By JOHN BURNETT
Hawaii Tribune-Herald - February 12, 2015
While residents of lower Puna await what Madame Pele has in store, a nonprofit animal rescue organization has been busy rescuing cats from the still-active June 27 lava flow from Kilauea Volcano.
Frannie Pueo of Hui Pono Holoholona, a group that operates Pono Animal Way Sanctuary (PAWS), a no-kill shelter for cats in Mountain View, said her group has rescued a number of cats, mostly feral, from the areas around the Pahoa Family Health Center and Pahoa Marketplace.
“There were no cats left, as far as I knew, near the Pahoa Marketplace,” she said. “We left traps out, including for the four we know of still left in the (clinic) area. They were reluctant to go into the traps … so we coordinated with the feeder. And as long as they were still under the care of the feeder, we felt it was OK to let them be. We’ll still try to trap them at a more convenient time because Madame Pele has given us that time.
“Cats don’t understand what’s going on with the lava flow. They’ll try to escape into a cave or lava tube or climb a tree, and it’s likely they won’t survive.”
Pueo said she doesn’t know how many of the cats might have been abandoned by owners who opted to voluntarily evacuate lower Puna, but is certain cat abandonment is occurring.
“I know at least one cat, Lava Girl, a beautiful black kitten that we found a wonderful home for, was dumped there,” she said. “She was not born there, being that she was overly friendly and liked humans.”
The Hawaii Island United Way and Hawaii County Civil Defense took a community-needs survey in the affected areas of lower Puna between Nov. 20 and Dec. 12. The survey of 784 households found 612 respondents, or 78 percent, had at least one pet. Those asked if they would take their pets with them if they were forced to evacuate answered 89 percent yes, 10 percent not sure, and 1 percent no.
The survey notwithstanding, animal abandonment, especially of cats, is an ongoing concern, Pueo said.
“Are people still abandoning their animals? Of course they are,” she asserted. “At the Keaau (transfer station), they still are dumping their animals there, and we are still pulling animals out of there. Councilman (Greggor) Ilagan has worked with us and has put up signs indicating that it’s against the law to dump animals, but people are still dumping ’em.”
Pueo wouldn’t disclose how many cats are at the PAWS shelter, but said she has about 30 adoptable felines. She said she’s running at capacity as far as her group’s financial ability to feed the animals. She said people are choosing to abandon animals instead of taking them to the Hawaii Island Humane Society because they realize it is likely the cats will be euthanized, and that pet owners think their cats will survive by hunting if abandoned.
“‘It will survive on rats.’ I’ve heard this so many times before, and it’s not true,” she said. “Domestic cats are not geared to be absolute hunters and to be abandoned.”
Her view was echoed by Inga Gibson, state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
“It’s never acceptable to abandon an animal, even if it’s to avoid possible euthanasia,” Gibson said. “We believe every animal should have the right to be evaluated for potential adoption. Casting its fate to the wind is the worst fate of all.”
Hui Pono Holoholona, which also sponsors low-cost spay-neuter clinics for animals and trap-neuter-return operations for feral cat colonies, has an online fundraiser to help with rescue efforts and to fence in the PAWS facility. Pueo said that on Dec. 2, a group of dogs came onto the property and killed 20 cats, mostly older and deaf animals, some as they slept.
“You could tell they were trying to save themselves, but they were violently run down and killed. And all night, I kept finding bodies,” she said, through tears.
Pueo said the carnage wouldn’t have occurred if the shelter’s property was fenced in. She added she also owns dogs and loves them, but dog owners need to be responsible for properly training their animals.
The online fundraiser can be found at www.indiegogo.com/projects/protect-hawaii-cats-from-lava-flow. But be advised: The site contains videos with disturbing images of dead animals.
Donations also can be made on the organization’s website at www.hphhawaii.org or by mailing them to Hui Pono Holoholona, P.O. Box 943, Mountain View, HI 96771.
Information about spay-neuter clinics and adoptions is available by calling 968-8279 or emailing email@example.com.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.