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'Cat Lady' relinquishes 20 pets


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To the relief of some animal lovers, the Humane Society has taken custody of 20 animals that a homeless woman had kept in cages on a street corner in Kakaako.

The woman gave the 19 cats and one rabbit to the agency on Oct. 9, saying she was overwhelmed by the care of so many animals, said Keoni Vaughn, manager of field services for the Humane Society.

“;We've been working with her for more than five years, and finally we're starting to build trust with her and an understanding,”; he said. “;We're just so delighted that we've got her to reduce her numbers.”;

The woman declined to give up six kittens. She refused comment recently as some of her cats lay on the sidewalk outside the cages on Ilalo Street near Kewalo Basin.

The Humane Society said it is still investigating the case.

Some residents have been angered by the woman's caging of her animals, which spurred them to push for stronger laws about confining animals in Hawaii.

This past legislative session, a bill proposed making it illegal to cage animals on public property for more than four hours. That bill passed, but as a weaker version that outlawed the confining of animals in only a “;cruel or inhumane manner.”;

Pamela Davis, president of the animal rights group Animal Advocate, said residents have been complaining for 10 years about the woman's confinement of cats.

“;We believe the way that the animals are being kept in those small cages and never allowed to leave ... that it's inhumane and that it's a violation of the state of Hawaii's anti-cruelty statutes,”; Davis said.

In February, Animal Advocate created a video, “;The Failure of the Hawaiian Humane Society,”; about the “;cat lady”; in Kakaako.

While happy the woman turned over some animals, Davis wants her to stop treating other cats the same way.

Vaughn, of the Humane Society, said the agency cannot take away the woman's cats because she is not breaking any laws.

He said the society visits her weekly to check on the well-being of the animals and has received animals from her before.

Contrary to what some believe, the woman does let the cats out and walks them on leashes, Vaughn said.

“;She treats those cats like they were her kids,”; he said.

Some of the cats the agency took over were adopted out already, while others need more social conditioning, Vaughn said. A mother cat and her eight kittens were in foster care.

Vaughn said the agency is part of a task force the Legislature created this year to determine humane restraint and confinement of pet animals. Next legislative session, the task force will present recommendations on caging animals and tethering dogs.

Steven Sandobal of Makiki, who was walking his two dogs in Kakaako recently, sympathized with the woman for keeping pets but said he is uncomfortable with how she keeps the animals.

“;The cat should be let free,”; he said.