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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pets need Neighborhood Watch, too

Hawaiian Humane Society

Midnight

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Andre

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Over the past 35 years, Neighborhood Watch groups have become a foundation of crime prevention. Their success is based on all neighbors cooperating to protect their community and property. The initiative has proven to be successfully adaptable besides neighborhoods, groups now look after parks, university campuses and marinas.

A recent movement is the Neighborhood Watch for Pet Safety, which can be incorporated in existing efforts or created as a standalone program.

The basic premise: Citizens are often in a good position to recognize if animal cruelty is occurring in their community. Protecting neighborhood pets also helps keep the people who live there safe. A 1997 study conducted by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University revealed that animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes than are individuals without a history of animal abuse.

It is often difficult to detect child or domestic abuse. But a neighbor may express concern over a dog that is chained in the yard and repeatedly left alone without food or water.

Here are tips to help protect the animals in your community.

  • Know the law. In Hawai'i, most animal cruelty offenses are considered misdemeanors, with fines from $50 to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to a year. The Legislature is considering a bill that would enforce felony-level (class C) offenses for aggravated cruelty to pet animals.

    Additionally, if you have found and are holding a lost animal, the law requires that you inform the humane society.

  • Know the animals that live around you. If a pet escapes and is roaming the neighborhood, you'll know how to contact his owner or help the animal get home. Encourage your community to get their pets microchiped and to wear identification tags.

    Mililani resident Arlene Terawaki understands the importance of pet identification. In January, her dog Kokoro, who is microchipped and wears an ID tag, got loose from her home. She contacted the humane society and found the dog had not been not turned in. To supplement the search, the society suggested she post "lost dog" signs in her neighborhood. A few days later, a teenager walking home from school found the dog as well as noticing the lost-dog posters and was able to reunite Kokoro with her family.

  • Report acts of overt cruelty to the Hawaiian Humane Society. Animals without adequate shelter or pets whose conditions go untreated should be reported. The details you provide can help an investigation.

  • Take note of strangers. If animals are disappearing from homes, or if you notice an increase in lost-pet signs, alert your neighbors.

  • Help the elderly. Pets are important companions, but providing essential care is often a hardship for the elderly. Offer to walk dogs, clean litter boxes, feed pets or take them to a veterinarian.

    Launching a Neighborhood Pet Watch is a way to raise awareness of the connection between animal and human abuse and to ensure that pets, and their owners, are safe.

    MIDNIGHT

    Tag No. 07-4303 Pretty Midnight was surrendered on March 7, so she has been with us for awhile. She was admitted with areas of hair loss, probably caused by poor nutrition. She also has a distinctive notch in her right ear.

    ANDRE

    Tag No. 07-3694 Andre came to us with areas of hair loss, probably caused by poor nutrition. He was shy and timid at first, but is coming out of his shell nicely. Andre participates in the society's behavior program, and is being taught basic commands and proper manners.

    These animals already may have found homes. The Hawaiian Humane Society and McInerny Dog Park at 2700 Wai'alae Ave. are open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For directions, special events and to see more pets available for adoption, visit www.hawaiianhumane.org or call 946-2187. Call immediately to report lost or found animals, ext. 4.