Next time you visit Hawaii, you can bring back more than just memories and shells from the beach. You can bring back a dog or a cat.
Animal shelters bursting at the seams on Maui and Kauai have special transfer programs, so travelers can help transport pets to west coast shelters that can adopt them out.
“Someone traveling back to Seattle can volunteer to escort our dogs or cats and they go to Seattle Humane Society or Kitsap Shelter,” Kauai Humane Society’s executive director Penny Cistaro said. “Alaska Airlines lets the traveler escort the animal back as part of their baggage. Because it is a partnership with us, Alaska Airlines doesn’t charge.”
Cistaro say their Aloha Escorts program is super easy. All the traveler needs to do is contact them four or five days before their flight home.
“All the person has to do is meet us at the ticket counter when they’re checking in for their flight,” Cistaro. “We do everything. We bring the animal to the airport, we put it through, and then when they get to Seattle, they just meet the animal in baggage and we will have someone meeting them there at the airport.”
Seattle dog lover Belinda Fu has been traveling to Kauai for years, so when she saw a flyer for the program at a local restaurant she got in touch.
“I felt like it was a way to help a community that I travel to very often for vacation,” Fu said. “But I also want to be really conscious of contributing to the place as well. I mean, a lot of people go to Hawaii and just kind of drop in. Hey, the beach was great! And then they take off. But I felt like this was a way to contribute.”
But she did have a bit of a shock when she got to the airport.
“They were like, ‘Are you Belinda?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And they were like, ‘Well, these 10 cats are going with you!’ I was like, oh, okay! That was fun. So there were five crates with two kittens in each one, all assigned to my ticket. Which made for quite the scene at the airport. That was pretty entertaining to have everybody thinking that I was taking 10 cats home and I had to clarify that they were going to a shelter.”
Cistaro says a Seattle shelter will go to their website and select animals they know they can adopt out. Very often it’s a particular type of dog.
“Our dogs are a very unique mix of Airedale. It can be an Airedale Whippet, it can be an Airedale hound, an Airedale Terrier mix and these dogs have this very unique look. They have this really mellow, laid back temperament. So sending those dogs off island guarantees that they’re going to get placed. Whereas here, because they’re very common on the island, they’re not the dogs that are easily adopted.”
So far this year, Kauai Humane has sent 400 dogs to mainland shelters.
If you want to transport a dog back from Kauai, and you’re flying Alaska, click here. They also have a program where you can take a shelter dog out for the day.
If you’re flying Alaska from Maui, check out the Maui Humane Society’s Wings of Aloha program.