Maui, Hawaii — Over the last seven weeks, Maui Humane Society has stepped into the forefront of the Maui wildfire rescue efforts, pivoting from regular shelter operations to disaster response mode. The Aug. 8 Lahania fire impacted an estimated 3,000 animals and resulted in over 1,200 missing reports filed by pet owners.

Maui Humane Society trapping experts estimate that there are potentially 500 cats still alive in the Lahaina burn zone, based on nighttime counts using camera traps and special lights to catch eye reflections. The organization has now turned its attention from treating the initial influx of burned and injured stray animals to removing and caring for the remaining cats.

The process of extracting cats from the burn zone is a coordinated effort with professional trappers that involves strict protocols. The first priority was to trap those burned and injured, ill, owned kittens, and pregnant cats. In the meantime, over 75 feeding stations in the burn zone are replenished daily with clean water and food to sustain the remaining cats.

The rate at which cats can be extracted and processed is dependent on the shelter’s veterinary capacity for intake exams, medical treatment, and spay/neuter surgery as needed. While the focus is on rescuing the cats as quickly as possible, Maui Humane Society must juggle the influx of fire cats with the needs of existing animals housed at the shelter. The shelter is currently caring for 94 dogs, 431 cats, and 74 other animals. More than 40 visiting veterinarians have helped MHS veterinary staff care for burned patients and work mobile vet clinics for those who have been displaced.

Due to the critically high shelter population, Maui Humane Society has leased two offsite buildings to accommodate Lahaina’s displaced cats. As a veterinarian herself, Maui Humane Society CEO Lisa Labrecque understands that the process takes time.

“The fire cats have suffered severe trauma and require a quiet and carefully monitored environment to recover,” she says. “It’s our priority to ensure that they have adequate veterinary care, daily enrichment, and humane housing as we wait for possible reunifications with their owners.”

After 30 days in care, stray cats and dogs are available for adoption locally. After 90 days, the animals are available for adoption or transfer to the mainland. “We want to give impacted owners every opportunity to find their missing pets,”  Labrecque says.

The long-term plan for less socialized cats is to partner with “working cat” programs on the mainland. These are programs that find safe outdoor homes for feral and community cats in barns, warehouses, or farms and give them the job of rodent control. Maui Humane Society is actively seeking interested mainland organizations and individuals who can provide this kind of permanent home. All cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and transportation costs are covered, thanks to the Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation.

Those interested in accepting cats for a working program can contact [email protected]. If your pet is missing, file a lost report at

About Maui Humane Society: Maui Humane Society is the island’s only open admission shelter, accepting all animals in need. The organization cares for over 4900 animals a year. The shelter has a robust foster and volunteer program, transfers hundreds of animals through Wings of Aloha flights to adoption-guaranteed homes, practices TNR as a humane method of reducing the community cat population and provides food and supplies at no cost to disadvantaged pet owners through the 4EverPets community outreach program. Visit for more information.


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For more information, contact Executive Publicist Michelle Tennant Nicholson at [email protected] or 828-749-3200 or cell 828.817.4034.