Last summer I wrote about the cats our local humane society released into the woods surrounding their facility. Supposedly, they have changed their policy. Mike and Mary Beth Arago sent this story to me--a fine example of what can be done with the right mindset.
Never underestimate the power of a cute furry face — or several hundred of them.
That's one reason to explain the Lāna‘i Animal Rescue Center's status as the No. 1 attraction on the former Pineapple Island, per Tripadvisor.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that only 11 attractions are listed, but those who've been lucky enough to enter the "kitty Shangri-la," as one Tripadvisor reviewer calls it, are also struck by the creativity, commitment and compassion of the largely volunteer staff.
With just deer netting, a few discarded pallets and corrugated sheeting, co-founder Kathy Carroll and crew created an open-air sanctuary on 3.5 acres of land donated by then-owner David Murdock (now Larry Ellison) in fall 2009. Dozens of feral and abandoned cats — the largest number of homeless animals on the island — had already found a comfy, no-kill shelter there when I visited a month after it opened.
Returning last week, I found some 370 felines — a number of whom have been "adopted in place" — now make their home there, with plenty of places to lounge, socialize, play or hide, including an attractive bunkhouse with ladder, loft, benches and Adirondack chairs. "An Alabama woman came out after it had been a little rainy and told me, 'Ah'm gonna have mah architect build you a cathouse,' " Carroll said, with a delighted laugh.
The landscaping of a few trees and scrubby brush in red dirt now looks lush and lightly manicured. "We want it to look like a garden," explained Carroll, who has a part-time staff of three to help with animal care and shelter maintenance (and no, it does not smell like cats — fresh breezes help, too.) Since the center opened, a veterinarian who comes twice a week has spayed or neutered about 1,200 cats, Carroll said. The island's animal control officer also now brings them cats, instead of trapping and killing them to reduce the population.
Rescue dogs, such as the 90-pound black lab and a Jack Russell terrier currently with LARC, are placed in foster homes. In the coming months, the center will host its first dog obedience classes for island residents and an "animal camp" for children, who particularly enjoy visiting the site.
Local elementary school students recently recorded a music video at the shelter, "A Kitty Community," to help raise awareness, while the weekly Sunday "pet 'n' purr" open house which attracts five to 25 people weekly. "Kids can come down and play with the cats, who love it," Carroll said. "We just tell the children, 'Use inside voices and no pulling tails!'"
The two Four Seasons resorts on the island also encourage visitors to volunteer at the center, which coordinates group efforts as well as simple tasks for individuals. While some guests decided to leave with a new feline companion, others "virtually adopt" by donating a minimum of $20 a month toward the animal's care and feeding.
Pointing to a black and white cat, Carroll said, "Cupid came here two years ago, shot with an arrow. Now she's my inspiration. Some folks from Vancouver adopted her in place, and when they went back to get married, they made her the 'mews' of their wedding shower. In lieu of gifts, they asked everyone to make a donation in Cupid's name."
The wedding shower raised $1,500 for the center, which has now set up a fund for animals requiring urgent care called the Cupid Fund. Fund-raising T-shirts with designs by Mike Carroll, Kathy's husband and the island's premier landscape artist, and other gift items benefiting the center can be found at the Mike Carroll Gallery in Lāna‘i City.