Caring for the Friendly Isle’s Furry Friends

Humane Society looks for long-term solutions.

The new Molokai Humane Society veterinary office assistant Tessa Reich is doing her best to serve the island's pets.

By Jennifer Smith

Having stepped up last year by providing a semi-permanent home to care for the island’s animals, the Molokai Humane Society (MHS) is now looking to create a long-term plan to continue providing care on the island. A meeting held last week Thursday introduced the MHS board members to their new veterinary office assistant, and allowed time to discuss the finalization of a strategic plan.

“We are trying to figure out how best to serve the community,” said Koki Foster, MHS board member.

The MHS members all agreed on the need to take into consideration what people need for their animals, as well as what they can afford to pay.

“We want to let people know not to despair when their pets are in need,” said Sister Ardis, MHS board president.

A New Job for a Familiar Face
After nearly a decade of volunteering at the MHS, Tessa Reich is now officially the veterinary office manager. This is the first paid staff position for the organization on Molokai.

Before Reich, the organization depended solely on the generous support of board members and community volunteers.

The state is providing the funds for the former Molokai Ranch manager to work 520 hours for the MHS. Through the dislocated worker fund she will spend about 40 hours a week setting appointments, performing general office work, and assisting visiting veterinarians.

Reich is also completing vet training classes. Having passed her first two tests, she said she is really excited to be learning more about the tasks she has been performing as a volunteer for years.

The MHS is not budgeted to pay for a staff person, but board members are hoping to reapply to the county next year to amend the budget. The state funds will run out in mid-November, but Foster said the MHS is hopeful that they will be able to hire Reich in the future.

Visiting Vets

Several veterinarians have visited the island through the years, but the most frequent service provider recently has been Dr. Eileen Naaman.

About two and a half years ago, Dr. Eileen read an article in a local newspaper that the island’s vet, Dr. Rodriguez, had passed away. At that point, she had been established in her field for a number of years, and decided to inquire about what she could do for Molokai’s animals.

Since then, she has attempted to visit the island as often as her busy schedule allows.

On a typical visit she usually sees a significant number of walk-ins, primarily for spays and neuters, but occasionally for emergencies. Pet owners are encouraged to make an appointment before coming to the MHS office, which is located at 460 Maunaloa highway, about a quarter mile before the airport.

By the Numbers

While Dr. Eileen said she “would like money not to be connected to medical,” there is a $30 charge for a pet examination. However, this rate is considered reasonable since the average cost for an exam on Maui is $45, not including expensive travel arrangements.

The MHS does not make any profit for services provided, and receives most of its funds to continue through donations and money received from the county.

Despite a bare bones budget of $40,000 a year, the dedication of countless volunteers ensures that proper care is provided for the island’s animals. “Were it not for volunteers it wouldn’t work,” said Karen Holt, Molokai resident and pet-owner.

In June, a report done over a five-month span showed over 500 clients served. This number includes hundreds of sterilized cats and dogs, 480 messages received, and 98 cats and dogs serviced at a sponsored free immunization clinic.

“We are here for the animals,” said Sister Ardis.

A Tough Job
Members of the MHS have also expressed a concern for a man that they refer to as compassionate and caring, but who does one of the toughest jobs on the island.

Richard Maikui works for the county’s animal control and rounds up stray animals on the island.

The members said most people don’t know that the majority of these animals must be euthanized because they are never retrieved or placed in homes.

“We don’t have a good system right now,” said Foster, explaining that families will often abandon unwanted animals. She said it is better to give the animals to animal control instead of just leaving them to fend for themselves.

Unfortunately, even animal control is limited in its abilities to deal with the overabundance of animals on the island. There is currently no animal shelter, only a holding area with limited access.

Right now there are many adoptable animals, and no formal adoption facility.

To report a lost or found animal contact the Molokai Police Department at 553-5355 and ask for animal control.

Upcoming Vet Visits

The MHS has veterinarians scheduled to be on Molokai until the first week in October, with a vet from New York arriving mid-August and staying for nearly a month, and Dr. Sterling returning from Sept. 18 to Oct. 8.

Sister Ardis said a lot of volunteers have already signed up to help the MHS, but the organization is always looking for more, and it provides training programs to help orient new volunteers.

For appointments or to volunteer call the MHS at 558-0000 and leave a message.

Acknowledging Previous Benefactors
While the MHS is currently making huge strides toward solidifying its presence on the island, the board members wanted to recognize the many caring residents who came before them, many of whom made personal sacrifices donating time, services, and occasionally their homes to provide care for the island’s animals.

Without the help of former volunteers and board members such as Julie Lopez, Jeanette Kahalehoi, Julie Cuello, Janice Dela Cruz, Terri Warros, Viola Wichman, and so many more that unfortunately cannot all be listed, the organization would not have the home it has today.


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