Animal shelters see spike in missing pets after New Year’s

  • Dogs are on Adoption Row at the Hawaii Island Humane Society Kona shelter on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Puppies await adoption at the Hawaii Island Humane Society Kona Shelter on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Dogs up for adoption wait at the Hawaii Island Humane Society Kona shelter on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaii Island Humane Society Officer Charyse Emmons interacts with Winter Friday at the Kona Shelter. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Fireworks are a traditional component to celebrating New Year’s Eve. As a result, so is the influx of lost pets found at animal shelters.

On Friday, the Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Kona shelter was bustling with people. Some were adopting a pet; others were returning a shelter dog after a play date. And another person was filling out a lost dog report.

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Kona shelter manager Roxy O’Neal said there’s been a substantial amount of people reporting lost pets as well as receiving a number of lost and/or stray dogs to the facility, which she said directly correlates to fireworks. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the Kona shelter received 16 lost and/or stray dogs and 17 lost pet reports.

“You kind of know the owned pets when they come in,” O’Neal said. “They’re usually clean and they’re shell-shocked.”

Even up to Friday, the shelter manager said people have been coming to the shelter asking if they’ve seen their pet.

Despite the large amount, O’Neal said there were 10 redemptions.

“They were coming in as fast as they were going out,” she said.

When an animal is brought in, O’Neal said the first thing they do is scan for a microchip, a device implanted into dogs and cats with its ID and owner information. They also look for a collar, which typically contains contact information for the owner.

The animals are held in quarantine and are vaccinated. The shelter holds unchipped dogs for four days before they go up for adoption. For chipped pets, it’s 10 days.

While the shelter handled a lot of animals and lost reports, O’Neal said this year was different in that those dogs found by community members utilized social media to find owners before turning to the shelter. As a result, this significantly cut down on the number of calls on New Year’s Eve.

“This overall concept of holding on to a pet for a day seems to be occurring more frequently,” O’Neal said.

If the individuals who found the pet can’t reach or find the owner, the shelter manager said they usually turn the animal over to shelter the next day, which is exactly what people should be doing.

Humane society officials say dog intakes at the shelters spike two times a year at New Year’s and the Fourth of July, which they attribute to fireworks.

“Pets don’t understand the deafening explosions and bright flashes,” officials wrote. “Naturally their fight or flight instincts kick in and they will do whatever it takes to get away from the source.”

Since fireworks aren’t going away, O’Neal said, it’s important to protect pets during those times, bringing them inside and sheltering them from the noise as much as possible.

She added microchipping is also important. While many pets are chipped, O’Neal said it’s important to keep that information up to date.

While chipping typically costs $20, O’Neal said the price is cut down to $10 around New Year’s and the Fourth of July.

The shelter in Keaau has also seen a large number of dogs being picked up or surrendered. On Wednesday, the shelter had seven dogs in their night drop cages, six stray dogs, two owner-surrendered dogs, three cats and one chicken.

Five of the dogs were redeemed.

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As of Thursday, the Keaau shelter had 95 dogs in its entire facility. Adam Atwood, president of Hawaii Island Humane Society, said no animal is refused when brought to the shelters, even if they’re crowded.

The humane society taps into their network of foster families and if they can’t find someone to foster, Atwood said employees will take the dogs home themselves.

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