Many animals, too few people

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kauai Humane Society staff Miles Kitsman shuttles dogs for Stacey Whittemore of Oregon Friday. Whittemore and Ivan Martini spent their soggy Friday with Kauai Humane Society’s dogs that normally do not get to go out.

LIHUE — Though it was raining Friday and she was far from home, Oregon visitor Stacey Whittemore found a way to lift her spirits and serve the Kauai community at the same time.

She went to the Kauai Humane Society and spent the morning playing with dogs in their outside kennel. In batches of two or three, she took time with as many as she could.

Volunteers like Whittemore keep the shelter alive and relieve the pressure on KHS’s 35 full-time workers.

“We could not do all that we do without our dedicated volunteers,” said Diann Hartman, president of the KHS board of directors. “From taking photos of the animals to doing filing to walking the dogs, cuddling cats and cleaning cat cages, we need people to bring their love for helping animals and hopefully spend some time each week volunteering.”

Currently, KHS employs 11 department heads for areas including accounting, development, veterinary, animal care, field services, animal adoption, customer service, humane education, facility engineering, the thrift store and the Save our Shearwaters program.

Those who have day-to-day responsibilities for the care of the animals include seven staff on the veterinary team and nine on the animal care team.

“Everyone pitches in as needed,” Hartman said.

And currently, it’s all hands on deck for volunteers and staff members at KHS. The most recent numbers show that KHS had a record 226 dogs and 377 cats at the shelter at the end of November.

In addition, the Kauai community was caring for 27 kittens and one dog in foster care at the end of November.

Compare that to November 2017, when KHS was caring for 186 dogs and 268 cats at the facility.

“We have five positions in need of filling currently,” Hartman said. “So all animal lovers looking to make a difference, learn something new and make money too, apply!”

KHS is looking for a full-time vet technician, a full-time humane officer, two full-time customer service workers, and a full-time animal care person.

While hiring is “difficult in all industries across the state,” Hartman said the work at KHS can also be dirty, demanding and sometimes sad — which presents even more of a challenge.

“It can be sad at times seeing animals in poor condition but in the big picture it is tremendously rewarding to be able to help, both behaviorally and medically, animals in need and find homes for them,” she said. “As with any position in which people care for others, there is also the reality of compassion fatigue.”

Compassion fatigue is a state of secondary trauma in those who care for humans or animals in distress.

When it comes to volunteers, KHS has had a few new volunteers jump on board recently, but they’re in need of more — especially during the holiday season when many usual volunteers are off work or off-island.

“We always need more volunteers as many of our volunteers are snow birds, here for the winter and then gone,” Hartman said. “Our volunteers have been absolutely amazing stepping up when and where we need it most. They are truly angels for the animals.”

Since Dec. 1, KHS has been operating under different hours — they’re now open on Sundays and closed on Wednesdays — and for the past few months has been under the leadership of a new executive director, Mirah Horowitz.

Horowitz is contracted to be on island 10 days every month. Hartman said she’s active and involved even when she’s not on island.

“As I said when she took on this role, she is a real doer, a high achiever with unending energy and passion. She has accomplished an amazing amount in a short time, implementing many positive changes,” Hartman said.

Horowitz has been making changes to software and other technical aspects of KHS operations, and is targeting phone line problems that have “plagued the shelter,” Hartman said.

“We know it’s still not perfect, but it’s much better,” Hartman said.

Horowitz’ mainland connections also brought KHS two new facilities for animal transfers, meaning more animals are getting off the island and going to shelters on the mainland for adoption.

“She has done all this and more, within budget, in her brief tenure and she continues to bring positive change,” Hartman said.

The shelter occasionally runs specials and events to help promote adoptions. The most recent one just ended — the “Home for the Holidays” event, where people could take a shelter animal home for Christmas. Five dogs celebrated Christmas in homes and two dogs — Phil and Red — were adopted.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at

  1. harry oyama December 30, 2018 10:46 pm Reply

    If there are just too many dogs and cats, then maybe the shelter should allow some to be placed as free pickup to be eaten for the holiday feasts. There are allot of hungry homeless people in need of much protein.

  2. Paula December 31, 2018 11:34 am Reply

    LOL Harry. Yeah, it would be refreshing to see more people *rescuing* people, rather than *rescuing* dogs and cats. Birds, however, are another issue..:o)

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