Kauai Humane Society field trip program not just for the dogs

The beauty of Kauai is, of course, the main reason most folks come here.

The Kauai Humane Society, perhaps surprisingly, is offering something that might make their vacations even better.

KHS offers a field trip program that allows guests from the Mainland to “check out” a dog for a day trip.

There are several benefits, starting with giving the dogs a break from the kennel, as well as putting them in front of locals who might otherwise not see pets available for adoption. The dogs wear “Adopt Me” vests that let people know they need a home. Leashed dogs are OK in many areas, including Sleeping Giant, Moalepe Trail, Kalapaki Beach and the Wailua Arboretum.

The program has been a success since it was launched in September. On average, two or three families drop by KHS daily to take a canine on a field trip.

It also helps visitors who may be missing their own pets back home.

“It’s extremely popular,” said Brandy Varvel, shelter operations manager.

KHS director Penny Cistaro often walks her dog on Kauai, and visitors comment on how much they miss their pets.

“And I say, ‘You should go to the shelter and check a dog out for the field trip,’” Cistaro said.

Locals, too, can take dogs on field trips, but they first must complete training and become a KHS volunteer.

“They’re volunteering for the organization and becoming an ambassador for us out in the community,” Cistaro said.

The best part is what it does for the dogs. It’s great exposure and helps with their socialization.

“Our goal is to keep them happy, healthy and well-adjusted while they’re here,” Cistaro said. “This helps do that for us, and gives them the exercise they desperately need.”

The program came about, in part, because visitors would stop by the shelter, ask how they could help and offer to spend time with dogs.

“It kind of snowballed from there,” Varvel said.

Some visitors take a dog on field trip and end up adopting it. On average, KHS ships four dogs a month to visitors who meet their new best friend at the shelter.

“They get attached and they don’t really want to bring it back to the shelter, so they take it back home with them,” Varvel said.

KHS also has a partnership program that allows guests to take particular breeds to some shelters on the Mainland, where their chances of being adopted are greater than on Kauai.

Some breeds, such as Airedales, are common here but unique on the Mainland.

“We have found those dogs have a quick and easy turnaround in the shelters there,” Cistaro said. “They’re getting adopted very quickly because they’re unusual.”

So, the final message to our guests: If you’re feeling homesick for your four-legged best friends back home, stop by KHS, 3825 Kaumualii Highway. It might be, as KHS says, “the medicine to cure what ails you.”

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