Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17503
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Keith Kaneshiro
Defense(s): Victor Bakke, Jason Burks
Judge(s): Glenn Kim, David Lo

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Monday, Feb 28, 2011

County: Honolulu

Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 6 files available

» Sheryl Luke-Kalani
» Dave Becker
» Shannon Luke
» Vernon Luke

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

The Hawaiian Humane Society on Tuesday said it is gathering evidence to bring animal cruelty charges against the owner of an alleged Waimanalo puppy mill.

The Humane Society seized more than 150 dogs from the location on Mahailua Street on Monday afternoon. The agency said the dogs suffered from mange, malnourishment and matted fur.

"With the matting, is that underneath, there can be some necroses, there can be some skin burning as a result of some urine and feces that are stuck on the dogs," said the Humane Society's Pamela Burns.

Police sources told KITV4 officers were in the area on a trespassing case when they heard dogs barking for 30 minutes straight. Sources said officers stumbled upon the puppy mill while investigating the noise.

The Humane Society said it is making room for the dogs in its facility, but it is in dire need of monetary donations, towels and other supplies to care for the dogs.

In 2004, the Humane Society cared for more than 50 dogs after a seizure in Kahaluu. The effort cost the agency more than $130,000.

All day Tuesday, people streamed in to the Humane Society to make donations.

"We came down to bring some towels and stainless steel pans because we saw the news last night and it just broke my heart," said donor Missy Pellecchia.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Kamaaina Pest Control stopped at the Humane Society to donate $10,000 worth of equipment, including 200 pounds of food.

The Humane Society said police are handling the nuisance case against the dog owners, but the agency and prosecutors office are working on the criminal animal cruelty case.

"We have found what we feel are numerous violations. It gives us authority to remove the animals immediately and bring them to our care and custody," said Keoni Vaughn, operations director at the Humane Society.

Burns said the agency cannot release the dogs to foster homes until charges are filed against the dog and property owners and the Humane Society files for a forfeiture of the animals in court.

Humane Society veterinarians are evaluating the animals over the next few days. Employees have also built additional kennels and making room for the dogs in places like the cat surgery room.

A former employee of the puppy mill and a police source identified the dog-breeding facility owner as Sheryl Luke-Kalani, 46. However, the employee said Luke-Kalani's father, Vernon Luke, 69, is the real owner.

The former employee and police source said the puppy mill provided dogs for a pet store called Pet Spot at the Pearl Highlands shopping center in Pearl City.

The former employee said the Luke-Kalani runs the store. It is not clear if she owns it.

Attorney Victor Bakke is representing the puppy dog-breeding operation's manager, David Becker. He told KITV4 News, the farm has never been cited for any violation and has always been compliance with the law.

Bakke said although negligence may be involved, the current laws currently do not include negligence. He said prosecuting attorneys will have to prove the dog owners intentionally, knowingly and recklessly neglected the dogs.

Bakke said is it is not in the best interest of the owners and their business to have sick and injured dogs.

The Hawaiian Humane Society will have to make room at its shelter for all the dogs. They cannot be adopted out because they are part of the criminal investigation. In the meantime it is urging the public to drop off supplies like wire kennels (please no plastic crates), stainless steel bowls, clean towels, and unopened/ unexpired dog food. Donations can be dropped off at 2700 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu. The phone number is (808) 946-2187.

Case Updates

Today was sentencing day in the Waimanalo puppy mill animal cruelty case and many animal advocates are disappointed, saying the defendants got away with the crime.

Bradley International is the corporation convicted of 153 counts of animal cruelty, not the individual officers of that company and that made a huge difference when handing out the punishment.

As part of the sentencing process the Hawaiian Humane Society fought to get defendant Bradley International and its officers, namely Vernon Luke, out of the animal business.

"Do not let these officers of Bradley International get away with 153 counts of cruelty. They should not be allowed to own dogs of any kind or run any business involving animals," testified Pamela Burns, Hawaiian Humane Society President & CEO.

However defense attorney Jason Burks argued the corporation is guilty, not the individuals and therefore the court can't punish anyone but the company.

"They are trying to come into court and try to end run around it and hold other people responsible when at the outset if they really believed there was the evidence there, if there was the justification for holding other officers individually accountable criminally, for the financials they could have brought those charges but they didn't. I can only defend what the state brings before me and this is what they chose to bring before the court," said Burks. "This is a very unique and rare circumstance. It's not a typical thing to have corporations charged with crimes."

Judge David Lo appeared to agree. He sentenced Bradley International to reimburse the Hawaiian Humane Society nearly $371,000 for the care of the animals and he fined the company the maximum $306,000. However he did not issue jail time. And he did not ban any of the company's officers from owning an animal related business.

"As far as going into today's hearing this is about the best we could ask for," said Jason Burks, Defense Attorney for Bradley International.

"We're very disappointed. The Hawaiian Humane Society feels Vernon Luke escaped the whole situation. Obviously he's continuing and taunting the community by allowing it to continue and creating a whole new puppy mill on the Big Island," said Keoni Vaughn, Hawaiian Humane Society.

He is referring to the Luke family's new farm in Mountain View where another dog breeding business is underway. That operation will not be affected by the sentencing.

And since Bradley International has now been dissolved and has no assets so it's not likely to pay any of the money.

"Is there any chance the company is going to pay that fine and restitution?" I asked.

"I have no idea on that," Burks responded.

"They have no assets?" I asked.

"They have no assets so yes at this point unless something changes that's the situation it's at," responded Burks.

"People think the company is getting away with it." I asked.

"Everyone is going to have an opinion on this. Obviously this is a very emotional issue that upsets a lot of people," responded Burks.

"I actually thought about collecting dog urine and wait up here at the courthouse until Vernon Luke came and spray it on him so he would know what it was like," said Carl Juban, who adopted two of the dogs that were rescued from the Waimanalo farm. "You can form a corporation, do something like this, and then when it comes time to go to court, hire an attorney and dissolve your corporation and then you're free to go start up again."

"When people like the Luke's are allowed to continue to be in this business I think it is very sad," said Ginny Tiu, an animal advocate who adopted three of the dogs from the Waimanalo farm.

"They've gotten away with it today and they are going to continue to get away with it until something is done," said Vaughn. "They beat the system and they are going to continue to and more animals are going to suffer."

The Luke's were not at the sentencing but they did issue the following written statement:

"Unfortunate mistakes were made in the past and after today's ruling, the Luke family would like to move forward with their lives.

Our family has been the subject of malicious verbal abuse and harassment by persons who have heard rumors and have not taken the time to know our values.

We currently are not in the business of commercial breeding contrary to some misrepresented allegations and are looking to move forward from this matter," said the statement attributed to the Luke Family.

As for the misrepresented allegations the Luke's referred to, they say they do lease their property on the Big Island to a friend named Stephen Williamson and he manages the breeding and animal operations. The Luke's also say they have sold puppies from the farm on the Big Island at their pet store in Aiea, but they say they no longer have input in the breeding business.
Source: - Feb 15, 2012
Update posted on Feb 16, 2012 - 10:04PM 
A judge has ruled more than 150 dogs and nearly 80 puppies currently in foster care should be forfeited to the Hawaiian Humane Society by owners of the breeding facility they were rescued from.

The accused puppy mill owners have the chance to post a bond by Thursday morning which would retain their rights as owners through the end of a separate criminal case. Their attorney says that bond could reach the millions of dollars.

The Hawaiian Humane Society petitioned for forfeiture of all of the living dogs rescued in February from Bradley International's breeding site in Waimanalo. They also asked for custody of 79 puppies subsequently born to the already pregnant mothers.

"There is probable cause to conclude that each and every one of the dogs impounded in feb was in fact subjected to violation(s)," said Judge Glenn Kim. "The puppies necessarily follow their mothers."

The ruling elicited cheers and tears in the courtroom where Humane Society workers, volunteers and foster families looked on.

"She's really gotten a lot better and she's just a love. I am so very happy that I get to keep her," said foster caregiver Julia Ward.

"Both the dog mother and the puppies are not having to go back to a horrible breeding situation," said foster caregiver Sheree Revilla.

But the facility owner still has a chance to retain ownership if they post a size-able bond at a Thursday morning hearing.

"We're ecstatic, and we really hope at this point bradley international understands and heard what the judge said and we ask that they do not post a bond for their care and let us finally find homes for these animals," said Keoni Vaughn of the Hawaiian Humane Society.

The bond would have to cover the cost of care from the beginning of the seizure through the eventual end of a still pending criminal case

"The bond amount keeps going up the longer the trial is postponed, the bond amount could be in the millions of dollars by the time the case actually goes to trial," said Bradley International attorney Jason Burks.

The forfeiture related to Bradley International as a corporation. The defense attorney says individual owners could try to sue to intervene.

"Our concern is that we can free these animals from a life of prison," Vaughn says. "I hope this sends a message to all large-scale breeding operations where profit is more important than the animal's welfare."

Foster caregivers have the opportunity for permanent adoption pending the outcome of the bond hearing.
Source: - Sep 12, 2011
Update posted on Sep 14, 2011 - 9:54PM 
The dogs involved in the Waimanalo puppy mill case were the center of attention in circuit court today. It's not the criminal case just yet instead today's fight questioned if the defendants should have to forfeit the animals.

Before the hearing the Hawaiian Humane Society reviewed paperwork. The defendant read the paper.

Vernon Luke was in court for Bradley International, the company facing the animal cruelty charges for 153 dogs that were seized from their farm in Waimanalo back in February.

The Hawaiian Humane Society is trying to get ownership of the dogs. There are 28 witnesses on the list to testify including three veterinarians that treated the animals after they were seized.

"My opinion is that they had been caged for basically their entire life. Their muscular skeletal integrity is somewhat sub optimal because of the lack of routine exercise and activity," said Dan Severson, VCA Kaneohe Animal Hospital Medical Director, which treated 50-60 of the dogs.

Veterinarian Ann Sakamoto went out to the Waimanalo farm the day the dogs were seized and took her own photos which were used as evidence.

"When you were there did you see any clean place for the dog to rest outside of the basket?" asked Kevin Sumida, Hawaiian Humane Society Attorney.

"No," responded Sakamoto.

She agreed in the defense follow up questioning not all the kennels were horrible but she also pointed out that living conditions did affect their health.

"Many of the enclosures there wasn't really any clean space for the dogs to step on," said Ann Sakamoto, VCA Kaneohe Veterinarian. "There was fecal matter all over the ground and the dogs seemed to be trying to avoid it but couldn't avoid the fecal matter and urine."

Jason Burks, defense attorney, also noted that some conditions like hip dysplasia are hereditary and are not caused by living conditions.

However Sumida rebutted with questioning that showed it does require veterinarian care to prevent suffering.

The verdict can go various ways. Each dog is treated as a separate charge so Judge Glenn Kim could rule to forfeit all, none or some of the dogs. If Bradley International loses the case they could lose the dogs and possibly pay the boarding costs. If the defendants win this case it could be an indication how the criminal case would turn out as well. That is scheduled to take place in October.

The forfeiture hearing will continue Friday.
Source: - Sep 8, 2011
Update posted on Sep 9, 2011 - 3:51PM 
It's an investigation three years in the making and today the Honolulu prosecutor announced the Waimanalo puppy farm case will be going to court.

The investigation documented some of the filthy conditions the dogs were housed in at the farm. Some dogs had health problems, others had to be shaved because their fur was so matted. Now the prosecutor is moving ahead with animal cruelty charges. There are 153 counts in all which at a maximum would be 153 years in prison and $306,000 fine.

"People who are cruel to animals are also cruel to other people," said Keith Kaneshiro, City & County of Honolulu Prosecutor.

Kaneshiro says he's made animal cruelty cases a priority.

"Those of you who are pet owners or own dogs know that animals when they love their owners their love is unconditional and we feel that love should be returned by the humans," said Kaneshiro.

The defendants are Bradley International Inc., the company that owns and operates the Waimanalo farm. The company's three listed executives are David Becker who is the farm manager and vice president, Vernon Luke who is the vice president and treasurer and his son Shannon Luke who is listed as the CEO and director.

"I am concerned. It is serious. If my name is on their then I have to deal with it but I haven't had anything to do with the dogs in two and a half years," said Shannon Luke.

The arraignment date is set for June 9. That's when the defendants will enter a plea. Although Shannon Luke says he'll be on a family trip to Seattle and Alaska at the time and may look to get the arraignment postponed. He says he has not hired an attorney yet.

In all 153 dogs were rescued February 28, but since then more than 70 new puppies were born from dogs that were pregnant at the time of the seizure.

Some of the dogs are in foster care, others are still at the shelter and some are staying with veterinarians because of their condition. But overall the Hawaiian Humane Society says they are all better off now.

"The dogs are thriving they came from conditions that were horrific." with horrible matting, and teeth conditions," said Pam Burns, Hawaiian Humane Society. "They are thriving in the homes of wonderful foster volunteers that have taken in the dogs. They are just in a very different place and very different condition then when we found them several months ago."

Now that charges are filed the Hawaiian Humane Society will look to either get Bradley International to pay for the boarding expenses or the defendants can surrender the dogs to the shelter.
Source: - May 27, 2011
Update posted on May 28, 2011 - 8:50AM 


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