The Hawaiian Humane Society Investigator
The Hawaiian Humane Society’s 13 animal officers ward off aggressive dogs, rescue cats from storm drains and enforce animal cruelty laws. To find out what the job is really like, we rode along with an HHS investigator.
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› 11:24 a.m.: The Trap
Sometimes Ling’s work is done for him. He walks up to a sheet of paper taped onto a fence with a map of the backyard and a handwritten note by the homeowner informing Ling that there’s a cat in one of HHS’ feral cat Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) cages. Ling opens the gate and finds a cage with a white towel covering it. He lifts it up and, inside, a small, white kitten with black splotches on its ears and back peers up at him. Ling sets his own metal cage next to the trap cage to transfer the month-old male kitten. It’s scared and starts meowing and clawing on the opposite end, trying to escape. Ling finally picks up the kitten by the scruff of his neck and puts him into the cage. “It’s all right, little guy,” he says to the kitten. “At the end of my shift, I’ll take it to HHS and a vet will assess him. If we can put a band on him without the kitten biting or scratching, then he has a good chance of getting adopted.”
For a $100 deposit, the society loans residents TNRM cages, in which people can trap feral cats and drop them off to HHS or have the humane investigators pick them up. The purpose is to curb the feral cat population on Oahu; last year, 2,378 feral cats were sterilized and re-released through the program. You can tell if a feral cat has been neutered because veterinarians put a small notch on the top of its right year.
› 1:02 p.m.: The Check-Up
Kathleen sits in the shade on a low rock wall on Kaheka Street, between Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and Don Quijote. Beside her is a modified bike with stacked wire cages on the back covered by a blue tarp. Inside, two kittens, about two months old, nap. On the other side of the rock wall, three adult cats are leashed to small palm trees, lazing like zoo lions in the shade. Two milk jugs with the tops cut off provide water for the cats and a current newspaper sits on the ground under a handful of dry cat food.
“Hi, Kathleen,” says Ling. “How are you today?”
“Fine,” she says. “It’s hot out.”
Kathleen has a reputation at the Hawaiian Humane Society and within the community—she’s even been written about in Honolulu newspapers. Kathleen is known as the “Cat Lady.” Ling has visited her regularly during his eight years as an investigator. At one point she had 20 cats, all of which she kept inside cages. At the time she was living on Kakaako’s streets. “We would get complaints about her daily,” says Ling.
The society humane investigators finally persuaded her to relinquish most of the cats. A verbal agreement was made that limits her to five cats, a promise she has kept so far. Ling says goodbye to Kathleen, warning her that she’s safer on Kaheka Street than in Kakaako.
Ling parks in the back of the Hawaiian Humane Society, where he will drop off the kitten and wrap up some paperwork. It’s been an emergency-free day, which he likes. The feral kitten might even find its way into a loving home because of him. “There were some happy endings,” he says with a big smile.