Cats and rare birds are still seen more often in & around the burn zone than the ASPCA
LAHAINA, Maui, Hawaii––National Guard adjutant general Kenneth Hara on the evening of August 24, 2023 addressed questions about animals still at large in fire-stricken Lahaina for all of two minutes on Hawaii News Now.
The operative word is “addressed,” not answered.
Hara essentially denied the presence of animals who have been repeatedly seen, photographed, and in some instances tracked via GPS collars.
Hara did not personally see animals––but did he look?
Hara said he personally had not seen any animals in three trips into Lahaina, all by day, whereas cats in particular become almost exclusively nocturnal and hide by day when frightened or injured.
Hara also denied the presence of “thousands” of animals, which has not been alleged either by ANIMALS 24-7 or any of the Maui-based rescue organizations on the scene.
What has been alleged, however, is that dozens and perhaps hundreds of animals who survived the Lahaina holocaust are suffering, and are living, sentient beings in urgent need of help, while public officials use the ongoing search for human remains to keep animal rescuers out.
More than 200 surviving animals, mostly cats, have already been rescued from the perimeters of the fire zone by the Maui Humane Society and other humane organizations.
Many animal rescuers on site have had more disaster experience than Hara
Hara further rambled on about how animal rescuers may lack experience, trained, safety equipment, and so forth, disregarding that many of the animal rescuers who have tried to help Lahaina have had markedly more experience in disaster areas of all sorts, including after firestorms and wildfires, than either himself or most of the National Guard personnel and public officials on the scene.
Sixteen days after the firestorm that razed Lahaina, killing at least 115 people whose remains have been found and leaving more 388 still missing, animal rescuers regardless of agency affiliations and qualifications are still being kept out of the burn zone.
Cat sightings and some of the rare birds of Maui, attended to by Maui Bird Rescue, are still reported much more often than any trace of the American SPCA, though the ASPCA has advertised prolifically for more than a week on social media that “Our team is on the ground in Maui, supporting critical animal search and rescue efforts.”
“Feeding cats from Gateway Center to Kapalua Airport”
And Save Maui Cats founder Mike Willinsky and friends are still “feeding [cats] at 25 stops every night from Gateway Center to Kapalua Airport. We can tell you for a fact there are cats living on perimeters of burn zones in several areas,” Willinsky told ANIMALS 24-7.
“We also place down tuna in many areas to lure out any survivors. Numbers are slim but have increased, especially in the Waihikuli and Safeway area.
“National Guards confirm this,” Willinsky said.
(Attentive readers may note a common theme in the previous ANIMALS 24-7 coverage of the Lahaina disaster: Much grandstanding, but still no access for animal rescuers in Lahaina, Disaster authorities in Lahaina move to save banyan tree, but not animals, Will a new Maui disaster chief allow animal rescuers to rescue in Lahaina?, First firestorm, then frustration: rescuers wait to aid Lahaina animals, Hawaii wildfires: who is helping animals on smoldering Maui?, and Animal updates from the Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii fire disaster. Public officials may not have noticed because they seem to be wearing thick dark glasses much of the time to avoid being recognized.)
“Cat caught Front Street area––14 days later!”
Willinsky had barely finished describing his work when Kitty Charm Farm founder Sarah Haynes posted to Facebook a photo and description of “Cat caught Front Street area––14 days later!
“This kitty is registered to Mike Willinksy,” Haynes said.
“The cat came from the Front Street burn area,” the most often photographed part of burned out Lahaina, where the remains of the most human victims have been found.
“Mike has fixed cats for a number of colonies, as well as for neighbors,” Haynes explained, “so it’s hard to know for sure if this kitty has a guardian or not.
“How he survived is beyond me,” Haynes said, “but he goes to show that our county officials are incorrect: animals are still alive in the burn scar zone.”
“Unprecedented, complicated, heated situation”
“This is an unprecedented, complicated, and heated situation,” Haynes continued. “The cat cannot be returned to a toxic zone that is getting bulldozed. If the cat is re-released outside of the fence line, it will be a new area, and the cat will have a low chance of survival.
“Another option is to release in a colony area that is well fed, but again, cats who are trapped and dumped have a very low chance of survival.
“While this situation is very different than a neighbor trapping and dumping” Haynes acknowledged, “the outcome for the cat is basically the same. The cat won’t know where he or she is, and may or may not survive.
“This cat is thought to be feral,” Haynes said, “but we don’t know for sure.
“If we get hundreds out, we need other options”
“Because the kitty has been exposed for two weeks to a toxic area, with particles that can bring on pneumonia, we are not going to release,” Haynes said. “We are going to give kitty time to adjust and see if we really have a feral on our hands. And we’re going to give kitty a chance to get medical care for any complications.
“We have a couple options for kitty to be rehomed by keeping kitty in an enclosed space for a month before releasing,” Haynes added.
“Right now this is just one cat, so we can handle the situation,” Haynes assessed. “If we get hundreds out, we need other options. If anybody runs a barn cat program on the mainland west coast, we can probably get some of these cats out on a private plane, which would be far less stressful than all-day cargo. We don’t really know the temperament of this cat yet, but kitty is already much better than what we were told kitty was originally like.
“Fires and shelters are terrifying,” Haynes concluded. “We are giving this kitty time to cool off before making a decision. I’m waiting on medical records, so I’m not 100% if kitty is a boy or girl. I’m calling this kitty Raven, because it seems to have a raven-like marking.”
Suddenly jobless Maui residents may lack funds to help animals
Neighborhood Cats, whose national programs director Bryan Kortis lives on South Maui, on August 23, 2023 pointed out that “The brush fire that destroyed Lahaina has had a devastating impact far beyond the historic old town. Throughout Maui,” Neighborhood Cats observed, “people’s lives have been severely disrupted.
“The island relies heavily on tourism, but that vanished almost overnight,” Neighborhood Cats said, “and now there are 8,000 newly unemployed residents with the number growing daily. Lahaina survivors struggle to find new housing in what was already a tight and for many workers an unaffordable market. And there is the trauma of almost everyone on island knowing someone whose home was lost or who lost a loved one.
Neighborhood Cats’ Maui Wildfire Relief Fund
“Community cats and the residents who watch over them are not immune from all this,” Neighborhood Cats explained, citing for example “Michelle, the caretaker at a golf course colony where we have trapped, neutered, and released 99 cats. This week she found Gracie, one of her favorite colony cats, listless and looking poorly. But the fire has disrupted Michelle’s life to the point she is unable to afford another veterinary bill.”
Neighborhood Cats’ Maui Wildfire Relief Fund helped Michelle with that cat, but similar situations may be developing throughout Maui, many of them perhaps not coming to the attention of any person or organization in a position to help.
The invisible ASPCA rescue team has claimed in Facebook ads that it is somewhere on Maui at invitation of the Maui Humane Society, but frequent updates from the Maui Humane Society have yet to mention the ASPCA.
Maui Humane Society has received 187 animals from Lahaina
“We’re working closely with local emergency management and search and recovery teams,” the Maui Humane Society posted on August 23, 2023.
“Yesterday, seven cats from within the burn zone were rescued by Federal Emergency Management Administration task force members and transferred to the Maui Humane Society,” to be “attended to by our veterinary staff.
“We are committed to helping every animal of all species,” the Maui Humane Society said, “and are proud to report some top-line numbers:
187 animals have been taken in from Lahaina to the Maui Humane Society.
- 30% of live animals have been reunited with their families.
- Over 1,300 lost animal reports have been processed through our online platform and hotline.
- Veterinarians and vet staff have provided aid to more than 375 animals at medical clinics in Lahaina.
- Thousands of gallons of safe drinking water and hay bales have been delivered daily over the past week to animals and livestock in both Lahaina and Kula,” another Maui fire zone.
- Approximately 130 pets who were already under our care prior to the fires have been relocated to new homes on the mainland, making room for more animals in need.
- We’re collaborating with local animal rescues, offering supplies and support.
- Free health certificates, rabies vaccines, and airline-approved kennels are being distributed to residents looking to leave the island with their pets.
- A remarkable number of volunteers are dedicating around six hours per day to assist at our center. (But don’t ease up. We still need hands on deck!)
- 17,000 pound of pet food and supplies have been distributed across the island, with plans to continue support from Hana to Kula to Kahului to Napili.”
While the Oregon Humane Society received the animals sent to the mainland by the Maui Humane Society, the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation sent 20 animals to the Helen Woodward Animal Center, with help from Alaska Airlines, SeaWorld San Diego, and the Lewyt Rescue Foundation, named for longtime North Shore Animal League America presidents and patrons Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt.