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

123 comments

Carole R
Carole R5 hours ago

Heroes for sure.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD15 hours ago

tyfs

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Renata B
Renata B25 days ago

This is very good but since I read that Hawaii are the major consumer of dog (and I suppose cat) meat in the US my attitude is much more guarded alas.

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michela c
michela c3 months 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 O3 months ago

good work

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Clare O
Clare O3 months ago

devastating for nature

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Clare O
Clare O3 months ago

well done

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michelle t
michelle m3 months ago

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

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie4 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie4 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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