PUUNENE - Do you miss your pet when traveling? Find yourself plagued by pet withdrawal, pining for Spot or Mr. Fluffy while on vacation?
Beginning in April, Maui Humane Society is introducing two new programs for pet-deprived visitors who want to interact with and help homeless animals while vacationing on Maui.
The 60-year-old Maui Humane Society (MHS) is a private, nonprofit organization and the oldest and largest animal welfare agency on the island.
Jagger, a Maui Humane Society shelter dog, was adopted in Colorado through the Wings of Aloha program.
As the only agency on Maui that accepts all domestic animals in need, MHS sees approximately 10,000 animals coming through its doors each year.
Its varied services and programs range from adoptions and spay/neuter to cruelty investigations and humane education.
The MHS shelter is located in Central Maui on the highway between Kihei and Kahului.
"We have visitors stop by our shelter on a daily basis, just wanting to be around the animals," said Jocelyn Bouchard, CEO of the Maui Humane Society.
"Until now, we didn't have any organized way for them to get involved here, unless they wanted to adopt a pet. As with most animal shelters, we are challenged with limited facilities, funding and staffing, and we rely heavily upon volunteers. We are excited about these new programs, as they are a win-win-win for all concerned - our visitors who love animals, our staff who appreciate the volunteer help, and most of all our shelter animals, who benefit so much from interaction with compassionate people."
MHS is introducing two new volunteer programs for Maui visitors.
Through the "Helping Paws Visitor Program," beginning April 3, visitors can offer a "helping paw" at the shelter every Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m.
Each half-day session will start with a brief orientation, followed by pre-planned activities such as walking dogs, bathing puppies, brushing cats or playing with puppies and kittens - an important part of their socialization.
For visitors who are interested and willing to help MHS in ways other than animal interaction, there may also be volunteers needed in such areas as maintenance, kennel cleaning, gardening or office work.
Participants in the "Helping Paws" program must arrive by 1 p.m. on the designated days. It is recommended to wear close-toed shoes and comfortable clothing that you don't mind getting "mussed" or dirty. Children age 10-17 are welcome, but they must be accompanied by a supervising parent for the duration of the volunteer session.
For visitors who wish to create their own specific, individualized volunteer project, or for groups who are interested in volunteer projects at MHS, the agency is happy to work with you. Contact volunteer@MauiHumaneSociety.org or call Maui Humane Society's Volunteer Department at (808) 877-3680, extension 14.
The Helping Paws Visitor Program is limited to visitors only. Maui residents are welcome to join MHS' ongoing volunteer program, which requires a separate and more thorough orientation process.
MHS is also launching the Wings of Aloha Program. As an island community, Maui has a limited resident population and a shortage of homes for orphaned pets.
Last year, MHS created the Wings of Aloha program to fly shelter animals to areas in the U.S. and Canada where, working in partnership with local rescue organizations there, the pets are guaranteed adoption into loving homes - particularly in communities with no animal overpopulation issues and thus a high demand for adoptable dogs and cats.
Over the past several months, nearly 200 homeless Maui pets have found families in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Canada through Wings of Aloha.
Airfare for an animal is costly, but if a shelter pet flies under the same reservation as a ticketed passenger, the cost is significantly reduced.
MHS seeks travelers who are willing to help by having a shelter pet accompany them on their flight reservation.
Travelers need not do anything but contact MHS in advance to confirm details then show up for their flight. MHS staff will meet the passenger at Kahului Airport during their flight check-in process and will handle the check-in of the pet.
The pets do not accompany travelers in the passenger cabin. The animal will then be picked up and cared for at the destination airport by the partner agency.
For Maui visitors who want to help transport an animal to the U.S. Mainland or Canada through the Wings of Aloha program, e-mail info@MauiHumaneSociety.org with "Wings of Aloha" in your subject line. Provide your travel date from Maui and your destination airport. If MHS is able to arrange an adoption transfer at that destination, they will contact you to finalize the details.
The Wings of Aloha program is funded solely through private donations. Often there are agencies on the Mainland awaiting MHS shelter pets for new homes, but there are no funds to send the animals.
For more details on the Wings of Aloha Program, or to make a donation to this lifesaving fund, visit www.mauihumanesociety.org/content/503d4d068ec8a/Wings_of_Aloha_-_Program_De-scription.html.
There is another way to help Maui's animals: visitors can adopt a pet from MHS and take it home as a cher-ished new member of their family.
"Visitors often fall in love with one of our shelter pets and decide to adopt it," noted Bouchard. "Of course, we always ensure our animals are going to loving homes, but the adoption application process is simple, and transporting your new pet with you to your home city, even internationally, is usually not complicated."
For information on visitor volunteer opportunities, e-mail volunteer@MauiHumaneSociety.org or call (808) 877-3680, extension 14. For information on the overall work of the Maui Humane Society, visit www.MauiHumaneSociety.org.