Flying to Hawaii isn’t just a dream vacation. It can also be a wonderful way to give a shelter dog or cat a second chance at life. Every week, four-legged “stowaways” hitch a ride on Alaska Airline flights from Kauai or Maui and are picked up by Oregon Humane Society volunteers who take the pets to stateside shelters where they stand a much better chance of finding a fur-ever home.
The Aloha Dog transfer program has been ongoing since 1997, according to Amanda Ferguson, a volunteer for OHS. “All you have to do is contact the shelter [in Maui or Kauai] a week or two before your return flight and tell them you want to participate in the transfer program to OHS. Shelter staff will coordinate everything else!” The stowaways don’t count against your luggage quota, Ferguson explained in an online article for the Oregon Humane Society. “You might end up with three to five dogs getting a free ride on your ticket. When you arrive at PDX [Portland International Airport], an OHS volunteer will meet you at baggage claim to fetch your animals. Boom—you just saved a few lives in addition to your holiday in paradise.”
Why fly pets from Hawaii to Oregon? “Far more animals come into the single shelter on the island than can be adopted out,” explained Danielle Fisher, an OHS staffer who used to work for the Kauai Humane Society. “The pets that are sent to the mainland free up kennels at the shelter for incoming dogs, or allow the harder-to-place animals to remain available longer,” said Fisher. The Oregon Humane Society is one of 15 transfer partners who participate in the Aloha program. “Many of the breeds common in Hawaii aren’t seen as often in shelters here, so they stand out and are adopted quickly.”
OHS has been giving Hawaiian dogs a second chance in Oregon since 1997. “In those early years, it was just a few dogs from Kauai Humane Society when OHS had space, Ferguson explains. ” Since 2012, the program has expanded to include regular transfers from Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii Island Humane Societies. “On an island with limited homes and overpopulation of dogs and cats, shelters must get creative to save lives.”
Another way to help is by taking empty airline crates back to Hawaii on your flight there.