East Hawaii News

County Animal Control Launches Project to Help Shelter Animals Find Forever Homes

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In order to expand its network of transfer partners to facilitate alleviating overcrowding and decreasing euthanasia of animals in shelters, Hawai‘i Police Department started a pilot project with Paws Across Water Hawai‘i to transfer shelter animals to mainland foster organizations that will facilitate finding lifetime homes for the pets.

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

“We’re excited to give these animals a new opportunity to find loving forever homes on the mainland,” said county Animal Control Director Regina Serrano. “Although our county is referred to as the Big Island, we are actually limited in the amount of homes that are willing or able to adopt a shelter pet.”

The project got underway Jan. 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, Calif., where she immediately went to go live with one of Wagging Dog’s fosters.

As part of the pilot project, animal flying companions can volunteer to have a shelter animal added to their airline reservation. Flights need to be direct or when going to the San Francisco Bay Area, with one brief interisland stop. The program is available for flights on Alaskan and Hawaiian Airlines.


Hawai‘i County Animal Control will exhaust all efforts to determine local ownership of an animal before determining which shelter pets are suitable for the program, including senior animals. Animal Control will spay and neuter the pets, as well as conduct health screenings and vaccinations, while Paws Across Water Hawai’i will handle all travel details and any travels costs for the animal, including a travel crate.

Paws Across Water Hawai‘i is under the management of Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit located in Kailua-Kona.

The pilot program includes six mainland rescue organization partners in California and Washington state. The mainland foster partners select a cat or dog from the available Animal Control pets to ensure the animal meets each rescue’s unique criteria.


Paws Across Water Hawai‘i then pairs the pet with a volunteer traveling to that area and prepares the animal for travel, including meeting the traveler at the airport on the date of departure. Upon landing, the traveler is then met by the designated rescue organization’s representative, where the pet begins its journey toward a forever home.

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

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


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