Big Island Dog Rescue has been adopting dogs from Hawaii Island Humane Society and flying them to the mainland since February. So far, it has flown 99 dogs -- 76 of them from HIHS -- and all but nine have found new homes.
But late last week, the organization's founder, Tasi Autele, got a letter saying that he couldn't adopt from HIHS because of a temporary moratorium on adoptions to rescue organizations, including Big Island Dog Rescue.
"Sounds like they're really just targeting one rescue, and obviously with he letter, definitely we are the target. We have a big bull's eye on our back," said Autele.
Kohala Animal Relocation and Education Service received a similar letter from the Humane Society.
"About a hundred people called me today saying, 'Who do you want us to adopt from the pound? We'll get it for you,'" said KARES founder Debbie Cravatta. "We've become an underground society because of this."
The rescue groups say they're trying to reduce the number of dogs that are euthanized at the Hawaii Island Humane Society when they can't find new homes. And they fear that dogs may lose their lives during the moratorium.
"What I care about are the animals that don't have a voice and the animals that are being put down, that are being euthanized that are adoptable animals that we are not only willing to take, but we can take," said Autele.
Cravatta says HIHS may be in a bind. "Humane Society where they have adoptions, and Humane Society also wears the black hat of animal control for the county, which means catch and kill."
In a statement, HIHS executive director Donna Whitaker told Hawaii News Now, "HIHS has placed animals with three rescue groups and the number of animals heaving HIHS for transport and adoption elsewhere has risen. We are conducting a review of our procedures to make certain we are operating under best practice guidelines to ensure humane animal care and compliance with all state and federal regulations."
Cravatta says they're already doing that. "There's a state veterinarian. We have to send out the documentation there. if the airlines did anything that wasn't in the best interest of the animal today, they wouldn't be in business any more."
HIHS' Whitaker said she and the board of directors hope to have the issue resolved in a few weeks. The rescue organizations plan to hold a rally at the Humane Society in Kona on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to noon to reinstate the adoptions sooner.