The Sylvester Foundation in Waimanalo, which shelters more than 300 animals, is facing eviction.

Rescued animals
must find new digs

A menagerie of more than 300 animals might be homeless -- again -- by the end of August unless the Waimanalo-based Sylvester Foundation finds a new home.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources turned down the nonprofit organization's request yesterday to negotiate directly with the state for a new lease on the 19 acres of Waimanalo agriculture land it has occupied for eight years.

However, board Chairman Peter Young said yesterday that the department is reviewing its inventory of smaller parcels of nonagriculture land that might suit the Sylvester Foundation's purpose.

The foundation describes itself as dedicated to providing "a peaceful, permanent and loving environment for the homeless animals of Hawaii." Its current residents include cats, dogs, chickens, geese, rabbits and a pair of pot-bellied pigs.

It has a no-kill policy, which is especially attractive for military families that might have to leave a pet behind when they are deployed, said Bernice Bowers, a foundation board member.

But the Land Board ruled unanimously that, as planned, the lease on land occupied by the foundation will be auctioned off to the highest-paying qualified bidder on June 30, with move-in 60 days later.

The decision drew praise from farmers who plan to bid on the property and who had complained that the home for unwanted pets is not a true agricultural use.

Demand for quality farmland in Waimanalo is so high that the last time there was an auction, the winning bidder tripled the former lease price, testified Ellen Yee, of the Plant Place.

Sylvester Foundation supporters said they wondered where they would find another piece of land suited to their purpose.

President and founder Candy Lake said real estate agents have been searching for another site for almost a year with no success. "It's hard to find land that's suitable and affordable," she said.

Also to be auctioned June 30 are leases on three other agriculture parcels: two in Waimanalo (of five and 12 acres) and five acres in Hauula.

President and founder Candy Lake yesterday showed some of the animals and the facility at the base of the Koolau Mountains.

The foundation was not among the seven potential bidders qualified by a screening panel to bid for the land it occupies, based on business and financial requirements outlined by the state.

Lake's current lease on the land, under her name rather than the foundation's, expires at the end of August.

Young is reviewing 10 appeals from rejected bidders, including the foundation. His final decision on whether to allow any of those bidders is expected next week.

A June 7 letter from Young to the foundation said it was not qualified to bid "due to inadequate business plan and financial capacity."

Lake said the foundation's $85,000-a-year budget goes entirely to food, care and supplies for the animals. Volunteers, including herself, provide the labor.

Lake said the Sylvester Foundation -- named after the first cat she rescued -- needs at least six acres, with a house for someone to live on site, water and electricity.

In testimony before the Land Board yesterday, one potential bidder questioned why a haven for animals would include fighting cocks.

Lake said the cocks are injured ex-fighting cocks, often left for dead by the side of the road by former owners.

"Anyone who knows me knows I'd die for my animals," Lake said yesterday afternoon at the farm, where she lives with her boyfriend, Chris Boyle. "I wouldn't do that (raise fighting cocks) in a million years."

Showing the property to a reporter yesterday, Boyle noted that all the dogs are either leashed or penned and that the dozens of cats "all have a place to go" as they roam in and out of their open-door "cattery."

Sick cats or those with feline AIDS are kept in special cages and not let out, Lake noted. A veterinarian donates spaying and health care for the animals.

The Sylvester Foundation in Waimanalo has more than 300 animals, including this mongoose, shown yesterday with Candy Lake, the foundation's executive director.


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