Hawaii’s Animal Rescuers Save Stranded Pets and Livestock From Lava Flow

As Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano†continues to erupt, spewing lava and toxic gas, rescuers have been busy saving pets and livestock on the Big Island. Hundreds of animals may have been left behind earlier this month when their owners either had to quickly evacuate or were away at work when some areas were evacuated.

“It’s like missing part of your family,” Donna Whitaker, executive director of the Hawaii Island Humane Society (HIHS), told the Hawaii Tribune-Daily†on May 9. “It’s hard enough to think about losing your home, but to know that you had to leave your pets behind is agonizing.”

Eleven days later, the Red Cross shelter in Pahoa, about 25 miles from the volcano, was “quite the crazy farm right now,” HIHS volunteer Burgandy Singleton told Reuters. “We are housing everything from wee little creatures to ginormous beasts and no trouble. With that many personalities mixing it up, it’s been amazing.”

The shelter is also housing human evacuees and their four-legged family members. In cases where dogs and cats have been left behind, HIHS volunteers have been returning to the homes with the pet owners.

“Ideally, we take the owner back in so [the pet] can hear a familiar voice and we can hand-trap them,” instead of using cages, Singleton told Reuters. “We are trying every trick from every book.”

Along with pets, rescuers have saved stranded sheep, goats and more than 1,300†cows that were relocated to a safer area of the island, Reuters reports. Dozens of horses are temporarily staying at an equestrian center.

Unlike somewhat calmer cats and dogs, Singleton said the†larger†animals are†especially nervous. “From the earthquakes, to the smoke and lava, to the helicopters overhead, they are just spooked,” she told Reuters.

The grassroots organization,†Hawai’i Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network (HLFARN), has been launched on Facebook to†provide helpful information and support to evacuees needing help with pets or animals. “So far we have been able to save over 200 animals, thanks to a few people who have not slept much since then,” according to a May 20 update.

Among the good Samaritans rescuing pets are Elijah Lawson and his friends, who drove a pickup truck and trailer around evacuated areas. When they weren’t able to rescue a Yorkshire terrier from inside a fenced property, they cut a hole in the fence to give the little dog “at least a fighting chance,” Lawson told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

“For lack of a better word, it’s completely heartwrenching,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said our truck wasn’t crying on the way back … I have such a hard time breathing down there with the sulfur (dioxide), and I can only imagine how the pets have it, just wanting to get out of there.”

Fortunately, rescuers have been able to save many other animals.

In one amazing case, Carol Hosley’s two small dogs ran off in terror earlier this month when firefighters arrived at her apartment to help her evacuate. Daylynn Kyles, president of Aloha Ilio Dog Rescue, from which Hosley adopted one of the dogs, voluntarily searched the area with friends for 10 days.

They finally found the dogs trapped between a fence line and a cooled lava flow. Kyles and her friends crawled through grass and over the fence line to get to the dogs. With the exception of a lot of red ant bites, the two dogs are doing well, considering their ordeal.

“I’m just thrilled to death, I just couldn’t be happier,” Hosley told Hawaii News Now. “The other stuff is stuff, but I got the dogs.”

As HIHS volunteer Singleton pointed out, it’s very important for evacuees who’ve lost everything to be able to reunite with their pets. “It’s the one piece of home they still have, the one piece holding them together,” she told Reuters. “And the pets feel the same way.”

How to Help

These are some†Big Island-based organizations that are rescuing pets and livestock from the lava flow. Check out their websites for more information on how you can help them help animals during this difficult time.

Related at Care2

Photo Credit: Julien Millet/Unsplash

120 comments

michela c
michela cabout a month ago

Pets (and animals) mustn't be left behind because they are family too. Thanks for the good work.

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Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a month ago

good work

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Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a month ago

devastating for nature

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Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a month ago

well done

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michelle t
michelle tabout a month ago

Well done.I adore all animals.I am unable to say the same for all humans.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

@ Roberta G : so grateful that you just don't judge by a first / wrong reaction : I will never leave my pets behind. Some people are so hasty to draw conclusions either without having read the article in full, or because they did not even think for 2 mins. before writing.

@ Alea C : I will never understand your mindset !! All depends I think. With a medium sized car, 4 children, 2 big dogs and 3 cats - eventually also a goat, some rabbits and chickens ... it will become a very strange transport...

@ cristiano torchio : really ?? and who would drive the car then to rescue the domestic pets if you have thrown the owners in the flames ?? ??


@ Marty P : Sorry I don't understand you. Since when have politics something to do with the outburst of volcanos ?? Did not know volcanos had a political preference. Good to learn something more !

@ Stephanie G : the first things you would grab are your pets. Suppose you don't have small children (any more) or a disabled husband ?? If I were him, I would ask for a divorce.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

Very good to see that under such circumstances, people rush in to help others, specially when animals are involved. Whether it are pets, or cattle, horses etc. of small farmers, they leave behind wife & children and go to help. As someone put it so rightfully : stuff you can always replace ; but yr pets and farm animals are just like family.. YOU HAVE TO SAFE THEM !
What bothers me here again : since 10/15 years scientists pretend they can foresee volcano outburst, the magnitude, length, etc... And each time we see the same thing : Just shortly before all begins, people receive info over radio, television etc.. They should be able to foresee it at least 36 or 48 hours beforehand. Then you can arrange transport of your animals, their stay for a couple of days or weeks, food supply, etc.. You never can do that in 1 or 2 hours time.
And the "Coup de Theatre" is that politicians also rush to the place of the catastrophe. They express their sympathy, promise lots of money to rebuild roads, schools, houses, ... everything, and 5 years later, people are still struggling to survive in wooden shelters, with a minimum of comfort, and some roads have been repaired, electricity works again and THAT'S ALL FOLKS !!

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