The Deaths of 10 Cats at the Hands of the City — Why Did They Have to Die?
On October 6, 2010, Animal Advocate Inc. received word that Mr. Richard Crabbe, an employee at the Pearl City Refuse Yard (952 3rd Street in Pearl City, O’ahu), was ordered to trap the feral cats who have lived on the site for years, and transport them to the Hawaiian Humane Society (“HHS”) to be euthanized. This information was provided to Animal Advocate Inc. by Mr. Carroll Cox (host of The Carroll Cox Show radio program).
The original report we received indicates that Mr. Crabbe was ordered to eradicate the cats by Mr. David Shiraishi, Refuse Collection Administrator at the Pearl City Yard. What is troubling about this is that the City has no formal policy on how to deal with the presence of feral cats on City property.
In this case, employees at the Pearl City Yard had cared for these cats and fed them for many years. Thus, the feral cats were accustomed to the employees, and trusted them. One of the cats was even looked upon by Mr. Crabbe as his “own” cat.
Then, one day, these trusting animals were trapped and taken to the HHS, where they were all put to death.
We contacted the HHS for information and corroboration of the facts, but the HHS would tell us nothing.
However, employees at the Pearl City Yard reported that since October 6, 2010, Mr. Crabbe has trapped at least ten (10) cats and transported them to the HHS to have them euthanized.
We decided to do two things: first, we would gather the documents and find out exactly what happened, who ordered the killings, and why; and, second, we would try to work with the new City Administration (Mayor Peter Carlisle) to develop a formal written policy for humanely dealing with the presence of feral cats on City properties across the island of O’ahu.
That way, there would be no more trapping and killing of cats.
Pam Davis of Animal Advocate Inc. called and spoke with Mr. Shirashi, and with Mr. Robert Primiano (Chief of Automotive and Equipment Services) on October 27, 2010, and made tape recordings of these telephone conversations. During the conversation, Primiano said there was “information from correspondence going back and forth between the yards on this matter”, and Mr. Shirashi alluded to a written request involving this matter as well.
The Pearl City Yard employees stated that there were documents relating to the incident. Therefore, on November 7, 2010, Pam Davis sent Tim Steinberger (Director of the Department of Environmental Services, “DES”) a formal request for documents under the Uniform Information Practices Act (“UIPA”), including emails, logs, forms, receipts and any and all other information pertaining to the feral cats, during the period October 1, 2010 to the present.
Perhaps not surprisingly, on November 30, 2010, Tim Houghton of DES responded, saying that DES has “completed our records search and have not identified any records of the City related to your request.” This was obviously a lie. We knew there were records, and we were entitled to them under the open records law. We have taped conversations with two (2) City employees saying such records do in fact exist. The City’s DES was hiding records and lying to the public about what happened to the cats.
We immediately sent an email letter to Mayor Carlisle regarding the lack of transparency in his administration. On December 1, 2010, Pam Davis also sent an email letter to Louise Kim-McCoy, Public Relations person for the Mayor, and told her DES says they have no documents, yet we have tape recordings of Primiano and Shirashi saying there were emails and other documents generated. It’s a cover-up, and it’s simply not acceptable. We received a response the same day. Ms. Kim-McCoy said she talked to Primiano and Shirashi and “it was determined that removal of feral cats was necessitated by a potential safety concern to the drivers of the refuse vehicles who try to avoid running over the cats”. This, by the way, contradicts what Mr. Shiraishi and Mr. Primiano told Pam Davis, which is that the employees were tired of picking up feces left by the cats. It was not a “safety concern” as Ms. McCoy wanted us to believe.
We sent Ms. Kim-McCoy a letter regarding Trap-Neuter-Release-Return (“TNRR”), and that we would like to see a formal written policy by the City for dealing with feral cats, to avoid incidents in the future. We said we would like to assist in the effort, and also provided her the resume of a City employee, willing to help, who has years of experience in TNRR and runs several successful TNRR programs on City and State properties.
[Use this link to read our November 7, 2010 letter to Louise Kim-McCoy, Public Relations for Mayor Peter Carlisle, about establishing a formal written policy for City workers when feral cats are found on City properties.]
Unfortunately, Ms. Kim-McCoy and her boss, Mayor Peter Carlisle, are apparently too busy with the train to care about the deaths of some feral cats. Animal Advocate Inc. and others are willing to work hard to adopt a written policy, but to no avail.
The City is simply not interested. The TNRR caregivers of our state are selfless people who spend their own time and money to feed the ferals and provide veterinary care when needed — all with no expense to the taxpayers.
But we were still outraged at the lie by DES, telling us there were no records on the feral cat eradication at the Pearl City Yard. So, on December 12, 2010, we filed a formal written complaint with the Office of Information Practices (“OIP”).
[Use this link to access our OIP complaint.]
After many months, on May 18, 2011, the DES finally agreed to provide us the records.
This is interesting — DES said they do not maintain records relating to my request. DES acknowledged that certain employees did have email conversations regarding the feral cats. However, they said, “DES does not consider these emails to be government records responsive to the subject records request because they were not systematically maintained as apart of the records of DES an therefore are not documents within the agency’s control. Consequently, DES is not required to disclose these emails pursuant to HRS Chapter 92F. Nevertheless, in order to refute Ms. Davis’s accusations that DES failed to disclose and then destroyed public documents, and to assure her that DES has never blatantly violated any disclosure requirement as she contends, DES has chosen, in this instance, to provide Ms. Davis with the attached emails relating to this matter.”
[Use this link to access the letter, and also the documents turned over to us by the Department of Environmental Services regarding the trapping of the cats.]
So, the City lied to us about the records. However, because we had taped conversations, and because Pam Davis made public allegations that the records must have been destroyed (if they do not exist any longer), the City reluctantly agreed to provide the email documents. We have filed an Ethics Complaint against Timothy Houghton of DES for misrepresenting facts and for denying us public records.
[Use this link to read our Ethics Complaint.]
The Bottom Line:
We are very concerned about the lying of Tim Houghton and other DES employees (including Mr. Primiano and Mr. Shirashi). This behavior is very troubling, that the City would lie about documents to protect itself, which is contrary to our open records laws.
We are also concerned about the length of time it took for OIP to take proper action.
And of course, we are dismayed about the lack of willingness of the Carlisle Administration to develop a formal written policy regarding feral cats on City property, despite the offers of help and assistance from our organization and an expert in TNRR who lives in Honolulu.
As of now, the feral cats who reside on property owned by the City and County of Honolulu are still in jeopardy. Ten cats died unnecessarily. Shameful.
-By Pam Davis, President, Animal Advocate Inc.