Mobile Clinic Helps Remote Hawaiian Community Through PetSmart Charities® Grant

Many people dream of moving to the sun-kissed beaches of Florida or a remote island hideaway in Hawaii. But for homeless pets and the people who care for them, these vacation spots present unique challenges.

Maui Humane Society staff with a dogBy PetSmart Charities' roving reporter, Bonnie Cameron Wells

If you need to get away, the Hawaiian town of Hana might be perfect for you. On the eastern edge of Maui, it boasts beautiful beaches, a craggy coastline and tropical rainforests.

Unfortunately, this lovely place can be a difficult one for a cat or dog. The drive to Hana takes 2 to 3 hours on a 52-mile, 2-lane road with more than 600 curves and 46 one-lane bridges. Some residents don’t have telephones or computers and many don’t have transportation.

Because of the year-round tropical weather and access to fresh water, feral cats often have multiple litters, which end up struggling to find food to survive. Hana’s isolated community has no animal shelters and just one veterinarian. With so few animal care resources nearby, many people don’t know how spaying/neutering can help control the pet population.

Maui Humane Society is the island’s only open admission animal shelter. That means that they must accept all animals who are surrendered.

Dr. Miyo Miyasaki-Kim, the director of veterinary services at the shelter, says that they take in about 25 animals per day, on average. “We were seeing a large number of animals coming from Hana, which was strange since Hana is a small community,” said Dr. Kim. “When we investigated further, we found that Hana residents were asking us for help — they wanted to get their pets fixed, but didn’t have the funds or the transportation to do it.”

Help comes to Hana

Maui Humane Society decided that, if the residents of Hana couldn’t bring their pets to the shelter to get fixed, the shelter would come to Hana. They applied to PetSmart Charities® and received a $32,330 grant that would enable them to set up a mobile spay/neuter clinic in Hana one weekend each month for 2 years.

Each month, Dr. Kim explained, 8 or 9 staffers and volunteers load up trucks and vans for the drive to Hana. “Our wonderful staff and volunteers graciously donate their weekend once per month. We arrive on Friday evening, and spend Saturday and Sunday performing surgeries. The Travaasa Hotel in Hana graciously donates their laundry facility for our surgeries, and their lawn for us to set up tents where the animals recover after surgery. It’s a lot of time and effort, but we look forward to these weekends since the community is so grateful.”

Haoleboy the surfing spokesdog

When Dr. Kim and the Maui Humane Society staff were planning their work in Hana, they met a white Corgi mix named Haoleboy (pronounced “Hollyboy”). He is famous among the residents because he surfs. “He was so high-energy and cute, but his pet parent bragged that Haoleboy had fathered many puppies in Hana, and didn’t need to be neutered,” remembered Dr. Kim. “But who should come walking into the clinic during the second trip but Haoleboy himself!” He was neutered and became the unofficial “spokesdog” for the clinic’s spay/neuter services.

Spay/neuter clinic’s first-year impact is positive

So far, Dr. Kim and her staff and volunteers have been able to spay/neuter 173 animals — 79 dogs and 94 cats — over the first year. And they’ve seen a big decrease in animals coming to their shelter from Hana: 65% drop in feral cats, 30% drop in tame cats and 15% drop in dogs.

The shelter team also has a wonderful volunteer named Pam, who lives in Hana.  She regularly sets up a table in the main part of town and educates the community on the importance of spay/neuter.

Looking to the future

Maui Humane Society is encouraged by their success so far, but they aren’t resting on their laurels. They are developing ways to trap and spay/neuter more feral cats in the area. The staff and volunteers will also continue to work to educate the community, especially with radio ads and posters.

If your dreams of paradise lead you to Maui, visit Maui Humane Society and share your appreciation for their efforts. And if you get to Hana and see a surfing Corgi mix, you’ll know he’s the famous Haoleboy!

You can help every pet find paradise. Learn about PetSmart Charities' new partnership with PetSmart's Tommy Bahama Pets Line.

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