An article about animal rights in Hawaii has been brewing in me for some time, but came to a head yesterday. First, let me share with you a sad story:
This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
I awoke at 4am and wandered into the common area of the hostel where I’m volunteering in trade for free accommodation to find one of my roommates up, huddled over a cat bed in the kitchen. Beside it was a yoga mat and pillow set out, as my roomie had seemingly decided that sleeping on the kitchen floor was the place to be that night.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that he was pre-occupied with caring for a tiny puppy (maybe a few weeks old), which he found hours earlier as he was leaving a bar located in an industrial area. This broken puppy was lying on the ground in front of his scooter.
Not able to leave the puppy there, he scooped it up in his shirt and rode home with it. She was shaking and obviously in shock, and was bleeding from somewhere (possibly it was in her urine). He was up all night, nursing this tiny shaken animal who was largely unconscious.
The next morning we all rallied to care for this adorable puppy. We couldn’t tell what was wrong with her, but she was at least obviously terribly dehydrated, hungry, and likely had some sort of internal injury. She was so weak, she couldn’t even lift her head.
Over the course of the day, we nursed her with puppy nutrients to help her at least improve her strength. She was showered with love and attention, even when she was unconscious.
Although we didn’t know if we would keep her or find a good home for her (or if she would even live to see the next day), Kelly chose an apt name for our new family member: Anela. It means “Angel” in Hawaiian.
We called vets and humane societies for advice and guidance. Our final hypothesis was that she was obviously abandoned, and possibly hit by a car or severely abused.
Over the course of the day, her unconsciousness turned into sleep, and she awoke more and more. By the end of the afternoon, she was able to move around in the bed we created for her, and was becoming much more vocal in her cries for her mother. We took this as a good sign – increased energy, opening her eyes, and even crying for mum were all significant improvements. We began to think she may live.
But alas, to all our surprise and disappointment, at 6pm she let out a few piercing yelps and we all came running. Over the next two minutes, as we pet her and told her she was a good girl, Anela died, and truly became an Angel.
What was Anela’s story? How did she end up mortally injured, in a parking lot outside side a bar in an industrial area? Where was her mother? And how could all this have possibly happened?
Unfortunately in Hawaii, this isn’t all that uncommon a story. In my experience, animals are not treated with the same sort of respect as we are accustomed to.
In our area, less than two blocks away in a field, a pack of feral cats live. Somebody is kind enough to put out trays of kibble, which both the cats and mongooses eat. Even Cookie, our adopted cat at the hostel, just appeared one day and over the next few months by feeding her we developed a relationship with her. She went from being terribly skittish, underweight, and not allowing anybody to get near her, to being much more healthy, and enjoying her cuddle sessions with some of us every day.
But where did all these cats come from?
Well, for starters, I have been told that the Hawaiians don’t believe in neutering or spading their animals. So in some areas, abandoned litters are adopted by the local feral community. And it’s not a pretty life either. Some of the cats I’ve seen lurking around this neighbourhood are mangy, mal-nourished, and even diseased.
And even the animals who have “homes” aren’t always treated with respect. Our own neighbours have two medium sized dogs, one of which is a puppy. They seem to be tied up outside (albeit in a sheltered area) all the time. They bark incessantly day and night. I have never once seen them being taken for a walk, but on a few occasions I’ve seen the older dog let off the leash to roam the house and neighbourhood.
I honestly have no idea why our neighbours even own these dogs; they don’t appear to enjoy them, and I can’t imagine the dogs live particularly happy lives.
Also, all too regularly for anybody’s comfort, we will hear the not-too-distant sounds of dogs in the vicinity yelping out at the top of their lungs, as if they are being tortured or beaten.
I have come to understand (but been unable to substantiate with any concrete evidence) that Hawaii has the worst track record of all the states in terms of animal rights and cruelty. And from my own limited experience, I wouldn’t say that the rumor is far off the mark.
Scientific evidence has proven that dogs have actually been bred over the generations to trust and love humans. I don’t know what the case is for cats, but it is my impression that the many strains of cat are also in existence purely for domestic purposes, each having been bred for certain aesthetic or personality characteristics.
And in our house, as we all still reel in shock from our experience with Anela, we wonder just how anybody could be cruel to a tiny animal whose sole mission in life is to please their owners. It is sick.
This article is dedicated to Anela, and the other Angels of Hawaii who don’t have a voice to speak out for their rights.