The Maui Humane Society’s mission is to protect and save the lives of Maui’s animals. They accept all in need, educate the community, and inspire respect and compassion towards all animals. They work diligently to find new forever homes for homeless animals and to help people find ways to keep the animals they love in their homes. They envision the day when every animal in Maui will have a loving home, and they dedicate themselves to protect and nourish the human-animal bond in which they feel makes for a better and kinder society.
“Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.
The Maui Humane Society has been in existence for 66 years, and they’re the only open-admission animal shelter on the island. Each year they’re taking in over 6000 animals and helping just as many throughout their community with outreach programs. Through those programs and services, they have provided support to Maui’s approximately 90,000 pet owners. And each of their new and innovative programs have had a positive impact on pet owners, animal lovers and the island’s animal population.
Hey, Jamie, welcome to the show. Hi, how are you? I’m doing fantastic today. You are actually with Maui Humane Society, obviously in Hawaii, and I am really excited to kind of dive in and learn a little bit more about you and what you guys do there and some of the challenges that you encounter. I know they’re gonna be very different than the other organizations that I’ve talked with. I want to just jump in. Why did you tell us a little bit about you and how you got involved in animal welfare and then maybe a little bit about Maui Humane? Sure. Well, my name is Jamie Fitzpatrick and then the chief operating officer at the Maui Humane Society. I’ve been with the Maui Humane Society for the last six years, and I actually started animal welfare back in 2001, at a small shelter in Corvallis, Oregon, and I started as a part-time animal care attendant and took care of the dogs and cats there. Eventually working my way up to the operations director at that shelter. And then I went to Lamb It Humane Society in Salem, OR and worked there for five years and helped open their high volume neuter clinic as well as being their shelter operations director. And primely six years ago was looking for a change of home, I guess, and ended up here on Maui and, you know, the rest is history. From Oregon to Hawaii, that’s a that’s a huge change. That’s definitely a different lifestyle, for sure. Yeah, and having been born and raised in Oregon, I always joke that in the six years I’ve been here on Maui, we have seen the sunshine more than I ever saw it in my entire life of living in Oregon. It was time for a change and so came out here and got to join an organization that had a similar start to many private, nonprofit, humane societies. The Maui Humane Society started about 66 years ago, in 1953. Started, as many others do as a group of concerned volunteers working toward the betterment of welfare for the animals in the community. Fast forward now, and we are a staff of over 60 employees. Our last year we saw over 5600 animals here, through our doors at our shelter and helped countless others through outreach and education programs in our community. First off, 66 years is a really, really long time in this industry. That’s really awesome that you guys have had the support of the community for that long, and then the progression that they’ve made over the course of that time is probably so different from where they started to where they are today. And I’m really excited to just dive in and learn a little bit more about the programs that you guys have there on the island. So why don’t we, why don’t we start there first and let’s learn a little bit more.
Sure, here at the Maui Humane Society, some of the services we provide are really similar to what a lot of other shelters do. One of our primary focuses is being a shelter and a safe haven for animals in need. You know, an animal who has lost, who we can help find its family and get it reunited, being that safety net for animals in transition. If a family is in the unfortunate position of having to give up their pet. And so then, you know, working on getting those animals who come into our care where they need to be. We have extensive lost and found services. You do have the contract with the county of Maui to provide sheltering services and animal control services to our community. Those animals who come to us then we’re working on getting them where they need to go. We offer low cost microchipping to our community to help make sure that strays can get back home quickly and effectively. We have an extensive adoption program to help find homes for animals who need new homes. Our community does still struggle with overpopulation, so we do have more pets than our community can, can adopt itself. We are on an island and our population here on Maui is around 150,000 people. For a shelter still getting in over 5600 animals a year that’s fairly high per capita average. You know, we’re not quite able to adopt out all the animals here in our community. So we rely on transfers. We actually have a very robust transfer network to get animals off the island and fly them to the mainland to communities who have their pet population a little more under control and are able to place some of our pets into homes and their communities. So our wings of Aloha program is what allows us to do that and that’s quite a process. First off, transport isn’t easy. Transport is one of those really, really difficult things in this industry. But then you throw in, you know, having to transfer them from Hawaii to the mainland.
So I want to talk more about all the programs in general. But I want to spend a few minutes on this one because I want to know, when did you guys realize that you needed to have a transfer program and how did that evolve? Transfer in general in the field has become more and more than the norm. And it was in 2012 that our organization started doing transfers to the mainland. So what, we’re in our seventh year now, and in that time we’ve transferred over 3000 animals to the mainland, during that time. Started out with primarily dogs, because a lot of communities had a capacity that they were able to take dogs from other communities. So we started out by getting dogs off of Maui and to the mainland to get homes. And over the last two-ish years, we were able to expand the program greatly, to be able to help save the lives of literally hundreds more cats here in our community. Last year we flew almost 600 cats to the mainland for adoption, mainly kittens. But almost 600 just cats that last year were almost 900 animals total flew on our wings of Aloha program. And you know there are extra steps, it’s not, you know, when I worked on them in shelters on the mainland, we just drive the big band up and load everyone up and off we go. But this isn’t only crossing state lines, which means you need health certificates. But it’s also crossing half a giant ocean, and so our animals lie on commercial carriers. We’ve been really fortunate to have great support from Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, and they help us with discounts. And then we have private funding that allows us to buy these, literally hundreds of animals to the mainland every year. I think what you guys have been able to do in really such a short amount of time, seven years, especially you were definitely on the progressive end of that. Nobody was talking about transferring animals seven years ago. I feel like it’s much more recent that that has really happened, but for you guys to be on the leading side of that, you know, whoever came up with the idea and really worked to implement it. And now for the team that’s continuing that and growing, that is a really cool thing. I hope that something that you guys are really proud of and take a lot of pride in, and I think it’s really amazing. We are very proud of this program and all of our staff and volunteers who helped make it happen, and we’re very thankful to our transfer partners, on the other end, Most of our partners are in the Pacific Northwest. We work with shelters in Oregon and Washington, primarily some of the shelters or shelters I used to work at, which is really great to be on the other side. You know, I used to work at those shelters and help organizations transfer into us, and now I’m on the other side, getting to send our wonderful animals to their communities to adopt out. So it’s really neat seeing that full circle of the process. Yeah, that’s exactly what I was just gonna say, Jamie is how cool is it for you to be on one side and then flip and not be on the other side. I definitely think that’s a cool aspect.
You had mentioned 300 dogs, and then last year alone, you focused, you know, a little bit more on the cats or the kittens, so it’s a 300 to 600 ratio. And so why is it that you have so many more kittens? Is it really a spay and neuter problem? Where does that difference come from, the dogs versus cats? Part of the reason for the imbalance between cats and dogs here on Maui is the view that our community and communities in general, see the difference between ownership of dogs and ownership of cats. And this is something that you know, is true across our whole industry. Cats are wonders. They do their thing. Cats decide where they’re going to live or which of the seven houses they eat from the bowls from. And seeing a cat wandering around the neighborhood is very different than seeing a dog wandering around the neighborhood. A dog wandering around the neighborhood, that’s a great time or that someone’s dog. Where does it belong? Where does it live? The concept of ownership for cats is very different in public view. It’s compounded here by the fact that being in the climate that we’re in, we are literally the perfect cat breeding place. It doesn’t freeze here. We don’t have winters. I mean, we have winter, but it doesn’t get cold. Cats can have multiple litters per season, and cats thrive very well in this climate. So we are doing our very best to combat that with, through spay-neuter. But that obviously takes time. Our organization has focused a lot on making sure that spay-neuter is affordable and accessible to our community. And it’s been easier to get dogs in for surgery because their owners associate with those dogs who would bring them in. Getting the cats to come in for surgery, well, if no one’s claiming that cat, who’s bringing it in for surgery? So we’re a little behind the curve on that we’ve made great strides, especially in the last few years. But, you know, years and years of that being behind has translated into, you know, about twice as many cats coming into our shelter as dogs on an annual basis.
A lot of organizations like TNR, the trap neuter and return program. Do you guys have anything like that there? And is that something, if you don’t, is that something that you guys have thought about doing? Would that be beneficial? We have been very active in TNR, especially over the last four years. In 2015 we started our MASH clinics. We were fortunate to get funding from PetSmart charities, and they funded a certain number of MASH clinics for us here. High volume, high-quality clinics where we literally flew in specially trained veterinarians and technicians from the mainland to come here so that we could put on massive events and fix hundreds of cats in a matter of a couple of days. Starting in 2015, we did several of those clinics a year and used that to springboard conversations about TNR and make it more accessible to our community. People have been doing it before, but on a much smaller scale and having these clinics available for our community for free to bring in a cat so that it could get sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tipped and microchipped, all for free and with also having free trap rentals here at the shelter, to get the cat’s caught and brought in for surgery. And, you know, fixing thousands of cats through those clinics and being able to expose our community to this process and how accessible we can make it, has made an enormous difference in our population. But it’s still a lot of work ahead to get that done. Yeah, definitely takes a lot of time. You gotta not only to move forward but just to implement new programs. It takes a lot of time and resources and research and funding. No program that starts from scratch is done overnight. You have to do your research. You have to make sure you’re making connections with the right people.
And then for you guys like you said you were having people come over from the mainland to help you and that’s, that’s a whole other logistical side of things for you guys. That is very different then what organizations here on the mainland encounter. So you guys definitely have hurdles, exactly, no matter what you do! It’s true, it’s true, but we’re making great progress in the spay-neuter field, you know. Thankfully, different funders have stepped up to help us be able to continue to offer low cost or free spay-neuter here, especially for those feral cats and the community cats. We’re able to offer free spay-neuter here. And you know that’s not many communities can say that. So we’re really fortunate here on Maui. The county of Maui actually contributes to a spay-neuter fund here as well, to help fix our communities’ pets. The Petco Foundation, PetSmart Charities to Maddie’s Fund, the Field Foundation, you know, have all helped us be able to continue this and it makes a difference. When I started here, we were fixing about 3000 animals a year between our shelters’ animals and the communities, public pets and feral cats, which is pretty good. I mean, that’s, you know, nothing to sneeze at by any stretch. But this last year we just wrapped up, we did almost 7500. So we more than, you know, more than doubled well, over doubled what we did, you know, 5-6 years ago being able to expand our services through these mash clinics and using those as a stopgap until we could physically expand our existing spay-neuter clinic here. Bring on more staff. We brought on the second veterinarian three years ago. And physically expanding our space to be able to serve that many more animals a day here in our regular high volume clinic. You know, being able to fix 7500 animals, this last year was groundbreaking for us. Yeah, that’s such growth. I think that is phenomenal. The numbers, 3000 to 7500. That’s incredible growth, really, really cool.
I know that a lot of the challenges that I hear really, is around education and awareness and talking to the community and getting out and doing events and things of that nature. Is that something that you guys are also focused on? Yeah, education is a huge component of what we do because we can’t solve these problems without our community. So there’s no way to do it without bringing the community into the solution. And if they don’t understand the problem or know the tools to address it, they can’t help solve the problem with us. So we actually have our small but mighty community outreach team and have a humane educator. A lot of the focus has really been internal. We have some amazing kid camps during school breaks. There’s a day camp here during the summer and spring break and winter break. And the kids come in and learn all about how to care for animals. Careers in the field of animal, animal welfare and animals in general. They learn about medical things for animals, and they learn about dog behavior, all sorts of great things. But that certainly doesn’t get everywhere we need to go. So our outreach team focuses on, how do we get out into the community, to have face time with people. You know, that’s everything from going to community events, like our little Friday town parties we have across the island, different weeks. Getting out to our county fair. Anything else that will just get us in front of people so we can have a conversation. Because that’s the only way to, to make a difference is one on one. Being able to get that word to an individual and then have them help spread it with us. Yeah, it’s definitely a huge component, to the industry in general. You have to have that group of people who can focus on that because like you said, nothing happens overnight. It’s progression and it’s really about having conversations and learning from the community. What are their challenges? I think you need to hear from the community in order to know what to focus on next or how to help them. And I think you can only get that by being in the community. At those events and having that team that’s not afraid to ask the hard questions. I mean, there’s always room for growth and improvement, and the community is, a tool that can be used for organizations to find out what’s next. To find out what those struggles are. Exactly. Exactly. And we’ve done a good job of reaching out and getting our message to the people. And that’s how people are getting engaged and involved with the organization. But the next challenge is how we reach the people who aren’t currently engaged with our organization and who are out of the loop on what’s going on. You know that that’s the eternal question with everyone, you know. How do we reach that next segment of the population who we want to bring into the fold and it’s challenging. Yeah, definitely is a challenge.
So I actually wanted to talk to you about something that I saw just a few weeks ago. You guys actually had a brush fire on the island. So, I want to know how that impacted you guys. And do you have an evacuation plan? Right. What do you do in the event of those natural disasters? Well, our organization has been really involved and keyed into what goes on for natural disasters in our community for a long, long time. We actually partner with the Red Cross. And if our island was potentially facing a threat of a hurricane or tropical storm and if the Red Cross opens emergency evacuation shelters, the Maui Humane Society steps in next to them and opens the pet-friendly side of the shelter. You know, as has been shown time and time again, pet owners will choose to remain with their pets instead of evacuating themselves to safety if they cannot bring their pets with them. So our community feels strongly that having pet friendly sheltering is really, really important. Our organization has stepped in multiple times over the past years and open these pet-friendly shelters. If hurricanes have been threatening the island, which you know, there’s hurricane season, it’s about half the year long. We’re in the midst of it right now. And so it’s something we’re always aware of and always able to step outside of our shelter itself and help our community. This was different. This was the first time where a disaster had been threatening our physical shelter itself. And we were faced with having to evacuate our shelter for the safety of our staff and our animals.
What he doesn’t know here on Maui, our shelter is literally in the middle of the whole islands, right in the center. We’re right in the center of a bunch of sugar cane fields. Well, about three years ago, the sugar cane production stopped here on Maui. And so these fields have gone fallow, and we also had a very dry, we’ve had a very dry and hot summer. And so that just made the perfect recipe for this brushfire sparking up. And it got bigger and it got big, fast and ultimately ended up burning over 10,000 acres. And our shelter is right in the middle of that 10,000 acres that burned. So we were just having a normal Thursday here at our shelter. Everyone was taking care of the animals. We were having meetings, getting everything done that would happen on a normal Thursday. And someone looked outside and said, huh, there’s smoke off in the distance. We’re like, ok, well, that’s off in the distance, that happens sometimes. Well, business as usual. Carry on. We looked again, huh? There’s a lot more smoke out there. That looks closer. Maybe we should call the fire department. So we did and got on with Fire Chief. And they assured us, yep, they’re monitoring it. Our shelter wasn’t in danger at this point. Let’s, you know, keep an eye on it and see if the wind shifts and what goes on from there. So we kept watching. It was getting a little closer. And so we decided, you know, we haven’t gotten the word we have to evacuate, but let’s start preparing just in case. Fortunately, we have a lot of crates here on our property, which is very handy. We use a lot of those crates for our Wings of Aloha program, flying our animals to the mainland. Those came in very handy. So all of our staff and volunteers who were on-site that day got to work. And we started building crates, propping up pop up kennels, getting everything staged and ready. And then we got the word from the fire department that it was time to go. What was absolutely incredible, even before we had gotten the word that we needed to evacuate this facility here, members of the community were popping out of the woodwork. They were pulling up on our front door. They were calling us. They were messaging us on Facebook. We see there’s a fire. What do you guys need? What? How can we help? How can we help? How can we help? And it was amazing. And so even before we were ready to evacuate, there were literally cars lined up in our parking lot like we’re gonna wait here and if you need our help evacuating, we are here for you. I mean, it was giving us goosebumps.i’m getting goosebumps now, just talking about it. I was just gonna say I have goosebumps as well, so that’s pretty awesome. It was incredible. And you know, so then we got the word that yes, we needed to leave the shelter and what was amazing, we gathered all of our team, all of our staff, all of our volunteers were on site and we quickly got everyone distributed into the different areas to ensure that all of the animals were loaded up appropriately and at a stage so that they could be loaded into vehicles and be evacuated.
Through our partnership with the Red Cross, they were able to get us hooked up with the wonderful Maui High School and they opened their arms to us. They had a wonderful grassy portion of their school campus that we were able to use. It was shaded with all these beautiful big trees. And they said we could camp out there because we anticipated, you know, maybe needing to leave the shelter for a few hours and then the danger would be gone and we could come back. So we loaded up all the cars, got all the animals out of the shelter. What was incredible is we did it in less than an hour. We were thinking we’d need at least an hour and 1/2. We had about 245 animals on site that day and we were able to get them all loaded and off the property in less than an hour, which was possible because of our community stepping up to help us. Folks came with buses like literally buses from some organizations came over, pulled up. We loaded him up with cat crates and off they went. So I’ve never seen the like of an operation like this. It was absolutely incredible. And so from there, we took all the animals and we set up our temporary shelter, which just ended up being like a picnic for the dogs. They thought we were on an outing and going out to the part lined up in the crate, taken out for walks by the volunteers in the staff. So the dogs thought it was a lovely time. The cats were a little more reserved. They’re, like, not sure about this. Um, the animal who was the most irritated was Freddie. We have a resident tortoise. Freddy is a 16-year-old African Kolkata tortoise. He’s about 75 or 80 pounds and he lives here at the shelter. And of course, we evacuated with him because we’re not gonna leave Freddie behind. Freddy was not pleased with the accommodations. He was a little perturbed. He got by. We have video, on our Facebook of our staff walking Freddy on, on a long line leash so he could cruise around, and make his displeasure known. But instead of just being out of our evacuation shelter for a few hours, we were out there for two full days. It took two full days to get the fire under control enough that we didn’t have worries that flare-ups would happen right around the shelter and we’d have to evacuate again. You know, we didn’t start that day planning on having to operate on a new emergency offsite shelter, but it worked in our community. They kept swinging by our little campsite over there like, what do you guys need? People brought us coffee and doughnuts and pizza and sandwiches and helped take care of our staff involved. They could take care of the animals. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Yeah, actually, I got a couple of goosebumps during that story. I love Freddie. I love that no animal was left behind. Freddy’s a character. You know, I have to check him out now on Instagram and see what’s going on.
But I definitely love that you know, you guys were proactive and you had everybody’s best interest in mind. The staff, the animals, the permanent residents like Freddie. And I love that you guys have partnerships with the Red Cross and that you have good relationships with, you know, the school system there. And the community just rallies around you. So being on an island, this is part of that challenge and the community rallying around you guys. Do you have a process document? Like, who creates that? And how do you guys know when it’s time to implement that? For evacuation? Yeah, for anything. Even during the hurricane season. So fires, hurricanes, right. Anything natural, disaster-related. I’m assuming that something that you guys have a playbook for. And do you guys run annually like I’m in Wisconsin, and so we have tornado drills so that you’re prepared. Do you guys do that on an annual basis to make sure that when those things come up, you’re prepared and you have a system for that? We have really good processes in good documentation for how we help support our community in times of disaster for operating those emergency pet shelters, the pet-friendly Red Cross shelters, and each year we open shelters, usually multiple times. And so those function as our continuing ed and continuing training for our staff and volunteers to, to get those up and running. And we run training for new volunteers to help us operate those once or twice a year, as well. As far as when our physical shelter is threatened, we have theoretically and verbally discussed plans about what we would do and how it would look. But it was just one of those things we had never gotten around to documenting. So we ran this evacuation with, we played it by ear, and we made it work. So we definitely know a lot more about what that document would look like now that we’ve actually done it. So we, you know, we took the theory and we put it into practice, and now we’ll go back in the back and document it from there. Which is sometimes what you need to do.
And, like you said, you’re prepared for the hurricanes. You said that’s something that happens every year, about half the year. But you don’t often get the natural disaster fires that happens. Sometimes I guess those impromptu situations are the best learning environment. Now, it’s just a matter of, like you said, documenting it and making sure that if that happens again, cross our fingers, but you know that you’re prepared and you have a plan and that people can execute. I mean, I don’t know if you’re ever gonna be able to be less than an hour. That was pretty incredible. Yeah, everybody was safe. Everyone did really well. And, you know, it’s really because of our amazing staff. Our staff not only have the incredible hearts to do what they do, our staff is really smart. They are really good at making smart decisions in the moment for not only what’s good for this animal, but what’s good for all of the animals and our co-workers and our volunteers, and really being able to use critical thinking to help make plans. In the midst of this evacuation, we didn’t have time to lay out specific action plans for folks. We just delegated. Okay, you and you, you’re in charge of getting all the dogs in kennels. Find whatever help you need. Make that happen. You and you, you’re in charge of loading up the hands of supplies so that we have food, water bowls, whatever else we need, buying friends, make it happen. And they did, without fail. Absolutely did. Because of our incredible staff here, I think that’s definitely really, really special. And, you know, unfortunately, you had to go through that. But again, I think the upside is that you guys were able to execute without a true plan. And you did it in such a short amount of time. And that speaks volumes. To, you know not only the humane society but again the people, the staff, the community and that kind of rallies around you. So thank you for sharing that. And I’m certainly glad that everybody is safe from that. And without loss, right? Have any building damage? There was no, there was 1,1 of our storage containers on the edge of our property had a little singe on the back of it, and the fire literally came to our door and mean we, we would not have a shelter if it wasn’t for the Maui Fire Department. They posted up here at our shelter and literally saved our facility. So that we had a home to come back to and you know, their work was just incredible. And we can’t thank them enough. A little singe on the back building in the scheme of things and the big picture really, is right, is nothing so definitely very cool. And I can imagine the hard work that went into that. Two days’ worth of basically standing their ground to ensure that everything went the way that it wanted to go.
One of the things I want, I want to circle back on that kind of ties into the community is your adoption program and volunteer program. I feel like volunteers are really the lifeline of organizations, and they definitely play a large part in shelters specifically. So I want to kind of talk about what those volunteers mean to you guys and how they’re able to help you in your day to day activities. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization. They really help us do all of those other things that we might not be able to do otherwise. Last year, volunteers donated over 18,000 hours of service to our organization, and we had, yeah, it’s, it’s incredible. I mean, that’s over what over nine full-time employees worth of hours? We had almost 500 active volunteers this last year, and you have volunteers help with everything. Everything from walking dogs to socializing and cats to fostering, to answering the phones, helping with special events, helping with evacuations, anything and everything. So they really are incredible. To get the work done here. They help us run our doggy playgroups. We run dog playgroups here five days a week so our dogs get to romp about with each other. Get extra enrichment socialization, and we get to learn more about the dogs during that. Our volunteers also play a critical role in our Beach Buddies program. Our Beach Buddies program lets community members, visitors or residents come in and take a dog out for the day. Folks sign up on our website in advance and then on their beach buddy day, they come in, they get a little orientation from, from our beach buddies folks. And learn about where they can take their dog for the day. They get a whole little backpack of supplies. The treats water, water bowl, blanket towel, poo bags, all the good stuff they would need to take the dog out for the day on. Then they go off on an adventure and then the dog comes back and they’re tired and they had a lovely time. I think that’s really cool. And is that part of your adoption program is to get them out in the community and allow people to see them interact versus seeing them behind, you know, a cage or in their kennel. Is that where that stemmed from? It’s definitely a facet. We, we started using it for a variety of reasons. One, it’s a great way for folks to interact with the dogs. It’s not just taking them on a quick stroll around the shelter property. It’s a chance for the dogs to go out in the community, interact with more people. When they go out on beach buddies, they wear the bright yellow collars and leashes that say adopt me. So they’re seeing a new audience that they may not have seen before.
But one of the other reasons for us that was really incredible, is that over 2/3 of the dogs you come into our shelters come in a strays. That means we have no history on them. We don’t know anything about them. We don’t know how they ride in the car. We don’t know if they like the beach. We don’t know if they like the water. We don’t know how they walk on leashes. The Beach Buddies program also is a great way for us to get little report cards on our dogs. And that information, from their beach buddies outing, helps us place them and match them with the doctors or with transfer partners, so that we can give folks a better picture of what this dog is like. Seeing a dog only in a kennel is not a true representation of who that dog is.
Yeah, and so how long has the Beach Buddies program been going for you guys? Beach Buddies Program started about 4-5 years ago now. And we, we didn’t invent it. We, we, uh, we learned about programs like this from Kwai Humane Society. They have their Doggie outing program, and so we modeled it after theirs. Tweaked it for our own uses, of course, but it’s been exceptionally successful, and it’s literally booked months out. People have to be on a waiting list if they want in sooner than that. It is that popular for folks to take dogs out. How did you build that so fast? Cause I think 4-5 years is yes, that’s, that’s a decent amount of time. But really, in the scheme of things, 4 to 5 years for a program is still fairly new. So how were you able to implement that and get such a following, such a support system so early? Well, it kind of happened accidentally. When we were launching the program, it’s tough, as with many of our programs. We start most pilot projects, you know, let’s see what sticks. Let’s see what we need to adjust. Let’s see if this fits into our model and our mission and what we want to do and what’s gonna be successful for us. So we didn’t start with a lot. We didn’t really start with advertising. Because we wanted to feel it out slowly. We didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew. So we decided to, you know, open it up a little bit and see what the response was. And you know, the thing is is we were already having people come to the shelter every day saying, you know, can I hang out with this dog? Can I take this dog out? What can we do to spend time with this dog? And so those were our first customers. You know, folks who are, like, great. We have a Beach Buddies outing later this week or next week. Why don’t we sign you up and you can take a dog out? It just grew like crazy from there. We ended up getting some publicity in some travel magazines. Some videos ended up going viral on YouTube and just poof. Magically. It is very popular. People walk into the shelter every day. We heard about your Beach buddies program. Can we take a dog out? We’re like, we would love you too. It’s a few months out. I mean, this is crazy.
I mean, the good thing you guys have going is that the weather pretty much is awesome all year round. Yeah, you don’t have to write out snowstorms and you know, rain and all of that kind of stuff. And so you almost feel like every day is pretty perfect. To be able to do that all year round definitely helps. As I mentioned, I’m in Wisconsin, so I would never take a dog out for a day in the middle of nowhere, right? Like, that’s just not ideal for me or for the dog. So I feel like your environment definitely is supportive of that. You know, one of the things I thought was really cool when you were talking about that, Jamie, was that you opened it up to visitors and residents, right? A lot of people are like you have to be, you know, a member of the community. Have to live in the county, all of that. And you’re saying, look, as long as you go through our short orientation, we don’t care if you’re here on a week’s vacation and you want to take a dog for a day or if you know you live here. Was that something that started with the beginning of the program? Or is that something that kind of evolved? It was always our intention that it would be open to anyone. You know, some people literally make this part of their vacation plan. They’ll book other vacation items on their agenda around their beach buddy outing. You know, we’ve certainly had beach buddy outings turn into adoptions. Whether the person lives here on Maui or not. You know that’s the exception to the rule, of course, most of our folks who out on Beach Buddies aren’t looking to adopt, and that’s fine. They’re still doing a great thing for these dogs and helping us get great information. The one of the best things we get from the beach buddies outing as the photos. You know, we have amazing staff and volunteers here take great pictures of our dogs. I don’t know if you’ve looked on our website, but you can see all the amazing photos that they get. I don’t know how you get a picture of dogs and cats looking as good as they do. Because when I take pictures, they don’t look anything like that. But there’s only so much you can do in a shelter setting, right? And then from beach buddies, we get these amazing photos of these dogs at the beach, in the ocean and out under the palm trees, and you know, those are what, a picture is worth 1000 words, right? So having those to be able to add to an animal’s profile just brings so much more life and personality to that pet to help them connect with their new families.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s such an important role for organizations in general. And I love that you guys have been able to really organically grow a program like that, which, quite honestly doesn’t happen very often. Or at least not that I’ve heard. You know, usually, there’s a little bit of muscle behind it. You need to do some promoting and talking to people about it. I’m sure the bright yellow leashes and vests all of those things that you’re using, I’m sure, definitely help get the word out. But still to have that many volunteers want to participate in a program like that is so, so impactful. Yeah, we love it and, you know, it really brought it home to me. I’ve always liked the Beach Buddies Program. I think it’s a really great investment for our shelter and our staff and our dogs, and it just has a really great impact on us and the dogs. But, what I didn’t really realize was how much impact it has on the participants. I adopted a dog. Her name is Tasha. I adopted her about two years ago or so, and is snoring right at my feet right now. I’m not sure if you can hear her, but she’s perpetually scoring. She’s just a cute little senior, 40 pound, little red short, squat little girl. And before I adopted her, she was one of our shelter residents here, and she participated in our Beach Buddies program. And so she got to go out with a lovely lady from the mainland. And, you know, she fell in love with this dog. She couldn’t. She couldn’t adopt her or anything, and that was fine. But she kept in touch, you know. She was able to email in, a few times after her beach buddies outing, and I was able to give her the good news that I adopted my little Tasha here now and that Tasha is well in her home and everything’s great. And so it’s been about two and 1/2 years since this gals Beach Buddy outing and out of the blue, a couple of weeks ago, she emails me. She said, I was just checking in. I was curious how Tasha is doing. I think about her all the time. I have her photo on my phone. I look at it frequently. And I was just like, my heart just stopped and like, oh my gosh, like I mean, I know I love Tasha and she’s perfect and she’s absolutely wonderful. But the fact that this dog that a stranger took out on a Beach Buddies outing, still impacted her two and 1/2 years later, that she still has a piece of her heart, was really incredible for me to realize how much of an impact these dogs have on their people, too. So, who participate in this program as a one-off, just a little extra part that they do, I was just, I was just blown away. It was, it was so sweet. I definitely think there is something,something to that, and it’s something that I often forget.
So I’m glad you brought that up as much as we impact the lives of the animals, it’s important to know that they do make an impact on us, and I’m glad you shared that story again. Like I said, I often forget that because we’re so focused on saving their lives, getting them to a forever hold that’s our target. That’s what we do this for. And, yeah, we do forget that there’s a bigger impact. So again I am, I love that you adopted Tasha. I love that. You know, she still reaches out to you and kind of looks for that update, and I think that’s really special. I often hear that, you know, you’re either a person or you’re an animal person and we’re trying to change that dynamic a little bit. You can’t be an animal person, right? You have to be a people person too. It goes both ways. You need a combination of both. We can’t help animals without people. Yes, yes. Yeah, it’s so true. And I think it just leads back to that, to the impact on humans. I think when we’re impacted by an animal, it leads us down the path and it keeps us moving forward. That keeps us wanting to do more and make a bigger change. Yeah, our animals get to remind us that every day and are fortunate to get to go home to my house full of animals and remember why, why we do what we do. How much of a difference they make in our lives. and not just us. Those of us who choose to spend our careers doing something like this. Folks who, you know, in the regular rest of the world, animals do have that same impact on them.
Yeah, I definitely agree. Jamie, I have loved my time with you, and I want to just make sure that we talked about everything that you wanted to cover. Before we start to wrap this up, is there anything that we may have missed that you wanna talk about before we start to close this out? You know, I can’t forget about our amazing development team here who oversees our marketing and our outreach and everything. And if you haven’t gone to our Facebook page, it is just a wealth of heartwarming happiness. To see all the really great things that we’ve been up to. The wonderful adoptions, the cool events that have been happening. There’s a recap of the fire and evacuations, everything on there. But they do such a great job of getting our story out there. It really helps people see the amazing work that we’re doing. And my favorite thing, what I love to help people to do, is to go to our website now, Mauihumanesociety.org, and on the right-hand column, there’s a little space that, where you can sign up for our e-newsletter. We don’t spam you, it’s not crazy. But what you get, every Friday, this is my favorite part about Friday’s, and not because it’s Friday, because you know it’s the weekend’s coming or anything. But my favorite part about Friday’s is that in my email inbox, I get our e-newsletter. And our staff do such a great job on it. It is just a page of happy, heartwarming news. You know, happy ending stories, information about animals we’ve helped and how they’ve gone on. Updates on what our next big things are. And I encourage anyone to sign on for the e-newsletter. It will just give you that last jolt of happiness to get you through the rest of your week.
I definitely love that. We’ll make sure to link to your website and Facebook page. When we go ahead and publish this. We definitely want to make it easy for people to find you guys and learn how to support you and, and ask questions and get involved. So we’ll definitely make sure to include those links. And yes, without the development team and the social media, we lose so much. I feel like that is the one connection to the world that you know, not everybody, but a good portion of people are really connected to. And so we have to take advantage of the tools that are out there. Yeah. I mean, we’re literally on an island doing our thing, and we can share what we’re doing with the world through that media, and it’s great. I would encourage people, definitely to check out your website. You guys have some great photos that are scrolling across the top, and it just looks like everybody is just invested and involved and excited to be there and helping the animals. It’s, it’s one of the most happiest websites that I’ve ever encountered out there. So, well, thank you. Yeah. I love what you guys have done and what you continue to do, and we’ll definitely make sure to follow you guys and watch the progress that you’re making. I think it’s incredible. Well, thank you. Well, when you come to Maui to visit, I would love to show you around the shelter. And you can see how the feeling here the shelter mirrors what you’re seeing online. Yeah, I definitely am excited about that. I hope to get back there one of these days. You guys to be the first ones on my list. Jamie, thank you so much for really taking the time with me today and sharing more about what you guys are doing and the impact that you’re making. We really look forward to watching the progression for you guys. Thank you so much.
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