RACHEL BELLE

Animal shelters in the tropics let tourists take dogs out for the day

May 30, 2019, 4:17 PM
Hiking with hooligans dogs...
Nalu, out on a Kauai Humane Society field trip (photo courtesy of the Kauai Humane Society)
(photo courtesy of the Kauai Humane Society)

Do you miss your dog when you’re on vacation? Or maybe you wish you could have a dog, and would love to spend the day with one when you travel. Some animal shelters around the world have come up with a win-win solution for travelers and homeless dogs that spend most of their days in cages.

The Kauai Humane Society has a field trip program, where you get to spend the day with a shelter dog — the dog gets to get outside, get some exercise, and soak up lots of your love.

“We provide the family or the individual with a backpack with dog treats, fresh water, a little bowl, poop bags, a toy, and a list of places they can take the dog for the day,” said executive director Mirah Horowitz. “Depending on what they want to do, if it’s a beach or a hike or Wailua Shave Ice is dog friendly and will give the dog a little cup of pup ice.”

Horowitz says people get to come in and pick the dog they want to spend the day with from a curated collection of dogs who are up for it. They ask for a $25 donation, but field trippers often give more to support the shelter.

Rachel Belle visits the Seattle Animal Shelter

In Jamaica, Tammy Browne co-founded the Montego Bay Animal Haven.

“My father was Jamaican and I actually grew up here,” said Browne. “My mom and my dad were both huge animal lovers. We left when I was 14, then I had this feeling that I just had to come back to Jamaica. And the first thing I noticed was the stray dogs, the lack of care for these animals.”

Browne received an inheritance, and decided to spend it on a spay and neuter clinic that eventually became an animal shelter. On a trip to Costa Rica, she visited a shelter where hundreds of dogs were freed from their cages daily to go on a giant group walk. When she returned to Jamaica, she tried it out with her dogs.

“So we opened the gate and we set off walking and we had about 130 dogs on that first walk. They all stayed with us and it was just the most empowering, uplifting, magical experience to know that these dogs, all of which we had rescued, all of which were almost dead through either cruelty, neglect, starvation, road traffic, whatever, were here running free, wagging their tails, barking, jumping, loving every minute of it. It was so wonderful, it was one of those heart-bursting moments.”

About six months ago, she opened up the walk to tourists. The program is called Hiking with the Hooligans.

“The best thing that happens is that people come, they walk with these dogs and they fall in love. They’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, Tammy, I love Forest, what a great dog this is. And now Forest, who was originally found tied to a tree right up in the bush, I mean he was skin and bones emaciated, not even another day he would have lasted. And now he’s getting ready to be adopted to go on a plane and fly over to his forever home with his new family. Which is something that these animals would never ever have a chance at doing. But because of this walk people get to meet them, they get to see them in their real state. They don’t see them in a cage where they’re frightened and they’re nervous. They get to see the character of the animal and they fall in love with it.”

Over at the Maui Humane Society, direction of operations Jaime Fitzpatrick has the Beach Buddies program.

“Folks sign up online in advance and the program, as you may expect, is very popular. Our program gets booked out at least a couple months in advance. Folks get matched up with a dog and we send them with a whole backpack of supplies and goodies and everything they might need for the day. Help give them some ideas of where they might want to go and send them on their way and they go off and have a great adventure for the day.”

All three shelters ask for donations, which provides an extra, much needed boost for the non-profits, and Browne says she’s adopted out twice as many dogs this year, since she started Hiking with the Hooligans.

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Animal shelters in the tropics let tourists take dogs out for the day