County Animal Control launches project to help shelter animals find forever homes

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To expand its network of transfer partners to help reduce overcrowding and decrease euthanasia of animals in shelters, the Hawai’i Police Department has launched a pilot project with Paws Across Water Hawai’i. i to transfer animals from shelters to mainland foster organizations that will make it easier to find lifelong pet homes for pets.

Ann Goody, director of the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, with a Hawaiian Airlines and Peaches agent at the Kona airport. (Photo courtesy of HPD)

“We are thrilled to give these animals another opportunity to find loving forever homes on the mainland,” said County Animal Control Director Regina Serrano. “Although our county is called the Big Island, we are actually limited in the number of homes that want or can adopt a shelter animal.”

The project began on January 13, when a 4-year-old whippet mix named Peaches flew as an accompanied pet on Hawaiian Airlines to the Wagging Dog Rescue in Carlsbad, California, where she immediately went to live with one of the Wagging Dog’s favors.

As part of the pilot, animal flight companions can volunteer to add a shelter animal to their airline booking. Flights should be direct or to the San Francisco Bay Area, with a brief inter-island stop. The program is available for flights on Alaskan and Hawaiian Airlines.

Hawai’i County Animal Control will use its best efforts to determine an animal’s local ownership before determining which shelter pets are suitable for the program, including senior animals. Animal Control will neuter and spay pets, perform health screenings and vaccinations, while Paws Across Water Hawai’i will take care of all travel details and travel expenses for the pet, including a travel crate.

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Paws Across Water Hawai’i is operated by Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit organization located in Kailua-Kona.

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The pilot program includes six continental rescue organization partners in California and Washington State. Mainland foster partners select a cat or dog from available pets to ensure the animal meets the unique criteria for each rescue.

Paws Across Water Hawai’i then matches the animal with a volunteer traveling to that area and prepares the animal for the trip, including meeting the traveler at the airport on departure day. Upon landing, the traveler is then greeted by the representative of the designated rescue organization, where the animal begins its journey to a forever home.

The program, which plans to transfer 50 to 100 animals over the next 6 to 12 months, will help ease overcrowding at county animal shelters, as well as local nonprofit animal rescue groups that are still accepting stray animals.

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Those interested in supporting the program or becoming an animal flight companion can contact Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary at 808-331-8778 or email [email protected]. For more information on becoming a transfer partner with Animal Control, email h[email protected].

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