Military policy
on strays criticized

Critics say the practice of
catching and killing
animals is inhumane

By Mary Vorsino

More than 400 stray cats and dogs have been removed from military bases on Oahu and handed over to the Hawaiian Humane Society since June 30 last year under a practice criticized by animal rights activists.

The Humane Society does not track how many of the military's stray animals were adopted and how many were euthanized, but spokeswoman Eve Holt said stray animals are usually euthanized immediately if they are sick or overly aggressive.

The Citizens for Humane Animal Policies, a local feral-animal advocacy group, is criticizing a Navy policy to trap and send to the Humane Society feral animals from bases while prohibiting feral-animal feeding.

Navy spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan said the policy clarifies early Navy regulations to control the population of feral animals on Navy property. "Free-roaming cats and dogs on Navy property pose a potential public health threat to Navy personnel and are a threat to wildlife including endangered species and migratory birds," she said.

Tauyan said the Navy has a contract with the Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services to remove the feral animals on bases and "protect the threatened and endangered species and migratory birds within Navy refuges and housing areas."

"The USDA-WS humanely traps the animals and transports them to the Hawaiian Humane Society," she said.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe has adopted the Navy's feral animal policy, base spokesman Chris Hughes said. Feral cats, though, are sent to the base's natural resources department rather than the Humane Society. About two to three feral cats are euthanized every month, Hughes said.

Other military bases have similar practices but do not have policies.

Army installations in Hawaii have a similar practice regarding stray animals found on bases, public affairs officer Capt. Stacy Bathrick said.

Christopher Anderson, deputy chief of public affairs at Hickam Air Force Base, said the base has an agreement with the Department of Agriculture to control feral cat populations. Feral cats trapped on the base are given to the Humane Society, but civil engineers working with HAFB officials are drawing up a policy that could include feral animal sterilization and then release, he said.

The Coast Guard does not have an official feral cat policy, said spokeswoman Erica Ryan.

Cindy Newburg, a member of Citizens for Humane Animal Policies, said, "They'll never catch them all (the feral animals). Trap-and-kill has never worked and will never work."

The Navy's policy prohibits trap-neuter-release programs from being established on Navy bases and terminates any similar programs already in effect on the bases.

Newburg said some Army installations have unofficial stray-animal neutering and feeding programs.

Cathy Goeggel, director of research and investigation at Animal Rights Hawaii, said a program to trap and neuter stray animals is a more humane way to deal with stray-animal problems.

"It's a difficult situation. (But) the military doesn't seem to spend any time on it."

In 2000 the state Department of Health attempted to pass a regulation that would have prohibited feral cat feeding in parks, beaches and other public areas, said department spokeswoman Janice Okubo. The proposal failed after widespread negative public reaction, she said.

Newburg's organization will hear from a Navy spokesman at a meeting Thursday at Paki Hale, 3840 Paki Ave. in Waikiki, from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. For more information on the meeting, contact Newburg at 254-8116.

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