Over 600 cats and dogs make their way to Mainland

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A dog from the Kaua‘i Humane Society is unloaded, Wednesday afternoon for its Paws Across the Pacific flight from the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    The Paws Across the Pacific chartered plane waits, Wednesday afternoon as the Kaua‘i Humane Society arrives at the Lihu‘e Airport with its cargo of 302 cats and dogs.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Humane Society executive director Mirah Horowitz joins volunteers unloading 302 cats and dogs, Wednesday for loading aboard the Paws Across the Pacific flight at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    The first of 302 cats and dogs are loaded aboard the chartered Paws Across the Pacific flight, Wednesday afternoon at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Some of the 302 animals react, Wednesday afternoon, while waiting to be loaded aboard the chartered Paws Across the Pacific flight.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Cats from the Kaua‘i Humane Society are stacked for loading aboard the chartered Paws Across the Pacific flight, Wednesday afternoon.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A volunteer passes a cage of young cats down a human chain for loading aboard a Paws Across the Pacific flight, Wednesday afternoon at the Lihu‘e Airport.

LIHU‘E — Wednesday afternoon, 302 furry friends jetted off Kaua‘i toward their new furry futures on the Mainland.

Flown out of Gate 30 at the Lihu‘e Airport, the efforts made by the Kaua‘i Humane Society in partnership with JR Peterson Foundation, Greater Good Charities, and Wings of Rescue, marks the largest pet rescue flight in history

The flight originated out of Lihu‘e, and went on to the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, to pick up over 600 dogs and cats.

At the airport, KHS volunteers made an assembly line Wednesday afternoon, handing crates of cats and dogs off of two trucks to pallets to be placed onto the Hercules C-130 plane.

Part of the shipment included kittens as young as seven weeks old to a decade-old dog, KHS Executive Director Mirah Horowitz said.

Horowitz started in her position in October 2018, and in that time, the humane society has drastically reduced its euthanasia rates. KHS’s live release rate in 2020 for dogs was 96%, up from 89% the year before, and the overall shelter live release rate was 84%, up 16% from 2019’s 68%.

“This kind of flight was unimaginable two years ago,” she said as she took a moment’s break from loading the animals onto the plane. “The change to life-saving is what makes this possible.”

KHS has been overwhelmed by the pandemic’s effect on airline travel. Typically, the humane society relies on outgoing flights to transfer cats and dogs off the island to Mainland shelters with higher demand and low populations of adoptable animals.

This time around, the shelters involved handpicked the animals they’d get, and by one estimate, the majority of these rescues will be adopted within three days, said KHS Development Director Tanya Ramseth.

“It’s bittersweet,” Ramseth said. “We’re sad we won’t see them every day, but we’re so happy.”

Since last week, Horowitz said over 50 volunteers have helped with this undertaking. All of the animals were spayed or neutered, given all their proper vaccines and health check-ups. Crates were color-coded specific to the various shelters that’d pick up the pets and tagged with identification information. Animals were tucked away with bedding, water and some other comforts.

“It’s a massive effort,” Horowitz said. “Staff and volunteers have been amazing. They were here at 8 p.m. yesterday and back at 8 a.m. this morning. I’m so proud.”

KHS Boardmember Mindy Smith helped load the animals into the plane Wednesday.

“Staff has been working on this for weeks,” Smith said. “This went as smoothly as possible.”

The pets will arrive at Seattle’s Boeing Field Thursday morning, where pet shelters and rescue groups will collect them. About 120 will then continue onto Walla Walla and Coeur d’Alene. Hawai‘i shelter partners include Kaua‘i Humane Society, Hawaiian Humane Society, Lanai Cat Sanctuary, Hawai‘i Island Humane Society, Maui Humane Society, Aloha ‘Ilio Rescue, and Kaua‘i SPCA.

Kahu Wayne Vidinha of Akua Mana Church offered a blessing before liftoff.

“It’s a great to let somebody love them somewhere,” he said.

  1. Kriss Mann October 29, 2020 5:15 am Reply

    This is amazing! A huge mahalo to everyone who made this possible for these sweet dogs and cats! This brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Makani B. Howard October 29, 2020 9:03 am Reply

    Great that so many came together for the love of animals. Wonderful work!

  3. LTEreader October 29, 2020 10:25 am Reply

    AWESOME JOB! Huge mahalo’s to ALL involved.

    And a big shout out to Mirah Horowitz for turning KHS around! People used to so hesitate taking animals to the shelter knowing there was a good chance they’d be euthanized in a very short time. You’ve done an amazing job on behalf of our critters! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. randy kansas October 29, 2020 10:36 am Reply

    wonder how the homeless people feel about this….pets, worth more than humans

    1. kandy rancid October 30, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

      Is homelessness a top concern for you? What do you normally do about it on a daily basis? Also, why can’t other people have concerns of their own?

      I certainly hope it isn’t too lonely at the top of your moral mountain.

    2. Rachel Hanneman October 30, 2020 3:51 pm Reply

      What a sad and unfortunate attitude you have. Animals are helpless and fully rely on saviors like these people, to save their lives sometimes, most of the time. Most of the animals in these shelters are there BECAUSE of people as well. Before you make such a judgmental, shallow, and selfish comment, perhaps you should educate yourself on the active programs on the islands for the homeless and all that is done 365 days per year, while asking nothing in return, to get them off of the streets. I work at one of those very facilities, and trust me, the animals of Hawaii need and deserve our help more. Shame on you, why not get out and volunteer instead? Thank you.

  5. commonsense October 29, 2020 11:16 am Reply

    Awesome! These animals will be making many people very happy. Good job KHS!

  6. Across_the_pond October 30, 2020 2:41 am Reply

    Such awesome, uplifting news! And to the negative comment about how homeless people would feel, well I’m sure if they love animals they would feel as equally grateful for these poor creatures. LIghten up, pets ARE worth more than some people on this planet.

  7. Melissa Durfee November 2, 2020 3:46 am Reply

    My beloved Massachusetts’ cats, Lava & Hina, were adopted as kittens from KHS and transported by me December 2018. I am thrilled to see this story. Wishing Mirah, staff and volunteers kudos for their efforts. During these challenging times, we need more uplifting stories like these.

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