HONOLULU - Dozens of former and current Hawaiian Humane Society employees, along with volunteers, call for an independent investigation into the way the organization treats- or mistreats- thousands of animals under its care.

A group of seemingly friendly kittens didn't know it then, but they were destined to die at the Hawaiian Humane Society simply because they weren't someone's lost pet. They were instead born wild and were feral animals.

"The majority of animals brought in are feral cats. We have a huge problem with feral animals; many are too wild to be a pet," said former employee Sarah Worth. HHS euthanasia rates from 2015 show roughly 25% of the animals killed were feral cats. These are just some of the 25,000 animals the society sees throughout the year, which averages out to nearly 70 animals coming in every day, 365 days a year.

There are some animals HHS doesn't have the time or resources to care for newly-born kittens or puppies that would normally be fed and cared by their mother. "Unweaned kittens and puppies automatically are put down, even though we have people who love to bottle feed. Our foster coordinator has said no. Also, if the [puppy's] mother comes in and she's scared, not aggressive, that she and all her puppies will also be put down," Worth says.

Nearly 2,800 newborn puppies and kittens were killed in 2015, even with workers willing to help and organizations ready to step in to save them. Worth spent a year working at the Humane Society and knows that firsthand, because she helped start and run what she calls an underground kitten railroad.

She describes, "We had community members willing to foster and pay for it, but the HHS said, 'No, they cannot have these kittens.' So we had to start smuggling them out."

Worth is part of a group of former and current Hawaiian Humane society workers and volunteers fed up with the way animals are being treated. They  banded together as People For Animals First (PFAF) and sent the HHS board a letter detailing their concerns. They are upset animals aren't given a chance to live healthy, happy lives. 

"I love animals. I am an attorney, but I took a break from that career to live my childhood dream of working with animals and saving them," Worth says.

The group is also upset because some former HHS employees can't even talk about their working conditions. They were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in order get their severance pay. "They called them severance packages, but they were so extreme, they were basically hush contracts."

Animals that come through the admission doors go through an intake process, but with dozens of dogs and cats coming in every day, an animal's fate can be decided in a matter of minutes. Many with illnesses, or those difficult during the process, are slated for a lethal injection, including animals simply not measuring up. 

According to PFAF, kittens that come in under 1.5 pounds are automatically euthanized regardless of health, behavior, or their ability to eat on their own. Worth says, "It is the most heartbreaking thing in the world when you have a kitten cuddled up in your arms and have to put it in the euthanasia room, knowing the kitten is going to be put down."

The Hawaiian Humane Society doesn't always euthanize animals in need of treatment or medical help. Colette, a three-year-old French Bulldog unable to use its back legs, found a new home, but those with PFAF say many other animals with medical conditions were killed during the same time this pup was put up for adoption.

"The animals that don't make the cut are taken to the C room and given two shots, but the needles are being used over and over again. If you use a needle over and over, it eventually wears down. So you are trying to reach the heart, but you are stabbing through muscle. That poor animal. The last few moments, it is still suffering."

Thousands of animals are euthanized each year because of behavioral or health reasons, but according to Worth, some that are put down for medical reasons could be saved with relatively easy treatments, like simply bathing a dog twice a week with a certain shampoo to rid it of ringworm.
KITV4 Island News contacted both the Hawaiian Humane Society and its board of directors and repeatedly asked for an interview and a response to the concerns raised by PFAF but they did not return our calls.