A Night For Animal Lovers

A pop music star and a love of animals brings out a big crowd to support pet adoption

Nothing compares to the unconditional love of an adopted pet. It is one of the reasons why more than 600 people chose to support the island’s animal welfare organization, the Kaua’i Humane Society, this month by purchasing tickets to its annual dinner and concert fundraiser.

“Your pets get you, they help you, they are always there for you,” says Helena Huffman, who volunteered her time at the sold-out event.

Adopting rather than shopping gives animals a second chance, adds the proud owner of a rescue dog named Maka.

“It’s nice because you saved a life,” says the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School student.

The fundraiser, “South Paw-cific,” was the nonprofit’s best to-date, according to board members Elizabeth Freitas. The evening featured dinner at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort, as well as a silent auction and acoustic performance by singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.

“The energy and enthusiasm for the cause were overwhelming,” says Freitas.

The way a community supports its animals says a lot, according to Steve and Linda O’Neill, who also volunteered their time to help out at the event.

“This is an important thing to be involved in,” says Rick Mahoney who also chose to use his free time volunteering that evening. “There are so many organizations for humans – we need to support the animals too.”

Mahoney recently moved to the island with his wife Mary. The husband and wife duo say that the nonprofit is one of the better humane societies they have ever seen as far as cleanliness, organization and other factors are concerned.

“The Kaua’i Humane Society is the only shelter and intake facility on the island. I don’t even want to think what Kaua’i would be like if Kaua’i Humane Society was not here to serve the people,” says Freitas.

Animal welfare crusader Kezya Rego is also extremely supportive of the organization.

“I’m a big animal lover. I’ve always been into animals,” says the Kaua’i High School student who was participating at the event to accumulate hours for her senior project about Animal Cruelty Awareness.

Rego, a vegetarian, hopes to inspire others to care as much about animals as she does.

“Dogs have just as many needs as humans,” she says, voicing her concerns regarding the island’s many canines that spend their lives fighting, chained or in cages.

There is still a lot of education that needs to be done on this island regarding animal welfare, according to Kaua’i Humane Society board member Kathleen Gissing.

Though she has seen small changes occurring, “We still have a long way to go,” she says. “I don’t know what we’d do without the shelter.”

Kaua’i Humane Society’s adoption counselor Liz Tidwell couldn’t imagine it either.

“If we weren’t here doing what we’re doing, there would be so many dogs and cats,” says Tidwell.

Perfectly healthy and happy dogs and cats are flooding the organization, and the only thing “wrong” with them is that they don’t have homes, she says.

“Helping people fall in love with another family member is heart-warming,” says Tidwell about her match-making job.

“So many feral dogs and cats need good homes,” says Nichole Zirzow who volunteers for the nonprofit. “This organization gives them a way to find homes.”

In fact, one of the five shelter dogs at the charity event found a new home that night, a 9-year-old Chihuahua named Louie.

A second dog, Rocko, was also at the celebration and was adopted the following week.

“It is the people of Kaua’i who keep us going,” says Freitas regarding her appreciation of the community’s generosity and support of its homeless animals.

It is also people like new executive director Penny Cistaro, who took the organization’s reins March 12.

“She is an incredibly bright, humble woman,” says Freitas.

Cistaro has had some 40 years of animal welfare experience including working for the Sacramento SPCA and Sacramento Animal Care Services and serving as executive director for the Whatcom Humane Society in Washington.

Visit www.kauaihumane.org for more information.