It is MHS’s role to accept all homeless, abused, unwanted, and abandoned animals on Maui. We are the only agency on the island with this open-door policy. When our shelter is full, we do not have the option to turn animals away. There is no maximum time limit at the shelter. We keep healthy, tame animals as long as we possibly can—sometimes for several months—in hopes that they will be adopted. But when there is simply no more room, some animals are euthanized to make room for others.
However—and this is critical information not included in the Maui News story—lack of space is not the primary reason animals are euthanized at MHS. Last year, we received 9,402 animals. 5,174 were euthanized. Over 70% of those (3,685) were categorized as Untreatable/Unrehabilitable (per national standards for classifications). These are animals for whom adoption is rarely an option—with major geriatric health problems, in uncontrollable pain or suffering, with untreatable medical conditions, a history of biting, aggression, or severe behavioral issues, or feral animals. (Of the 5,174 animals euthanized, 2,133 were feral cats.) People won’t adopt a feral cat or a 15-year-old dog with multiple tumors, when there are cute puppies and kittens to be had.
A total of 193 “Healthy” category pets were euthanized last year, as well as 1,296 pets categorized as having “Treatable or Manageable” conditions. These are the lives that we are currently most focused on saving. We are working very hard to decrease euthanasia and our statistics show that we are making progress despite climbing intake numbers. This year, MHS euthanized 84 less animals than last year (and 903 less than the year before) and found homes for 410 more animals over last year.
Euthanasia has never been considered by MHS to be an appropriate tool to address overpopulation. It is instead a tragic result of the sheer numbers of unwanted animals coming into our shelter each year. Blaming MHS for euthanizing animals is like blaming the fire department for fires. We did not create Maui’s animal overpopulation, but we are charged with the task of addressing it. We are committed to ending the euthanasia of healthy pets on Maui. We offer many programs aimed at both long term and short term solutions including the largest spay/neuter program on Maui, a robust adoption program, and a variety of educational programs directed at both children and adults.
There are some in our community who take every opportunity to blame MHS for euthanizing animals. None of them have offered any viable new alternatives—beyond what we are already doing--as to what to do when there is no more space and no homes available for these orphans. Claiming that MHS is senselessly “killing” animals, calling our staff “murderers”…this is craziness, but our employees are continually subjected to that kind of abuse. Our opposition to these words has nothing to do with dictionary definitions, but everything to do with sensitivity and respect for our staff, who are all animal lovers. Many tears are shed at MHS over euthanasia, but we make sure it is done in a compassionate and peaceful manner and the animals are treated with dignity at all times. For some of these precious creatures, our shelter staff offer the first human kindness they have ever experienced. Why verbally attack these people? They are devoted to serving the animals and the community and, in the face of recent county budget cuts of $320,000, were willing to take furloughs rather than reduce shelter hours and services. The MHS staff should be applauded for their herculean efforts this past year to continue to save more lives with less resources.
Here’s what YOU can do right now to help Maui’s animals: spay/neuter your pets and urge your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same; get involved in the Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage program to humanely address the feral cat population; support our efforts by donations, volunteering, adopting animals. Don’t abandon or neglect your pets. Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.