LIHUE — Larry Richardson currently fosters two dogs in his Kapaa home, one he got from the Kauai Animal Welfare Society and the other from the Kauai Humane Society.
He said increasing the amount of animal foster homes on the island is paramount to getting KHS closer to a no-kill status, which means the shelter wouldn’t kill healthy or treatable animals, even if it were full.
“We need to get more people fostering and we need to get the community more involved,” Richardson said. “It’s possible (to achieve no-kill status), but the community needs to come together, we need bold leadership, and we need to do our best to make it work.”
Richardson was one of around 100 people who turned out to hear Nathan Winograd’s No-Kill Conference at the Kauai Beach Resort on Sunday, hosted by Big Island Dog Rescue in Kona.
Winograd is the founder of a California-based non-profit focused on creating no-kill shelters nationwide. He came to Kauai on an informational tour and screening of his new film, “Redemption,” which tells the story of the no-kill movement.
At Sunday’s seminar, he said the purpose of the tour is to share the no-kill movement story in broad strokes, and that those looking for details should read the multiple free guides he’s developed, available online.
To reach a no-kill status, he recommends implementing things like rescue partnerships; developing volunteer, foster and trap-neuter-release programs; increasing pet retention; setting up comprehensive adoption programs; and involving the community through public relations and outreach events.
He explained that in order to establish a no-kill community on Kauai, there must be the political will and a systemic change to the current animal shelter – KHS.
“When things aren’t working, you have to have a change in policies and procedures, maybe even a change in directors, to get the results you want,” Winograd said. “You need to get to the point where the animal shelter is working with the relief community.”
Emily Larocque, president of the KHS board, said moving toward no-kill status is something it wants to do, and community cooperation is exactly what KHS needs in order to get there.
“We could use more help from the community,” Larocque said. “We need more volunteers, we need to get landlords to allow pets in rentals so that more people can be involved in the foster program, we need to get community effort.”
She said KHS “definitely wants to move toward no-kill” status. They’ve put many programs in place to help get to that goal, such as the foster program and the field trip program, as well as the low-cost, high-volume clinic and a mobile clinic for neutering and spaying, active volunteers and an aggressive adoption promotion campaign.
“The push is to go to no-kill immediately,” Larocque said. “We’re doing the things he recommends, but the challenge is it’s not happening fast enough for some people.”
She pointed out one of the other challenges in achieving a no-kill status is the population of endangered species on the island and the large population of feral cats.
Martha Girdany, vice president of the Kauai Community Cat Project, said she sees the large population of feral cats as a challenge to the no-kill goal as well.
Fern Rosenstiel, currently running for District 14 in the state House of Representatives, said the unique blend of endangered species on the island definitely complicates the conversation, because “cats play a major role in decimating bird populations.”
“We will have to work harder to shape no-kill policies in conjunction with meaningful solutions that protect our native species and unique island home,” Rosenstiel said.
Endangered animals or not, Kauai is a good place to try to establish a no-kill community because there isn’t a high level of immigrant animals coming to Kauai, Winograd said.
“You’re on a contained land, surrounded by water, and people aren’t dropping pets there from other places,” Winograd said.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 6-8 million cats and dogs end up in shelters each year. About 3 million are euthanized.
In fiscal year 2014-15, the Kauai shelter put down 420 dogs and 1,524 cats. This year, those numbers are down to 274 dogs and 865 cats through May 15. The fiscal year ends June 30.