The Kauai Humane Society’s new executive director doesn’t live on the island full-time, but she does have a strong connection to Kauai.
“I’ve been coming here at least once every year since I was three months old, ” said Mirah Horowitz in the first week of her new position as head of the shelter. “My mom, Lenore, she wrote the first guidebook about Kauai.”
That was the Kauai Underground Guidebook, which started publishing editions in 1980.
Hailing from California, Horowitz is the chief executive officer and founder of Washington, D.C.,-based “Lucky Dog Animal Rescue” and has been working as an executive search consultant — a job that’s been one of constant travel and taken her around the world.
“Basically I’ve been finding leadership for nonprofits,” she said. “I’ll be here for a year, working to stabilize KHS and get it to a better position to attract leadership.”
An animal lover, Horowitz grew up riding horses and competed in English-style riding.
After attending Duke Law School in North Carolina, Horowitz adopted her first dog and started fostering animals.
“I didn’t have the time or the money after school to continue riding, so I got a dog,” she said. “That eventually led to founding Lucky Dog in 2009.”
Horowitz also took every opportunity to take care of Kauai’s animals when she was on-island.
“We’d feed the cats around there as kids, adopt them for a couple weeks while we were here and then take them to KHS,” she said. “We found this one cat, Peaches, and ended up taking her back home to California.”
“Peaches was such a great cat, always on Hawaii time,” she said. “The other cats were always ready for breakfast at 7 a.m. and she’d wander in at 10 or something, hungry.”
Horowitz joined the KHS board of directors in March as a way to carry on a family tradition of giving back to the island.
After being part of the board for a few months, she saw an opportunity to use her skills to help KHS find a permanent director, a search that’s been ongoing since Scott Pisani resigned in November after one year on the job.
“I’ll be in dual roles, the CEO of Lucky Dog and here at KHS, spending about half of each month here, and half in D.C., and then a couple days at home each month in California,” Horowitz said.
She continued: “It’s unconventional. But, the staff is really good, they just need big-picture direction.”
A partnership is already formed between Lucky Dog and KHS, Horowitz pointed out: Lucky Dog accepts transfers from KHS and the two groups have worked together to form a layover team in Seattle to care for the dogs while they switch flights.
“Team Seattle is so great, the volunteers are just amazing,” Horowitz said. “A few of them have adopted dogs from here, and they’ll go and get the dogs at the airport, put them up for the night, and then take them back in the morning to head out to D.C.”
Over the next year, Horowitz said her main focus is on getting KHS’s financials on track and increasing community involvement.
“It’s day four, so I’m still looking at ways to accomplish those goals, but nothing’s off the table,” Horowitz said. “I’m a big believer in ‘Let’s try it.’”
When it comes to getting the community involved, Horowitz said: “We have to find ways of reaching out to the community while also creating reasons for people to drive through Kapaa traffic to come here.”
One of Horowitz’s ideas is to station small groups of volunteers around the island periodically, with information and adoptable animals, to increase KHS’s presence in the community.
She also wants to ramp up grant applications and donations.
“KHS hasn’t been fiscally managed in the best way in the past and so getting that back on track,” Horowitz said. “I also want to re-establish the foster and adoption program here.”
Thrilled with the number of animals transferred off the island and adopted by visitors, Horowitz said she’d like to see more local families adopting Kauai’s animals.
KHS Board of Directors President Diann Hartman said Horowitz wasn’t the only candidate considered for the position, but the board is loving Horowitz’ “boundless energy” and “wealth of ideas.”
“She is a real do-er and we’re excited about her leading the team at the shelter,” Hartman said. “We have a great management team and staff who will be able to share their knowledge while learning from her, ultimately taking KHS to new heights so we can fill more lives with joy.”
When her year as executive director is over, Horowitz said they will reevaluate the position. She said she’s waiting to see what she can accomplish.
“Who knows,” she said. “We’ll just have to wait and see where it goes from there.”
Jessica Else can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.