600 rescue cats and dogs in a Hercules C-130 plane in historic flight

The charities involved have shipped 600 rescue cats and dogs from Hawaiian animal shelters in a Hercules C-130 plane to the US mainland in an historic operation. This is a really good photograph of cats on the tarmac at an Hawaiian airport by George F Lee. It shows the Hawaiian Humane Society admissions manager on the left, Jenny Leemaster and on the right is foster care manager Michelle Garcia. They were making last-minute checks. As mentioned, the cats and dogs were en route to the US mainland where they would be adopted into forever homes.

Cat and dog rescue flight from Hawaii in C-130 Hercules plane. Photo: GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

The flight was organised by Greater Good Charities and Wings Are Rescue. It is highly impressive to people who do not live in the US to see this sort of mass transportation of rescue animals from one part of the country to another where they are more likely to find homes. In fact, as I understand it, most of these animals have been placed in homes already.

They called the operation “Paws Across the Pacific”. This was a multi-agency, multi-charity operation with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association also involved. The cats and dogs were picked up from the Hawaiian Humane Society. They were flown to shelters in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. We are told that the animal shelters in Hawaii are going through a Covid-19 crisis. Their normal operation has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic due to having to shut them down, the general economic downturn in Hawaii, limited hours (I presume that they mean hours worked at shelters) and with restrictions on routine flights to the mainland. This operation was needed to make space at the shelters in Hawaii.

To outsiders, these flights are a way of redistributing unwanted companion animals from one shelter or shelters to others within America. It is interesting in that there are different levels of demand for shelter animals across America so you can get a surfeit in one place and a deficit in another place. This operation redresses the balance.

Because of the lengthy time the cats and dogs were kept in carriers and the fairly arduous nature of the flight, they were selected for their ability to withstand the long hours being transported.

The problem at Hawaiian shelters has been compounded by the closure of the Humane Society’s shelter’s low-cost spay neuter clinic resulting in more kittens being born than usual. Volunteers fostered the kittens and a total of 60 of them were on the flight. The pandemic also put a temporary stop to routine relocation flights from Hawaii to the mainland of about 50 to 60 animals per month. This compounded the problem.

The plane landed at Seattle’s Boeing Field airport yesterday. Volunteers and staffers picked most of them up while 120 continued onto Walla Walla and Coeur d’Alene. On the mainland a long list of charities were involved. This is an awesome operation. Those involved include: PAWS, The Noah Center, Seattle Humane, the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, Kitsap Humane, Oregon Humane, Southwest Washington Humane, Kootenai Humane Society, Seattle Area Feline Rescue ,Tracs, Spokanimal, Blue Mountain Humane Society and Embrace a Discarded Pet Society. Wow! This took some coordination. All credit to those who did it.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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