Two practices were lost to the disaster, and an estimated 3000 pets are displaced
This article was updated with additional information on August 18, 2023.
The recent wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have severely affected many humans and animals, as shown through numerous news reports and images. The Maui Humane Society (MHS) estimates about 3000 pets are displaced with many of them in need of intense medical care1,2 while the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association (HVMA) has reported 2 veterinary practices lost among the many structures that have burned.3 Channeling the island’s spirit of ohana, the veterinary community in both Hawaii and throughout the country, are responding to the crisis with support for animals and veterinary professionals in need of care and assistance.
The Lahaina Veterinary Clinic and the West Maui Animal Clinic were both lost to the wildfire in Lahaina, which initially left the West side of the island without access to veterinary care, according to the HVMA.3 Mobile veterinary units and nonprofit organizations have since arrived to care for animals in the affected areas.2-4
Veterinary outreach efforts are being led by MHS, which announced animal health professionals stationed in 2 locations on the West side of the island.5 Those sites and 3 additional locations are also places for which supplies are being distributed.3
Among the pets being cared for on the island is a cat that was brought to MHS personnel with its coat scorched, paw pads burned, swollen mouth, dehydrated, and “lifeless." After 4 days of care, the cat has shown signs of improvement but will have a long recovery ahead, according to MHS, which is currently seeking to reunite this patient with its owner.2
The MHS was also able to help Roman, a dog that presented with burns on his back, paws, and legs.2,4 He had run down Lahaina’s Front Street during the fire when the dog sitter caring for him jumped into the ocean, according to the organization's Facebook post. Roman is reportedly doing well and was microchipped, so he was safely reunited with his family.2
The Makawao Veterinary Clinic in Central Maui also deployed 2 mobile clinics and veterinary professionals to the West side of the island to assist horses, dogs, cats, and other animals in need of medical care, and to deliver supplies. The team is accepting donations via PayPal (@companionskokua) to help cover expenses.4
Among the pets cared for by the Makawao Veterinary Clinic’s mobile units is a kitten that was brought to them with singed whiskers and burns on her paws. They tended to her paws and administered antibiotics, and also administered a flea preventive and a deworming treatment. On Tuesday, the team was still seeking to reunite the kitten with her owners.4
Alley Cat Allies, a global nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Maryland, is also strategizing with local organizations in Maui to deliver immediate support for felines and to help provide for their long term recovery care. The organization's response team is helping to ensure delivery of critical supplies such as medication, cat food, and kitten milk replacement, as well as litter and litter pans, and food bowls.5
The Alley Cat Allies response team is also building shelters and feeding felines in some of the most devastated areas of Maui, including Lahaina. "Cats are incredible survivors, and more will emerge in the fire zones over time,” said Coryn Julien, communications director for Alley Cat Allies, in an organizational release.5
As part of the disaster response efforts, GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to crowdsource funding that will assist the veterinary professionals who were employed at the Lahaina Veterinary Clinic and the West Maui Animal Clinic.3 Thus far, donations have come from across the country including funding from California and Kansas.6,7
Lahaina Veterinary Clinic was owned and solely operated by Leo S. Murakami, DVM, according to Alfred J. Mina, DVM, a veterinarian on the Big Island of Hawaii who created the GoFundMe campaign for the small practice. On the page, Mina expressed hope that the fund would help Murakami “get back to serving the pets of Lahaina.” He also said that his colleague was not only a veterinarian. “Dr Murakami was his [own] receptionist, technician, manager, and janitor. He is an amazing, caring and compassionate individual,” wrote Mina.6
The West Maui Animal Clinic’s GoFundMe campaign was created by a staff member in its’ sister location, the Central Maui Animal Clinic. On the GoFundMe web page, organizer Aleix Allan said the funding is being sought to support the 7 friends and coworkers in West Maui who have lost everything. Allan added: “We hope this can provide at least a small amount of financial relief to them and their families while they navigate through this devastating time. Anything helps.”7
Donors assisting in the disaster relief efforts include the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), the philanthropic arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMF has announced an initial grant of $30,000 in support of emergency efforts for treating injured animals.8 Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (Canine and Feline), CVJ, the foundation’s chair has also pledged AVMF support with individual disaster relief and reimbursement grants for veterinarians and animals affected by the wildfires.
Donations to help fund the AVMF grants can be made by visiting AVMF.org/Give and selecting "Disaster Relief" from the dropdown menu. Givers can dedicate their donations in honor of or in memory of someone affected by the wildfires.
Along with the AVMF's efforts, the nonprofit foundation Petco Love has donated pet products and supplies needed by the MHS. Petco Love has also $150,000 to its animal welfare partners9, while Purina is donating $25,000 to Greater Good Charities in support of its crisis relief efforts for animals and humans in Hawaii.