Saturday, February 6, 1999

Judge finds city
employee guilty in
animal cruelty case

By Debra Barayuga


A city employee was found guilty of attempted cruelty to animals by spraying a harmful substance on food put out for feral cats in Kakaako.

District Court Judge Tenney Tongg yesterday found Steven Sakai guilty of the charge of attempted cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor.

Sakai had admitted that on Sept. 28, 1998, he sprayed six mounds of cat food with a commercial lubricant because he was frustrated with feral cats entering the premises.

A retired city refuse employee had for many years been leaving cat food on the ground near the city warehouse complex where Sakai worked. The cats posed a health risk to employees because they urinated, defecated and left fleas and hair, Sakai said.

He said he had no intention of harming the cats, but wanted to make the food unpalatable so they would stay away.

Although there was no evidence that any of the cats had died from eating the contaminated food, Sakai knew it could result in their deaths, argued Deputy Prosecutor Emily Kawashima-Joaquin.

The court agreed with the state, saying Sakai knew that spraying the food with the lubricant would make the food unfit and felt his actions constituted attempted cruelty.

Sakai faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine when he is sentenced March 18.

Friends for Felines Hawaii applauded the court's decision. "It sets the example for people that you can't be maiming and murdering our cats or any animals," said the group's founder Bette Rodriguez.

Deputy public defender Darcia Forester declined comment pending Sakai's sentencing.

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