The Spruce Pets

Sky, a 2-year-old Plott hound mix, hardly had to wait to find his forever home after he arrived in California. It took only two days at Marin Humane after a five-hour flight brought him to the West Coast from the Maui Humane Society.

Weeks earlier, massive wildfires devastated Maui, leaving more than 100 dead and displacing thousands. They also knocked the island’s animal welfare system further into crisis, threatening to crowd already packed shelters. Dogs like Sky needed homes quickly.

He and Jesse, a playful Labrador retriever and vizsla mix, were among the first of the Maui dogs to be adopted at Marin Humane in Novato, north of San Francisco. They arrived Aug. 18 and were adopted Aug. 20—the same day the shelter posted about them being available for adoption.

Michelle Teruel, adoption program assistant at Marin Humane, says Sky’s new pet parent walked in and adopted him on the spot. She describes it as “love at first sight.”

Marin Humane took in 10 dogs to help the Maui Humane Society make space for the island’s pets. The Maui Humane Society estimates that 3,000 pets were affected by the wildfires.

“Many were separated from their owners during evacuations, some left in homes, and others were set free as fire consumed homes,” says Lisa Labrecque, Maui Humane Society’s CEO. “The resulting impact is that animals who did survive may have burns and injuries or are still lost.”

Labrecque explains that the amount of adoptable animals on Maui is greater than what the island’s population can absorb. With pet-friendly rentals difficult to find, it’s challenging to find a place to live with a pet. And that was before the fires began on Aug. 8.

The fires—fueled by the islands’ especially dry season and high winds—destroyed nearly 3,000 structures. The resort town of Lahaina was devastated.

“At the time of the fires, the shelter was already overpopulated with dogs and cats,” Labrecque says. “Knowing that our shelter would soon be overwhelmed with animals requiring medical treatment and stray animals who were displaced, we needed to send animals to the mainland in order to free up space.”

With the help of Southwest Airlines, Greater Good CharitiesLucky Dog Animal Rescue, and the Maui Humane Society, 136 dogs and cats flew from Hawaii to West Coast shelters to find their forever homes.

Joining Marin Humane in its tireless efforts to find the Maui shelter pets: Animal Rescue FoundationBerkeley HumaneEast Bay SPCAFriends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS), Oregon Humane Society, and Tri-City Animal Shelter.

How Shelters Came Together to Help 

Marin Humane is part of a network of animal shelters that partner in times of disaster, says Lisa Bloch, director of marketing and communications at Marin Humane. They’ve previously transferred in disaster-affected animals from as far as Florida and as close as Southern California.

Because Marin County has a high spay and neuter rate, the homeless animal population is lower compared to other areas. That allows Marin Humane to help overpopulated and under-resourced shelters by taking in some of their adoptable animals.

“While our shelter did have many animals at the time, we were able to create space for these special arrivals,” Bloch says.

So Marin County’s staff and volunteers were all hands on deck at the shelter in late August, quickly readying kennels and assembling a team to meet the Maui animals on a Bay Area tarmac. Once back at the shelter, they made sure the animals were fed, settled, and loved.

“We created special welcome signs for the doggies and hung leis on the kennels,” Bloch says. “Many of us had tears in our eyes when the plane touched down with sadness knowing where these dogs came from—but also with gratitude for being able to welcome them.”

Despite their long journey, the Maui dogs and puppies were in good spirits. After taking a much-needed potty break, most ate heartily and enthusiastically received hugs and kisses from the staff and volunteers, Bloch says.

brindle dog receives treat while sitting on floor at animal shelter
Marin Humane

The following morning, Marin Humane’s behavior and veterinary teams began evaluating the dogs for adoption. A few dogs were ready for adoption right away, while some needed to be spayed or neutered or simply needed some extra time.

Sky was ready right away. Although the staff at Marin Humane had little time with him, he won the hearts of many during his thankfully brief stay. Bloch describes Sky as being very affectionate, energetic, and friendly with other dogs. There were plenty of smiles watching him run and play.

“Sky had an intense gaze with his light blue eyes, but he was actually a big goofball, and he loved to run as fast as he could around our shelter dog park. He also really loved being around other dogs,” says Julia Lamont, social media and marketing specialist at Marin Humane.

She helped unload Sky from the van on the day of his arrival and noticed he could sit on cue. Someone had trained him at least a little bit, which likely made him even more attractive for potential adopters.

Bloch says it was “truly heartwarming” to see Sky, among other Maui animals, get adopted after everything he’d been through. Marin Humane donated all the Maui dogs’ adoption fees back to the shelter.

“Marin’s community has been a strong supporter during this difficult time. We appreciate our partnership with the Marin Humane Society and their willingness to help us save more lives by accepting our animals,” Labrecque says.