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County Animal Control Launches Pilot Project With Rescue Partners

The Hawai‘i County Police Department started a pilot project with Paws Across Water Hawai‘i (PAWHI) to transfer shelter animals to mainland foster organizations who will facilitate finding lifetime homes for the pets. Paws Across Water Hawai’i is currently under the management of Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c3) nonprofit located in Kailua-Kona.

The project began on Thursday, January 13, 2022, when a four-year-old whippet mix named “Peaches” flew to California as an accompanied pet on Hawaiian Airlines to the Wagging Dog Rescue in Carlsbad, California, where she immediately went to live with one of Wagging Dog’s fosters.

As part of the pilot project, animal flying companions, i.e. travelers from Hawai‘i Island to San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, can volunteer to have a shelter animal added to their airline reservation. Flights need to be direct or when going to the Bay Area, with one brief inter-island stop. At this time, the program is available for flights on Alaskan and Hawaiian Airlines.

County of Hawai‘i Animal Control will exhaust all efforts to determine local ownership of an animal before determining which shelter pets are suitable for the program, including senior animals. Animal Control will spay and neuter the pets, as well as conduct health screenings and vaccinations, while PAWHI will handle all the travel details and any travels costs for the animal, including a travel crate.

Currently, the pilot program includes six mainland rescue organization partners in California and Washington. The mainland foster partners select a cat or dog from the available Animal Control pets to ensure the animal meets each rescue’s unique criteria.  PAWHI will then pair the pet with a volunteer traveling to that area and prepare the animal for travel, including meeting the traveler at the airport on date of departure. Upon landing, the traveler is then met by the designated rescue organization’s representative, where the pet begins its journey towards a forever home.

The pilot program will also help reduce overcrowding in County animal shelters, as well as local non-profit animal rescue groups that are still accepting strays.

People interested in supporting the program or becoming an animal flying companion may contact Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary at (808) 331-8778 or email For more information contact County of Hawaiʻi Animal Control via email at


Photo credit: Hawaiʻi County Police Department

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