This website is maintained to keep track of Penny Cistaro since her “retirement” from the Kauai Humane Society following a devastating audit.


Since the 1970s, Penny Cistaro made a living from killing animals at taxpayers’ expense. Like many of the old school animal control workers, she continued to believe throughout her career that killing animals was giving them a “good death” (her words). In one month under her directorship at the Sacramento Animal Shelter, 700 cats and kittens were killed. Many people, including some of the top executives in animal welfare today, have been aware of Penny Cistaro’s malevolent career for some time. Together, we will keep watch to ensure that she is never able to return to a position of power over animals or people.

Click here to read about conditions at Kauai Humane Society during Penny Cistaro’s tenure as director. This document was compiled from testimony by employees who came forward to document abuse as well as emails obtained during the investigation into conditions. Note also that Ms. Cistaro brought a friend from the mainland, Kamilah Smith, and installed her in a supervisory position. Kamilah Smith neglected and abused animals with no repercussions, as evidenced from the testimony. According to employees, Kamilah dragged dogs by the scruff of the necks to the euthanasia room, yelling that she needed the “blue juice” to “kill something.” See pages 64-76 for examples of testimony. The last we heard, Kamilah Smith had been hired by the Oregon Humane Society.



Penny Cistaro
August, 2017: Penny Cistaro left the subsequent director of the Kauai Humane Society to answer to the County of Kauai for the laws broken, funds misused, and records mismanaged by KHS during her tenure. In fact, Ms. Cistaro left the island entirely and moved to the Half Moon Bay area of California. We have received messages from former employees at other shelters Ms. Cistaro mismanaged, concerned that she would bounce back once again and re-enter the animal welfare world. Indeed she has: Penny Cistaro has joined the Board of Directors of a new farm animal sanctuary called Sweet Farm. Click here. She has been made Treasurer, of all things. (See audit detailing poor record keeping and comingling of funds, below.) Her bio states that she consulted for the Humane Society of the US, but does not mention that she was a “euthanasia expert,” something from which HSUS has distanced itself these days. At an HSUS expo, Penny Cistaro said, “We are not killing [animals in shelters]. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death… but we are not killing. And that’s why I cannot stand the term No Kill shelters.” We can only imagine that Sweet Farm is unaware of Ms. Cistaro’s history.

February 22, 2017: Hawaii News Now reported on the devastating audit of the Kauai Humane Society. See and read the coverage here.

February, 2017: The audit of Kauai Humane Society has been released. It was accepted by the Kauai County Council into record on February 22, 2017. The outside audit firm found that Kauai Humane Society did not use county funds solely for county-related activities and did not keep clear records, making it difficult for the auditors to do their jobs. Most importantly, in a sample of 45 cases of euthanasia, 30 animals were killed before the mandatory hold period had elapsed, breaking the state law. Extrapolated to the entire population of animals held at KHS, that means that approximately 66% of animals were killed by KHS staff before the mandatory hold period had elapsed. This amounts to thousands of animals over the audit period. Read the full text of the audit here.

August 30, 2016: The audit of the Kauai Humane Society conducted by an outside auditor is about to be released to the public. On this day, in a KHS staff meeting, Penny Cistaro announced her “retirement,” effective October 2016.

February 2016: The County of Kauai has executed a contract to audit the Kauai Humane Society. Read the contract here. Responding to an overwhelming lack of faith in the Kauai Humane Society’s practices by the residents of Kauai, the Kauai County Council voted in August, 2015 to hire an outside auditor to conduct an audit of KHS. There have been many reports of KHS using county funds for revenue-generating activities, in addition to management practices that lead to increased costs and reduced efficiency. Key features of the audit, listed in the contract, are:


  • Identifying deficiencies of internal controls
  • Ensuring that County funds are being used exclusively toward services require by the contract with no comingling of funds
  • Providing recommendations as to how or whether the services can be provided more cost effectively by the County itself, with the possibility of limiting the use of KHS
  • Recommending changes to the organization, the management and processes which will produce greater efficiency and effectiveness

December 2015: During this season of giving, we wish to give thanks to the many employees of the Kauai Humane Society who, in April 2015, spoke before the Board of Directors, telling their firsthand stories of neglect and abuse at KHS, as well as roadblocks to saving animals’ lives. For their bravery, they were rewarded with worse working conditions and the firing of two employees. We also give thanks to the hundreds of Kauai residents who have given testimony about their experiences with the Kauai Humane Society and Penny Cistaro. The legal battle continues and gathers momentum. We look forward to change in the New Year, bringing hope to the animals of Kauai and the people who care about them.

August 13, 2015: In an article in The Garden Island, Penny Cistaro is quoted as saying, “We are making great strides.” KHS reports that their intake rate fell by a total of 16% (15% for dogs). THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. Since there are clearly no fewer animals on the island, the drop in the intake rate means that people are afraid to bring animals to KHS. The report also states that the live release rate was up 6% from the previous year. The live release rate is the percentage of dogs taken in by the shelter that leave alive, whether adopted, transferred, or returned to their owners. Clearly, if fewer stray animals are being brought to the shelter, then the percentage of total intakes that are stray animals who are returned to their owners will rise, causing the live release rate to rise. In fact, the live release rate should have risen more, given the precipitous drop in intake. The KHS board and Penny Cistaro seem to be intentionally misinterpreting the statistics.

August 8, 2015: A guest editorial in The Garden Island makes a practical suggestion for oversight of the KHS board of directors.

August 5, 2015: The Kauai County Council has voted unanimously to require an audit of the Kauai Humane Society. The audit will be contracted through an outside firm.

The Kauai Humane Society receives $760,000 per year from the county, with the rest of its funding coming from donations and fees. KHS had $2.6 million in total revenue and support for the fiscal year ending June 2014, according to the KHS website.

“The fact of the matter is there is a concern, and the concern needs to be addressed, and the only way we can address it is through an audit,” Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo said.

July 7, 2015: We have gathered statements from employees and co-workers regarding Penny Cistaro’s behavior at shelters she managed on the mainland. We are hoping to stop this abuse of animals and humans on Kauai, and prevent it from ever happening again, anywhere. Click HERE to read these statements.

July 3, 2015: Excellent coverage on the situation at KHS by Hawaii News Now. Click HERE to watch.

June 25, 2015: As many of you already know, the two long-term employees who spoke out publicly on this matter were terminated by KHS on Monday, June 22. There was a protest in their support on Tuesday morning, and a larger demonstration at the entry gate to KHS on Friday.

Additionally, a support fund has been started for the two employees who were dismissed. This dismissal was illegal and in violation of Hawaii’s whistle blower law, but in order to prove this a lawsuit must be filed. These two dedicated employees have given their all for the animals of Kauai, and are now left with few resources. To support these two brave souls and their legal defense, please click HERE.

June 6, 2015: We are now able to release a small portion of the binder that was provided to the KHS Board of Directors on April 28, 2015. This release does not include many pages of documentation submitted by KHS employees of animal neglect, animal cruelty, and bullying of employees who stood up for the animals. Read section 1 of the binder (with names redacted) HERE.

June 4, 2015: KHS Executive Director Penny Cistaro and KHS Board President Emily Larocque appeared on KKCR on June 2, 2015. In our opinion, they are spreading further misinformation. Read the Kauai Coalition for Animals rebuttal HERE.



We have repeatedly seen Penny Cistaro choose euthanasia as her ‘go to’ approach. We believe she has neither an open mind or progressive approach to saving animals. This is made evident in her strong resistance to programs that save lives – such as the Transfer Program, cooperation with fostering organizations such as the Kauai Community Cat Project, the Field Trip Program, and other such low-cost means of saving the lives of our animals.

On May 30, 2015, despite having seen dozens of pages of documentation of the above including photographs and detailed descriptions of animal abuse and neglect in statements signed by employees, the Board of Directors of KHS “unanimously re-affirmed its backing and confidence in Penny as our Executive Director”.

Please sign our petition here.


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