Beginning today, the Hawaii Island Humane Society is restarting its field trip program for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The popular program allows volunteers to take a shelter dog out of the humane society for a day of socialization and fun.
“This is a program that people have been begging us to bring back, but we wanted to make it as safe as possible,” said Lauren Nickerson, chief operating officer of HIHS. “This will be a slightly different version of program, which is so loved.”
Anyone interested in taking a dog on a field trip will be able to do so by scheduling an appointment online.
Before the pandemic, volunteers had to go through an orientation before taking a dog on a field trip, but that will not be required in this new program.
“We want to take away all the barriers in place to help people stay engaged with the program,” Nickerson said. “If you are a local resident, and you don’t have a pet or aren’t in a position to adopt, you can still help a shelter dog.”
The humane society will be rolling out a loyal field-trippers program, which will allow people to bypass paperwork they have already filled out and give more access to different appointment times.
“We want to make it a lot easier for people who live on the island that want to do this on a regular basis,” Nickerson said. “This is a great way to have people engage with our pets and help the animals become more socialized before adoption.”
The humane society also is continuing its foster-to-adopt program as the only avenue to adopt a shelter animal.
Anyone interested in adoption can look through high-resolution photographs of dogs and cats that are available for adoption on hihs.org.
After choosing an animal, there is an application that must be filled out for the foster-to-adopt program. Within a week or so, staff at the humane society will review the applications and contact those who recently have applied.
“As a small staff, we’re trying to get back to everyone in a timely manner, but sometimes it takes a little longer,” Nickerson said. “If an application proves to be a good match for the animal, we will schedule a meet-and-greet between the pet and their potential fosters.”
If fosters decide to take a pet home after a meet-and-greet, they can foster the dog or cat for three weeks before making a decision to adopt.
If a foster does not want to wait three weeks, they can contact the humane society for official adoption paperwork or schedule a time to bring the animal back to the shelter.
“If people want to adopt their animal, we can actually text or email the adoption papers and the animals’ records directly,” Nickerson said. “We’ve worked to make this process as streamlined and easy as possible.”
If fosters do not want to adopt their animal for any reason, they’re able to continue fostering for the three-week period or bring them back to the humane society by appointment.
“We have about a 95% rate of successful matches with this program,” Nickerson said. “Fostering before adoption allows people to make sure adopting is right for them at that time.”
Because of the success of the program, Nickerson is planning on only offering the foster-to-adopt program even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, the Wentworth family traveled to the Keaau shelter from South Point for a meet-and-greet with a shelter dog named Carl.
After hanging out in the fenced-in yard with Carl and shelter employee Meagan Gomes, the family decided to take Carl home for the foster-to-adopt program.
The Wentworths will decide if they want to adopt Carl permanently within three weeks.
The humane society also is continuing to work on their Second Chance program, which gives dogs with special needs the time and medical attention needed to get them healthy enough for adoption.
“We’re able to take in animals that have treatable medical needs and really help them get the care they need on site,” Nickerson said. “We have a veterinary team who can provide medical care to animals through the second chance fund and then we can invest time to help them rehabilitate before adoption.”
A shelter dog, Pebbles, came to the humane society with Demodex mange, a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites.
With the help of the veterinary team, Pebbles received treatment for the disease and was recovering while waiting to be adopted.
“Because we’re able to provide medical support and rehabilitation, we can give dogs like Pebbles another chance at life, which is so rewarding to see,” Nickerson said.
Information about donations, adoption and fostering programs, and the many services the humane society provides can be found on hihs.org.