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 sizeable 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.