Go to Hawaii for the Beach, Come Home with a Shelter Dog

Tourists visiting the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Kauai are being encouraged to return home with more than just a tan. The Kauai Humane Society is asking dog-loving vacationers to bring back a shelter dog.

When Brandy Varvel started as the new shelter coordinator in December 2012, she was faced with a big problem. The facility was overcrowded with abandoned hunting dogs that had been used to track feral pigs. Two or three dogs were packed into every cage. Most would have to be euthanized if Varvel couldn’t come up with a solution.

First she reached out to shelters on the other islands, but found they were having similar problems. Some of the dogs in her care had languished in their cages for months and Varvel knew she had to act quickly.

That’s when she realized that although the dogs were being overlooked by island residents, their breeds were very unique and could be highly adoptable in U.S. mainland cities. Most of the dogs were mixed breeds of Airedales, whippets and hounds.

Varvel came up with a clever plan that enlisted help from mainland animal shelters to advertise the one-of-a-kind pups and an airline that would fly them to their new homes.

The novel approach to adoption worked perfectly for an Airedale Terrier-Irish Wolfhound mix named Grady. The shy dog had been at Kauai Humane since last November until Oakland, CA resident Martin Sprouse saw his picture on the East Bay Oakland SPCA website. Now Grady spends his days assisting Sprouse as he designs modern furniture and helps with deliveries in the family truck.

“I walked right up to him, and he gave me those big eyes and rolled over on his back,” Sprouse said. “I said, ‘Oh my god, dude. It’s on. You are coming home with me.’ He melted me the minute I saw him.”

Kauai Humane has placed more than a dozen dogs with travelers. The shelter pays a reduced rate of $100 to fly the dogs to their new homes on Alaska Airlines or to transport them to shelters in Oakland, CA and Portland, OR.

Several of the animal shelters have started taking custody of the dogs that have been waiting the longest for new homes. Once a week Varvel and the shelter administrators review each dog and decide who will be shipped to the mainland in hope of being adopted.

Varvel counted on the generosity of kind-hearted tourists and her program is proving that she was correct to do so. Some of the dogs have found new homes in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Canada, in addition to the west coast. Varvel invites all vacationers to drop by Kauai Humane while they are visiting the island and working on their tan. Even if a person is not ready to adopt, the shelter is always looking for people to escort a dog to its new home.


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Photo Credit: shelterpartners

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Valentina R.
Valentina R.6 months ago

ADOPT ADOPT ADOPT until all the cages are empty. Don't support breeders and above all never buy from pet shops, puppy mills or amateur backyard breeders.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Sheri D.
Sheri D.2 years ago

great article! Thank you to all involved in helping find homes for these animals.

S. N.
S. N.2 years ago

Kudos to you, Brandy!!

Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O.2 years ago

Voted: 'yes!'

Cynthia H.
Cynthia H.2 years ago

Love Hawaii and this is a good idea, as long as they have committed people adopting. I do dog rescue in Houston, TX & we are VERY particular about who gets to adopt - we do vet checks, reference checks, and home visits to check fences, etc. These dogs need GOOD homes where they will not be abandoned again. I hope this is working more than just transferring homelessness from one state to another.....

Joan Mcallister
.2 years ago

What a novel idea. Thanks for shring

Alison A.
Alison A.2 years ago

Working together is essential, all animals deserve to get the best chance of adoption.

Monserratt Martinez


Bob P.
Bob P.2 years ago