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Volcano dogs: Looking for new homes after Kilauea

Pups displaced by the ongoing eruptions on the Big Island in need of new forever homes on Maui

Volunteer Madison Rawson cuddles with part of a litter of nine puppies during the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation adoption event Saturday at Maui Mall. The mixed-breed terrier Catahoula dogs were rescued from the Big Island and are among those being adopted out by the nonprofit organization after the animals were left homeless by the eruption of Kilauea volcano. -- The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Dozens of dogs who have been displaced by the Kilauea volcano eruption on the Big Island are finding new homes on Maui, thanks to efforts by animal rescue groups and a handful of volunteer pilots.

Most of the dogs are being given up by people whose homes have been claimed by lava flowing into new areas in lower Puna, said Dawn Hall, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation on Maui.

“The vast majority are people who have lost their homes,” she said. “For a lot of these folks, because the shelters for humans are full, they’re living in their cars with their kids and their pets. It’s not like they’re going to be able to move back. 

“A lot of them are relinquishing their pets so they can be safe and have a good life. It’s heartbreaking.”

As of last week, Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation had taken in about 80 dogs from the Big Island, Hall said. She said all but five or six of the animals had been adopted.

Volunteer Paul Tonnesen holds Balou, a Greyhound and Catahoula mix, who was singed on his back and head in the Kilauea volcano eruption zone. The 5-year-old dog was among “volcano dogs” rescued from lower Puna that were up for adoption by the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation on Saturday at Maui Mall. -- The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

One “volcano dog” that found a new home on Maui was Maya, a 1-year-old cattle dog who ended up at the Hawaii Island Humane Society and had to have a front leg amputated. She was adopted by a professional woman whose job takes her outdoors, Hall said.

“Her dog gets to go out in the field and work with her,” Hall said. “She said it was amazing because she didn’t even act like she had three legs. She would run and jump.”

Another dog, Honey, a 12-year-old yellow Labrador, had lived her life in a 6-by-4-foot kennel before being adopted on Maui, Hall said.

Along with the Hawaii Island Humane Society, Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation is working with Big Island nonprofit no-kill animal rescue groups KARES Hawaii and Aloha Ilio Rescue.

Many of dogs are being flown to Maui by private pilots in four-seater planes.

Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation pays for gas for the flights, including some made by pilots who need additional hours of flight time, said Penny Dearborn, co-founder of the rescue group.

Debbie Cravatta, founder of Kohala-based KARES Hawaii, has served as co-pilot on some four-seater flights, including one recently that transported 13 dogs from the Big Island to Maui.

The group recently took in four 13-year-old Chihuahuas from a family who lost their home in the Leilani Estates subdivision and were living in a 300-square-foot space. 

“They’re trying to find a place,” Cravatta said. “People want to keep their animals, but if they’re living at the shelter . . .”

Another family had been living in their car with three dogs and two cats, she said. “You cannot live in your car with three dogs and two cats,” Cravatta said. “The volcano is wreaking havoc on displacing animals and humans. There’s even feral cats that are displaced.”

The volcano has affected the health of some animals, particularly cats suffering from upper respiratory infections, eye infections and in some cases burned feet, Cravatta said.

Before being put up for adoption, the animals are checked, vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

Hall said Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation already had partnerships with Big Island animal rescue organizations when the number of animals needing homes increased with the Kilauea eruption.

“When the volcano started to go off and the community became at risk, they called us saying we have a lot of issues that are beyond our normal issues and can you help,” Hall said.

Along with other rescue animals, dogs from the Big Island have been available for adoption at the organization’s weekend adoption events. Except for today, when no adoption event will be held, they are held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Maui Mall.

Information about adoptable dogs is posted on the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation Facebook page. Appointments for adoptions can be made during the week by calling 876-0022.

On Saturday, the adoptable dogs included Balou, a 5-year-old greyhound and Catahoula mix. 

His throat was parched and his back and head were singed when he was found in the volcano area. “He’s the nicest boy,” said Dearborn, who has been keeping Balou at her house. “He’s so polite.”

She said some Big Island residents have let their hunting dogs loose when they’ve been told to leave their homes because of approaching lava.

Other animals have been spotted in the lava zone by helicopter. After getting special permission from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, some people have gone by boat, then hiked in to rescue the displaced animals, Dearborn said.

She said about 15 “volcano dogs” have gone to the Mainland after being adopted by visitors on vacation here. Part of the dogs’ appeal has been their background as volcano rescues. “I think it has a lot to do with it,” she said. 

“They feel like they’re really helping,” Hall said. “I think they really feel good about being able to give one a home. Not only is it great that they’re getting a new pet, they’re stepping up and helping these dogs.”

Daylyn Kyles, founder of Aloha Ilio Rescue, estimated the group has taken in about 100 dogs that have been displaced by the volcano.

“Some people were heartbroke they were giving them up,” she said. 

She said the organization has tried to help people keep their pets by passing on donations of dog food and cat food.

In other cases, the dogs have gone to Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation to be adopted.

“We know the care that they get on the other end,” Kyles said. “I want them to be cared for and make sure they find good homes.”

While news about the eruption hasn’t been as prominent recently, the need for homes for displaced animals continues. “There’s a little bit of a hike again this week with the new outbreaks,” Kyles said.

“It’s moved to the back pages, but it’s still going strong there,” Dearborn said. 

Cravatta said she is hoping to make another flight to transport dogs to Maui this week.

“It’s not over. It’s taking new areas,” she said. “It just keeps going where people thought they were safe. We’re nowhere near over.”

She said people can help by fostering animals, donating or volunteering, whether it’s to answer phones or help drive dogs to and from the airport.

“Everybody can do something, but nobody can do everything,” she said. “No healthy animal ever dies on our watch.”

KARES Hawaii can be reached at kareshawaii@gmail.com or (808) 333-6299.

More information about Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation is available at www.hawaiianimalrescue.org.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.