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Maui wildfires: Animal rescue teams save pets from the ashes of Hawaii’s fires

The Maui Humane Society is treating dogs, cats, chickens, pigs and other animals that were badly burned while fleeing the wildfires.
The Maui Humane Society is treating dogs, cats, chickens, pigs and other animals that were badly burned while fleeing the wildfires. Copyright Jenny Miller/Maui Humane Society via AP
Copyright Jenny Miller/Maui Humane Society via AP
By Euronews Green with APTN
Published on Updated
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As people fled the fires, pets did too. Some emerged with marks of escape, but thousands remain lost.

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A dog with its hind legs bandaged tightly from paw to hip whimpered in pain through a plastic medical cone, its chest rising and falling quickly in shallow breaths.

The animal is one of the pets and people bearing marks of their escape from the smoke and flames of Hawaii wildfires that claimed more than 100 lives and decimated a historic town.

“We have seen animals come through our shelter that have severe, severe burns," says Katie Shannon, director of marketing and communications at Maui Humane Society. “We have seen dogs that have essentially had their paws all the way burnt down to the bone from running from the fire.”

The deadliest US wildfire in more than 100 years has left hundreds of dogs, cats and other pets lost, injured or dead. 

An estimated 3,000 animals from Lahaina remain missing, according to the Maui Humane Society, which is now trying to reunite pets with owners and treat the many animals that arrived at clinics wrapped in blankets covering wounds.

"We have had chickens, love birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats,” Shannon says. “We even have a pig here.”

Katie Shannon/Maui Humane Society via AP
An injured bird is treated at Maui Humane Society in Lahaina, Hawaii.Katie Shannon/Maui Humane Society via AP

Hawaii's rescued animals are being treated for burns

Fuelled by dry grass and propelled by strong winds from a passing hurricane, the fires raced as fast as 1.6 kilometres every minute in one area. People were forced to scramble and flee in harrowing escapes they later relayed to family members who waited in agony to learn of their fate.

The stories of the animals, though, were told by the damage on their bodies.

A cat arrived with singed fur and spots of leg burns. A chicken needed both scorched claws wrapped with thick, blue medical tape.

A clinic worker used surgical tweezers to delicately remove debris from a dog's paws while another technician cradled the head, rubbed the neck with gentle thumb strokes and spoke calmly into the animal's ear.

They were the lucky ones. On a Maui street, a dog’s charred body was found.

Katie Shannon/Maui Humane Society via AP
An injured dog is treated at Maui Humane Society in Lahaina, Hawaii, 9 August 2023.Katie Shannon/Maui Humane Society via AP

Rescue teams continue to search for animals amid the destruction

As the smoke clears and officials survey the scope of loss and destruction, animal welfare advocates are working with the Maui Police Department to enter the burn area in search of lost, injured or deceased animals.

“As those areas continue to widen, we will be able to expand our scope of services,” said Lisa Labrecque, CEO of the Maui Humane Society, at a Monday news conference.

Dozens of feeding stations stocked with food and water have been set to draw scared animals out of hiding so they can be tracked and transported to a shelter, where veterinary staffers treat both burn injuries and smoke inhalation cases.

Found animals are checked for identification and scanned for a microchip so owners may be contacted. The Maui Humane Society has asked that deceased animals not be moved or destroyed so they can be cataloged and checked for identification.

"But this is only the beginning," Shannon says. "People need to understand that we are in the midst of this. And, you know, there is a harsh reality to come."

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