021 as part of a pilot program. There’s also a need for a low-cost islandwide spay and neuter program.

In recent months at Hawaiʻi County Council meetings, person after person has testified about the problems and urged change.

On Wednesday during their regular meeting, Council members took action and approved the second and final reading of Bill 22, creating of a new Hawai‘i County Animal Control and Protection Agency.

The Council also approved a resolution that staffs the new agency with 45 permanent civil service positions. Those positions will include the agency’s administrator, dispatchers, shelter managers, animal control officers and kennel technicians, who take calls and care for animals and the agency’s facilities.


The positions are already budgeted through the existing pilot program currently operated by the Police Department, but the County has been filling them with short-term contracts. It is hoped that permanent positions will attract more people to apply and allow for additional recruitment.

The new agency will be tasked with caring for impounded animals and protecting animals according to state and county law. The bill also amends sections of Chapters 2 and 4 of Hawai‘i County Code necessary for the implementation of the new agency.

The primary functions of the new agency:

  • Operating county pounds
  • Examining issues with and proposing updates to existing county animal control ordinances
  • Enforcing county and state animal control laws
  • Investigating animal cruelty and neglect cases

The agency also will provide a dedicated dispatch for animal control calls.

The new agency will continue under the pilot program, which has an annual $3.4 million operating budget. With an amendment to Bill 22 approved Wednesday, the agency also will be required to report to the Council twice a year to make sure the public knows what it’s doing.


“If there was question in the community about the administration or the Council’s commitment to our animal community, I think this is a strong testament that we absolutely support caring for our furry creature friends,” Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said.

Hawai‘i County Code and state law require the County to feed and shelter impounded dogs, cats and domesticated animals, including dogs confiscated under the County’s dangerous dog law. Other services formerly provided by the Hawai‘i Island Humane Society, such as spay and neuter programs or taking in feral animals, are not currently required. The humane society and other nonprofit organizations continue to help provide those services.

Bubba was found last summer starving in Waimea. Judy Howard took him in and he is healthy and in need of a home. Photo: Judy Howard

Responsibility for animal control was historically contracted to the Hawai‘i Island Humane Society, but the organization declined to submit a bid during renegotiation of the contract in 2020. The Hawai’i Rainbow Rangers were supposed to take over the contract in November 2020, but did not until April 2021. The contract was terminated in June that year because the organization could not meet requirements. The Police Department took over about a month later.

The next steps include hiring an administrator and additional full-time employees for the agency; repairing the animal control facility in East Hawai‘i; constructing a new facility in West Hawai‘i; and forming an advisory group or task force to hone in on how to best address all of the community’s concerns.

Hawai‘i County Managing Director Lee Lord said it’s a “body in motion.” The County is already working on getting the necessary components in place. While he wishes it could be sooner, Lord said hopefully it can be up and running by July, with the task force to follow shortly after.


The Council also approved Bill 21, which authorizes the issuance of up to $127.5 million in general obligation bonds for several capital improvement projects around the island, including providing $2 million for animal control facilities.

Admittedly, the new agency likely won’t fix all of the issues surrounding animal control on the Big Island, but the Council thinks it is the best way to move forward.

“This is one of the big community asks to get this program rolling and there’s some concern about the fiscal impact, but at the same time this is such a huge issue in our community on all sides,” Councilman Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder said. “It’s big. It’s a lot to chew on, but I think it’s going to do a lot for our community.”

Council Chairwoman Heather Kimball said it’s great to finally get over the last hurdle of creating the new agency and the Council will continue to work with the community on animal control issues moving forward.

Among other business Wednesday, the Council:

  • Adopted Resolution 57-23, urging the Hawai‘i Legislature to permanently exempt birth attendants from state licensure requirements and expand the eligibility criteria for midwifery licensure. The resolution supports passage of House Bill 955 and its companion Senate Bill 1047.
  • Adopted Resolution 69-23, awarding a $61,056 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to nonprofit organization Pōhāhā I Ka Lani to be used for the protection, preservation and restoration of the Waipiʻo Valley Lookout.
  • Adopted Resolution 73, reaffirming the County’s commitment to diverting on-island waste to sustainably process carbon-negative cement, biochar and green hydrogen and reclaim water to help achieve goals related to climate resiliency, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and zero waste.
  • Postponed consideration of the first reading for Bill 230, which proposes the formation of a Downtown Hilo Business Improvement District, to the April 5 Council meeting. The creation of the improvement district would be to help finance supplemental public safety, sanitation, landscaping and maintenance services and infrastructure improvements in Downtown Hilo.
  • Approved the second and final reading of Bill 19, repealing an obsolete and somewhat offensive section of county code that regulates public dance houses and halls.
Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments