clear the shelters

Volunteers Ask Hawaii Air Travelers: Will You Ship A Shelter Dog For Us?

Hawaii shelter dogs hitch a flight to forever homes on the mainland.

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Pineapples, ukuleles, and sunburns. Those are common souvenirs people bring back from Hawaii. But some passengers have special cargo on the way home: shelter dogs.

Airport Arrival

It’s an everyday Monday night at San Jose International Airport. There’s the normal passenger scramble and the ordinary jet shuffle.

But at gate 20, an extraordinary, lifesaving Alaska Airlines flight just parked. In addition to delivering about 150 people home from Hawaii, the Boeing 737 carried two lucky dogs to their ‘forever homes.’

At baggage claim, Lynn Morgenroth hurriedly claims the two dogs. Pepe, a spotted one-year-old mixed breed. And Bonnie, a dark furred four-year-old who weighs 45 lbs. 

But this airport reunion has a twist. Because here’s the thing about Lynn’s canine cargo from Kona: “They are not mine,” she said.   

Five-Hour Pet Owner

Lynn has only known this pair of pups a few hours. And now she’s immediately handing them over to Berkeley Humane volunteers. So, what’s going on here? Bonnie and Pepe merely piggybacked a ride with Lynn.

“They are shelter dogs,” she said. Their journey began about 24-hundred miles west on the big island, Hawai’i. There, animal shelters are full. They’re so full, some healthy pets have had to be euthanized. So, a volunteer group called Paws Across Water Hawaii now flies shelter pets from Kona to the contiguous 48 for adoption. 

“They absolutely need homes for all of the pets, because the island is small,” Morgenroth said.  

Canine's Chaperone

There’s just one catch: pets in cargo must have a human on board, basically a chaperone in case the flight diverts. So, organizers in Kona now ask travelers, like Lynn, if they’ll add a dog or two onto their flight.

“They will actually cover the price of the flight for the animal,” Morgenroth said. “But they need someone to accompany the animal. And it’s great.” 

Easy, too. Lynn met the dogs and volunteers at the ticket counter in Kona. Then, five hours later in San Jose, she just handed over Bonnie and Pepe. Done. “They’re going to go to some wonderful homes in the bay area,” she said. 

More and More Doggie Drops

At the airport, this unusual scene is becoming more common. “This is my third trip picking up dogs,” said Berkeley Humane volunteer Andrew Kopp. “I’m just one of a couple of volunteers that runs and picks up dogs to bring back to Berkeley Humane.”

Hawaii rescues land on the Berkeley Humane website. Just look for pictures with leis if you’re interested in adopting. “I can tell you that in my experience, the dogs that come from Kona last a week,” Kopp said. “Sometimes not even that. And they get adopted.” 

Bonnie and Pepe’s next stop was a checkup. “To get them prepared for their forever homes,” Kopp said.  

Morgenroth frequently flies from Kona to the Bay Area. She said she is already on board to ship shelter dogs on her next few flights. “I’m going to do it each time,” she said. “As many as we can to get them off the island.”    

As Kopp loaded the dogs into his Subaru, he lauded the operation. “It’s a total success,” he said. “A great success.” 

New Names, New Homes

Once they arrived at Berkley Humane, Pepe and Bonnie received new names: Kimo and Paulina. They will be available during Clear the Shelters, the annual event that NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48 host. Pet adoptions will be free or nearly free. Click here to learn where.

If you’re headed to Kona and want to help bring home a dog or cat, contact Berkeley Humane to sign up.   

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