RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dr. Rebecca Rhoades, executive director of the Kauai Humane Society, shows off a pair of dachshunds that spent the night at the shelter while a family evacuated their home on Kauai during the floods Thursday night.
The humane society has operated a storm pet shelter since Iniki
LIHUE » A pet rabbit named Honey Bunny, four cats and about 20 dogs whose homes and owners were evacuated because of the heavy rains last week found shelter from the storm at the Kauai Humane Society.
The humane society's building, which went up after Hurricane Iniki, is designed as a Noah's Ark of sorts.
It's the only certified emergency pet shelter in the state. But the shelter is not just for animals, it was built with a large basement that will hold up to 300 people in the event of a hurricane or other disaster.
Executive Director Becky Rhoades said Hurricane Iniki, and more recently Hurricane Katrina, showed the importance of taking care of animals during a disaster.
Some owners will not leave their pets even in the face of a hurricane unless they can be sure their animals are safe, Rhoades said.
That's the dilemma Leilani Santos, who lives on Aloha Place, and her family found themselves in on Thursday when Waikomo Stream overflowed and threatened their house.
The Santos have three smaller dogs and two bigger dogs along with Honey Bunny. They were staying with a relative and could fit the smaller dogs, but not the larger dogs
Her 10-year-old daughter was crying and didn't want to leave Honey Bunny behind.
"I was starting to cry because I didn't want to leave them," Santos said. But she also has a 10-month-old infant and there was just no room in the truck.
Santos called the humane society which sent out two workers to her home to rescue the animals and bring them to the shelter.
The service is offered at no charge, so people will not hesitate to call in an emergency.
Ed Teixeira, vice director of state Civil Defense for the state, agreed that finding shelter for pets during an emergency is an issue of concern since normal emergency shelters are not set up to accept animals.
There are an estimated 500,000 pets on Oahu and not all of them will be able to find shelter during an emergency, Teixeira said. He said some pet owners have planned ahead and identified concrete structures and other places where their animals can be sheltered safely during a story. There are requests into the Legislature for funds for pet shelters as well as emergency shelters for people, but a solution is years away.