September 1, 2023
“It has been an emotional and impactful experience,” says Tim Rice, ASPCA Animal Rescue Technician. “It’s been devastating to see so much destruction in one of the most beautiful places on earth. But the community is strong, supportive and loving, and it is inspiring to see so many people working together to move forward.”
Two weeks ago, our National Field Response team mobilized to Hawaii after receiving an urgent request from the Maui Humane Society following the catastrophic wildfires that have devastated Lahaina. While on the ground, our team has assisted with animal search and rescue, brought found animals to receive critical care, provided food, shelter and water for animals whose owners have been hospitalized—including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens and tortoises—and distributed critical supplies to pet owners in the community.
We worked closely with local agencies during these efforts to determine the greatest area of need each day, and team members worked tirelessly to support these efforts and help the communities begin to heal. “Everyone was incredibly kind and thankful that we were there to support their community of animals, thankful they were not forgotten in this terrible tragedy,” says ASPCA Animal Rescue Technician, Jenn Cherry.
Several cats were found during our rounds, many of whom were suffering from injuries or conditions related to the fire and were taken to receive immediate care. One was even rescued from an irrigation pipe, while others were found amongst the wreckage of different properties.
“On one of the first days, we were on the outskirts of the burn zone, helping to move livestock from a property, and the owner was concerned about a few barn cats that were left behind,” remembers Rice. “We managed to find all three cats and took them to get medical care. The owner was so relieved to know that her surviving animals were going to be okay and that we could get the pigs off the property and save the cats. They will be reunited after they’ve received the care they need.”
Cherry recalls, “After leadership thoroughly confirmed clearance for us to go into the burn area, we met with a veterinarian at the checkpoint. At the first stop – an apartment building – after walking about 20 feet into the parking lot, I heard meows coming from under a car that had been destroyed, metal had melted away from it, looking like liquid mercury. I have never seen anything like it before. The meows continued and after some coaxing, a nervous, but sweet cat approached us. She was covered in soot and had visible injuries, likely burns on her hind leg. After offering some food, I was able to scoop her up and place her safely in a carrier.”
“Our teams were grateful that we could contribute to this relief effort,” says Lauren Cowell, ASPCA Director of Field Operations. “One day, we created ‘kennel kits’ with supplies so animals sheltered overnight could be secured safely and have fullbellies. We also continued to feed several livestock and community cat locations over the course of the response. Our team has been especially touched that everyone at Maui Humane Society and the Lahaina community has welcomed us into their ‘ohana with open arms.”
Though the work has been challenging, our team members remained committed to assisting and lending our expertise during this tragic and difficult time for the communities on Maui.
“This work has been extremely rewarding and everyone has been so welcoming and kind to us,” says Joy Ollinger, ASPCA Disaster Response Manager. “It was tragic to see the ruins but felt good knowing we were there to help. I’m so grateful to have been in Maui and working to help those in need.”
“Each day the team is dismissed for the evening, I feel like we have all achieved so much and made a difference to the impacted families and their pets,” says Barney Strong, ASPCA Animal Rescue Technician. “Although it is extremely sad seeing the devastation to the community, I know we can all work together and continue to make a difference.”