“We really kind of hit our boiling point, which was 130 dogs, and we have only 40 kennels,” said Jenny Miller, Maui Humane Society interim CEO.
They said the number one reason owners surrender or leave their pets behind is the lack of pet-friendly affordable housing.
“People are being displaced from their homes and there’s simply no availability of housing that allows for pets,” said Miller.
It’s so bad that Maui Humane Society said they would have to start euthanizing high-risk animals because they can’t hold all of them. None have been euthanized and most were adopted but there is a waitlist to surrender other animals.
“We can offer, you know, we can help fix your fence, we can offer behavior training, we can offer all sorts of resources to help with any type of issue,” said Miller. “That would mean that that animal didn’t come in here.”
“The high cost of living and the lack of affordable pet-friendly housing, we’re seeing it as an emerging crisis,” said Brandy Shimabukuro from the Hawaiian Humane Society.
The new shelter in West Oahu has freed up space, but that location is quickly filling up too. The goal is to inspire more landlords to allow pets and also stop breed and size restrictions.
“There really is a nation-wide crisis right now specifically with adult dog shelter populations which are over capacity across the board,” she added. “I think that’s exasperated here in Hawaii because of the high cost of living and the lack of affordable pet-friendly housing, we’re seeing it as an emerging crisis.”
Another issue officials said is management companies.
According to the state’s housing website, tenants who live in state public housing developments are allowed to own common household pets.
“What some people don’t realize is that, you know, an animal let’s say a dog is not meant to live in a shelter, they are not meant to live in such a chaotic, crazy, confined space with limited abilities,” Miller said. “And they often decline, their physical and their mental health really can go downhill for some of these animals to the point where they are self-harming, or they may even bite or become aggressive. And so these animals really just needed to get out of here in order to save themselves.”
Miller also suggests reaching out to the landlord and seeing if they are open to meeting your pet, do a meet and greet, create a resume for your pet, and provide the landlord with veterinary records and let them know your pet is well taken care of.
As for senior pets not getting adopted as much as puppies, the Hawaiian Humane Society says senior pets are sometimes even better because they require less training.
“I think a lot of folks look at age as a barrier because they think ‘Oh I’m not going to have as much time with this pet, or they think they might want a puppy or kitten so I can train them and I think people don’t realize senior pets have just as much life to give and sometimes they fit lifestyles better because they are lower energy but that doesn’t mean they cant provide as much love,” Shimabukuro added.
Housing is even more limited on the Garden Isle. “It’s getting very full, we’ve been beyond this critical capacity for the entirety of this year and a lot of last year as well,” Fowlkes from Kauai Humane Society said.
“We’re also seeing that a lot of our rescue partners on the mainland are facing similar capacity crises. So we’re having less opportunity to transfer to the mainland, which is something that we do rely on for positive outcomes in our shelter,” she added.
Stray animals are also an issue statewide. All are urging the public to make sure their pets are microchipped or have tags ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.