Wings of Aloha: How one shelter has saved more than 1,300 dogs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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How One Shelter Has Saved More Than 1,300 Dogs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

In 2012, the Maui Humane Society created a program that has since found forever homes for more than 1,330 dogs. “Wings of Aloha” is a donation-funded program that takes shelter animals and flies them to the mainland U.S. for adoption.

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Transfer coordinator Laura Forsythe said the program came about when the shelter started running out of room. Maui Humane Society is an “open admission” shelter, which means they have to take every animal that comes in. When the shelter hit max capacity, they had to find a solution.

“Wings of Aloha” began by partnering with Alaska Airlines and their “Pet Passenger” program. “Pet Passenger” animals fly for free as long as they’re accompanied by a passenger. The program allowed U.S. visitors to Maui to volunteer to check the animals in as “baggage” for their trip back home. There is no cost to the volunteer passenger, and the only requirement is that they arrive a little early to the airport on the day they fly home.

When an animal is transported, it’s taken in by one of their 11 transfer partners in Oregon and Washington, which consists of nine shelters, one rescue group and one program that trains the dogs to become service pets. All the partners are “guaranteed adoption."

The animals that make their way to Washington and Oregon have a 99 percent adoption rate.

But, the program hit a roadblock in May 2016 when Alaska Airlines stated the animals were a liability and they needed to review the program’s policies.

Forsythe said that didn’t stop the shelter from relocating nearly 30 animals a month, primarily dogs. But, the setback came at a huge cost. WOA is relying solely on donations to pay $150 for each animal flight--averaging nearly $6,000 a month.

Forsythe said they hope the Pet Passenger program is up and running again by December, but until then they will continue to operate as normally as they can.

To find out how you can help "Wings of Aloha," visit Maui Humane Society.

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