Story: Sole Animal Sanctuary on the Big Island Rescues, Rehomes Abandoned Dogs
Tucked away outside of buzzy Hilo, Hawai’i down a sleepy country road lined with grass taller than you and me is Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary, home to over 300 unwanted, neglected or abused animals.
Recently, I had the honor of visiting the sanctuary in person.
Hawai’i: No paradise for animals
Mary Rose Krijgsman founded the no-kill sanctuary in 2001 in response to the island’s abandonment and overpopulation issue, much of it stemming from unregulated backyard breeding of hunting dogs and an overextended, economically depressed population who cares for multiple animals without the means.
Though the island’s population is 180,000, in a follow-up email interview after my visit, Mary Rose cited a report that compared the overpopulation problem to a mainland city with 1 million people.
According to her, 1,200 animals are euthanized each month by the local animal control shelter.
An Oasis for Homeless Pets
Sitting on 7.5 acres in a park-like setting, the sanctuary site is refreshing and unlike anything I’ve seen: grassy paths lined with shady trees, some gently bending together to form tunnels leading the way through the property. Outdoor enclosures allow for sunshine, breeze and fresh air. There is even a pond.
Shelter is provided in each secure kennel and generally, two dogs are companionably housed together.
Every dog is walked every day by volunteers and there is a charting system to be sure.
The dogs are enthusiastic, energetic and it was evident that they are content and cared for.
“The animals have a home here…We are not a shelter, we are a sanctuary. We are not a clearinghouse for animals, we are a place where the animals live, learn, eat, communicate, play and get some training,” wrote Mary Rose, who lives on-site. “What we want to communicate with the community is a ‘way of life.’ A life that is pono, full of love, compassion, caring, equality, trust and respect.”
The sanctuary is inundated with calls for help and offers a home to as many animals as they can, including those who are sick or otherwise unadoptable.
During my visit, I got to know Florence (pictured), a sweet-natured dog suffering the effects of neglect, including low thyroid, skin fungus and a lymph system that is not functioning properly.
Rainbow Friends has funded three operations for her, medication for her condition and weekly medicated baths. “With all this, she is one of the most joyful dogs there are, she loves her toys and will play with them,” she wrote. You can sponsor Florence, or another dog, for $30/month.
Three ways you can help
In addition to monetary donations or giving good and services for the care of their hundreds of animals, including substantial veterinary bills, the sanctuary is seeking support for the following programs. Simply designate your wish under “special purpose” on the donation form.
- Support their monthly spay/neuter clinics, where they alter 50 dogs or 100 cats per day for low-income families.
- Help create their on-site veterinary clinic. To reduce veterinary costs, Rainbow Friends is reconfiguring their indoor space to function as a clinic by building an enclosed outdoor area for cats.
- Give Fido a flight home. They are also seeking use of a plane to transport dogs to the mainland for adoption, as “There are not enough people to adopt out to” on the island.
Rainbow Friends is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.
Rescue dogs aren’t broken,
they’ve simply experienced more life than other dogs.
If they were human, we would call them wise.
They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write,
the ones dealt a bad hand who responded with courage.
Don’t pity a rescue dog.
Adopt one, Foster one, Sponsor one.
And be proud to have their greatness by your side.
Follow Rainbow Friends on Facebook.