Humane Society’s fostering, adoption demands high amid outbreak

  • Bella, a young, mixed-breed dog, is waiting for an adopter or foster to adopt at the Hawaii Island Humane Society Kona shelter. (Alyssa Tabert/Hawaii Island Humane Society)

  • Hawaii Island Humane Society community programs director Lauren Nickerson delivers a foster kitten to a foster home. (Hawaii Island Humane Society/Courtesy Photo)

  • Adoptable dog Jimmy heading home with his new foster mom from the Hawaii Island Humane Society. (Hawaii Island Humane Society/Courtesy Photo)

  • Hawaii Island Humane Society animal care technician Brendan Souza carries Brax to meet his new foster mom in the parking lot. HIHS is doing drive-up pickups for fosters and adopters to promote social distancing. (Lauren Nickerson/Hawaii Island Humane Society)

The Hawaii Island Humane Society animal shelters are closed on the Big Island, but adoption and fostering demands remain high during the COVID-19 outbreak.

To help stop the spread of the virus, the three shelter buildings in Keaau, Waimea and Kailua-Kona have been closed to the public since Wednesday, March 25, putting walk-in adoptions on hold indefinitely.


To keep the vital program alive, the humane society has introduced a way to “foster to adopt” online.

“We continue to have a high demand for adoptions and have not experienced a decrease in adoptions,” Lauren Nickerson, community programs director for the Hawaii Island Humane Society, said. “If anything, the community is more interested in adopting a new companion during this time.”

The humane society has experienced an uptick in foster applications as it continues its program through the state-mandated lockdown.

“Last week, 83 animals went to foster homes, and 41 animals were adopted,” Nickerson said. “Our increased and thriving foster network has allowed us to create a much needed cushion of space in our shelters to accommodate and care for incoming animals.”

With this help from foster caregivers across the island, the humane society has had no increase of euthanasia, Nickerson said.

Individuals and families interested in adoption can browse through pictures of dogs, cats and other animals on the humane society’s website and then apply for the program.

After approval and pet reservation, staff at the shelter will schedule a pick up for the animal on a specific day and time.

After a maximum of two weeks, those fostering to adopt will be asked to adopt the animal, return the animal or continue fostering with intention to allow someone else to adopt.

Adoption fees will be handled over the phone with a shelter staff member.

Both the foster and foster to adopt programs can be found online at

Without the usual help of volunteers, the Hawaii Island Humane Society has continued its other programs such as animal intake, redemption of lost pets and animal surrenders, which are by appointment only.

“Our shelters are fully staffed, and we continue to take care of the animals during this community crisis,” Nickerson said. “While community response has been wonderful so far, we continue to need more fosters.”

The Hawaii Island Humane Society will provide supplies as donations allow, medical care, support and education for foster caregivers, Nickerson said.

The humane society is accepting donations of new, unopened bags of dry cat, dog, kitten and puppy food. Towels, sheets and linens must be brought in a plastic bag.

Donations can be dropped off at all shelter locations.


“We are grateful to our community for supporting fostering and adopting and welcoming shelter pets into their homes,” Nickerson said.

Email Kelsey Walling at

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