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Maui poi dogs go to luxury hotel

First of its kind Maui Humane Society fundraiser nets about $67K

Maui Humane Society vet Dr. Jennifer Fitzpatrick, along with Hammy, hosts a Zoom trivia game Saturday at the nonprofit’s Wags to Riches fundraiser. Maui Humane Society photos

Humans helped three local shelter dogs spend a night in the lap of luxury at Wailea’s high-end resorts on Saturday as part of a fundraiser for nonprofit Maui Humane Society.

Hoku, a large, lovable poi dog, received belly rubs and VIP treatment at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Nahele had a special dog amenity waiting for her at the Fairmont Kea Lani. And Mustang Sally, who is in a wheelchair, feasted on chef-made dog biscuits at Four Seasons Resort Maui.

“It was such a success,” Maui Humane Society spokeswoman Jenny Miller said on Sunday evening. “We are really, truly grateful. It wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without the hotel participation. It’s so unusual for a shelter dog to go to a luxury hotel.”

Maui Humane Society’s first Wags to Riches event Saturday night generated about $67,000 over weeks of fundraising, which is 114 percent of its goal, Miller said.

Jamie-Sue West, longtime Maui Humane Society supporter and volunteer, raised more than $12,000 to secure the top spot in the nonprofit fundraiser. She accompanied Hoku to the Andaz Maui, where rooms are currently netting close to $1,000 per night.

Poi dog Hoku upgraded from Maui Humane Society kennel to luxury room at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort for the nonprofit’s Wags to Riches event on Saturday.

For the first time, Maui Human Society sent shelter animals from the doghouse to the penthouse with a competition that allowed top fundraisers to earn a VIP night with the shelter dog.

Typically, participants in the annual sleepover stay at the shelter in kennels with four-legged friends that are waiting to be adopted.

The shelter sleepover event has been invite only in years past, but this year it was open to the public.

Miller said 35 people participated in the fundraiser this year: three of whom stayed at the hotels, and 12 slept overnight at the shelter.

The event is the first for the shelter in 18 months due to pandemic-related cancellations of in-person gatherings.

Brittany Jordan and daughter Sarah Jordan participated in the Maui Humane Society sleepover event Saturday, a fundraiser that generated more than the nonprofit’s goal of $50,000.

The nonprofit relies on a few fundraising events for much of its support, and Miller said donations have been down since the pandemic’s onset.

Meanwhile, animal surrendered to the shelter have been going up because families are downsizing, many people are moving off island and others are facing financial and landlord hardships.

“It’s been a tough year,” Miller said. “We were closed to the public but never closed to the animals. We’ve had to be very creative with our program.”

She added that the support she’s seen from the community — especially with Wags to Riches — has “really blown us away.”

Maui Humane Society’s first Wags to Riches event exceeded its goal of $50,000. The fundraiser, which began April 1 and closed recently, earned $57,309.96 in cash, with an additional $10,000 in digital currency.

Maui shelter dog, Hoku, surveys the pool at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Hoku, along with Jamie-Sue West, longtime Maui Humane Society volunteer, won VIP treatment and a night’s stay at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort on Saturday as part of the nonprofit’s Wags to Riches event.

“We felt we set the goal high, and the fact that the community came through for us yet again is amazing,” Miller said. “This money saves lives — end of story.”

Maui Humane Society is the only open admission shelter on the island that accepts all animals in need. The nonprofit cares for more than 4,000 animals a year and offers low- and no-cost spay and neuter services to the public.

Last year, veterinary staff performed more than 5,700 spay/neuter surgeries and more than 2,000 Hope Fund procedures for animals who required medical care beyond what is typically possible.

The Wings of Aloha transfer program and foster program of more than 400 local families saves lives of more 2,500 animals a year, according to the organization.

During COVID-19, a community assistance program launched to help feed and care for pets of those financially impacted by the pandemic. To date, more 50,000 pounds of free pet food has been distributed. For information, visit www.mauihumanesociety.org.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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