Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, December 14, 2000

Concerned about
wild dog at Tripler

Question: I want to report a case of inhumane treatment of a dog. The dog has been around the Tripler Hospital area for at least five years. Its hair is all matted and for a long time, it looked like it was starving. We've been feeding it, so it looks a little better. But it won't let any human get near it. People have tried to capture it, but with no luck. The Tripler people won't do anything and we called the Hawaiian Humane Society, but they said they can't go up there because it is federal land. They want us to catch it, but you can't unless you tranquilize it and no one wants to give us a tranquilizer. It is getting ridiculous. Can you help?

Answer: This is an interesting case that actually speaks to the kindness of people, but brings up an emotional dilemma over what's really best for the dog. The dog is "wild" but apparently is regularly provided food and water by one or more government workers.

After weeks of assessing the situation, Dennis Morris, operations officer for the Fort Shafter Military Police, says the decision is to leave the dog alone because he is not vicious, not apparently bothering anyone and not starving.

However, although it's true that the humane society did not respond because federal property is involved, spokeswoman Eve Holt said the humane society does not believe it is in the best interest of the dog to leave it alone.

We'll start from the beginning.

Holt said a "humane trap" is the proper way to capture the dog, not a tranquilizer. Tripler officials did not get involved because the dog roams off hospital grounds.

Although there is no game warden at Fort Shafter, there is one at Schofield Barracks who could set a trap for the dog, Morris said. But the question is, does anyone really want that, he said.

Morris spoke to a number of workers who knew of the dog before seeing it himself recently.

By all accounts and from his observation, it is "not starving," he said. It tends to hang around a certain area, although, as you noted, it is extremely wary of people.

"It just appears to have been on its own for years and is shy and won't go near people," Morris said. "But it is basically healthy. So the issue is not that he is starving to death in the wilderness."

If the dog is captured, it will be taken to the humane society, because the military has no animal facility, he said. Considering its age, nature and years on its own, the dog is probably not adoptable, which means it would probably be put to sleep, he said.

So, "if we're interested in the welfare of the dog, we should just leave it alone," Morris said.

However, Holt said, "As an animal welfare organization we have concerns about its quality of life -- with almost no human contact, no other animals, no one to provide care if it gets sick or injured."

The dog "may not starve to death immediately, and we can understand the attachment felt by people who have been putting out food, but is it humane to leave it to live in total loneliness with suffering and disaster looming at every moment?" she said.

If you would like to discuss the situation further, you can call Morris at 438-8012. He also said the humane society can contact him for permission to come on federal property if it is concerned about the dog's welfare.


To the honest person who found my wallet in a shopping cart and turned into customer service at Safeway. I am so grateful. -- J.T.H.

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