Kudos to Alaska Airlines for transfer program

Since July 2013, 1,200 animals have been transferred off Kauai by Alaska Airlines.

They were transferred, for free, by Alaska Airlines, because the company wanted to do what it could to find homes for dogs and cats that ended up at the Kauai Humane Society. The program was smart and effective. Basically, it allowed humane society animals to hitch a free ride to mainland shelters on Alaska Airlines airplanes, under the ticket of a flying passenger. Last year alone, 417 animals from Kauai were transferred by Alaska Airlines. That’s a lot of saved lives.

Alaska Airlines was the only airline to offer such a service. There were no other airlines that agreed to fly dogs and cats at no charge to the Mainland, where they had a wonderful chance to find a new life with a new family. It was certainly a generous act on behalf of the airline, one that no one else stepped up to take on. It was one that benefited animals and gave KHS the opportunity to help even more animals, and one for which Alaska Airlines deserves thanks. Its compassion for animals and doing what it can to put them in loving homes is beyond question.

Unfortunately, due to an incident beyond Alaska Airlines control, the program was recently suspended. Alaska Airlines has had to stop allowing animals to fly free under a passenger’s ticket until it can re-evaluate the program and determine the best way to proceed. It may, in time, be able to resume the transfer program. It may not. Again, that decision has not been made. There is no letter from Alaska Airlines announcing the program has been officially ended. Such a letter was cited in a story by The Garden Island on Saturday regarding the transfer program. That was an error.

We certainly hope the program continues. On Kauai, there are a finite number of homes and a seemingly infinite number of dogs and cats that find themselves homeless. The transfer program has been terrific in easing overcrowding at KHS and has certainly been instrumental in the declining number of euthanizations at KHS over the years. For that, we give Alaska Airlines a good deal of the credit.

So, rather than criticize Alaska Airlines for suspending the program, we believe it deserves praise for all the animals it has assisted over the past three years. And, as we said, we hope Alaska finds a way to reinstate the program for the good of our dogs and cats, and for KHS. Or, perhaps other airlines will take on this challenge.

For even more clarity, here is what Alaska Airlines has to say on the issue, as well:

“For the past three years, Alaska Airlines has offered the only free transportation program where animals from the Kauai Humane Society fly to various shelters on the West Coast for adoption. The informal program began after KHS approached various airlines for assistance with shelter overcrowding, and Alaska agreed to help. Since then, the program had been expanded to include Maui and Hawaii Island.

“Unfortunately, the program was recently halted following misuse and other circumstances beyond Alaska’s control. Although the situation was unrelated to the KHS, Alaska’s decision to suspend the program was not only due to legal and security concerns, but also to ensure the animals that Alaska transfers are properly crated and meet our strict safety protocols before they are handed over to us. KHS was informed that the program had been suspended, but was being reevaluated. No decision had been made to end the program completely.

“It was always Alaska’s intention to work through this situation internally, with the hope that an improved program could be reinstated in the future that would ensure the safe transport of the animals in our care and prevent abuse of the program. We kindly ask KHS and the public for their patience, so that we can continue to help our island humane societies in their mission to save lives and find wonderful homes for our furry friends.”

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