The island of Maui, and all of the Hawaiian Islands, have a major cat problem. With no natural predators, and near-ideal conditions to live, feral cats are breeding rampantly all over. Without control over breeding, these kitty populations are growing exponentially. With rapid growth comes more collisions with vehicles, starvation, and disease. The problem is becoming increasingly evident with regular feline casualties littering our roads. (Driving in paradise can quickly become depressing.) Though it’s a difficult task, the only possible solution is to spay and neuter all Maui feral cats. The bulk of the cats live primarily in inaccessible areas making any action by the Maui Humane Society extremely difficult.
The Axis deer population is also exploding on Maui. Originally, a handful of deer were brought to the island over 20 years ago. Now Herd populations are estimated at around 10,000 on Maui. Deer predators consist of hunters, cars, and feral dogs. Hunters are given the right to kill as many deer as they’d like, everyday of the year, except for Christmas. Though Axis deer are naturally resistant to most disease and parasites, they do carry risk of contaminating Maui’s watershed area by possibly passing livestock and human diseases. Crop damage has become a more regular problem as well as substantial damage to golf courses used as grazing areas at night. Endangered plants are also becoming more rare with the abundance of deer foraging.
Efforts are being made on many levels to control the deer population, but the kitty problem is being widely ignored. Contact the Maui Humane Society to see how you can help. Call to volunteer at (808) 877-3680 Ext. 37 or Make a Donation.
As an animal lover, a volunteer feral cat colony caretaker with the Feline Foundation of Maui, and a Board Member of the Maui Humane Society, I must take exception to your recommendation that people stop donating to the Maui Humane Society and contribute INSTEAD to the 9th Life Hawaii organization. While I applaud 9th Life’s mission to provide a no-kill cat shelter on Maui, the reality is that they simply don’t have the facilities or the services to spay, neuter or shelter every homeless cat on this island. Many have been turned away. How do I know this? Because they end up at the Humane Society.
Instead of working cooperatively with the Maui Humane Society to address the feral cat situation, as other animal agencies on Maui are doing, 9th Life has continually relied on the Maui Humane Society over the years to provide spay/neuter surgeries and other services for its cats, yet the current Executive Director, Phyllis Tavares, now takes every opportunity to publicly denounce MHS for euthanizing animals. It serves no purpose to make the Maui Humane Society appear to be the “enemy” in this matter, happily euthanizing homeless cats by the hundreds. Nothing could be further from the truth. For those of us who love cats—and that includes the staff of the Maui Humane Society—the feline overpopulation situation on our island is heartbreaking. There is no pleasure taken in euthanizing any creature, but the facts of life are that at this point, on this island, with the cat population as it is, it must sometimes be done. These cats are not euthanized “simply because they are homeless,” as Tavares often states. Many of the feral cats brought to the Humane Society are injured or ill. I can personally attest to the fact that nearly half of the male feral cats in my area of West Maui taken in for neutering have tested positive for Feline AIDS, so yes, they are euthanized. Would it be more humane to release them back to the wild to die a slow, lingering death from the disease, while spreading it to other cats? Would 9th Life like me to drop them off at their no-kill shelter?
Rather than continuing to point fingers at the Maui Humane Society for euthanizing cats, it would be more productive for 9th Life to support the efforts of MHS in educating our community. The Maui Humane Society is not the enemy. Those to blame for this sad situation are the people who continue to let their unneutered male cats roam the neighborhood, adding to the feral population; those who decide they can’t keep their cat anymore so abandon it to live in the wild; those who continue to allow their female cats to produce kittens; those who bring feral cats into the Humane Society, somehow expecting that the staff will magically tame the poor creatures and make them adoptable. It’s not that easy.
In the Maui Weekly story that you referred to, it is stated that since the inception of the 9th Life agency in 1998, they have “led the way” in feline population control by sterilizing over 900 cats on our island. Nine hundred cats? In ten years? Over 2,300 cats were sterilized last year alone through the Maui Humane Society’s in-house, low-cost and free spay/neuter programs. 9th Life is doing a good job, spaying, neutering, and sheltering cats on a limited basis. Every sterilization makes a difference. But the cat crisis on Maui is bigger than any one individual or organization can handle, and we must all work together as partners if we are going to accomplish the common goal. 9th Life of Hawaii is not the only organization helping Maui’s cats, nor is it necessarily the most effective.
The Maui Humane Society has partnered with the Feline Foundation of Maui to specifically address the feral cat population across our island. MHS is involved in all animal-related issues (cats, dogs, guinea pigs, chickens, you name it) on many levels, and the agency realized that having one entity to focus full-time ONLY on feral cats is the best approach. The Feline Foundation of Maui has one mission—to humanely curb the cat population on Maui through the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method. As part of this program, there are volunteers all across the island who have adopted “colonies” of feral cats, humanely trapping them, sterilizing them, then returning them to their original location where food and water is provided on an ongoing basis. This approach has proved successful in communities around the world. But it takes time, and it takes volunteers.
My recommendation to your readers is this: if you want to help Maui’s cats, yes, go ahead and donate to 9th Life of Hawaii, if you wish. They have a commendable mission, and I wish them well in achieving it. But also donate to the Maui Humane Society and the Feline Foundation of Maui. Even better, go a step beyond and volunteer to help by adopting a cat colony, assisting a current cat colony caretaker, or offering to foster young feral kittens—socializing them so they can be adopted into loving homes through the Maui Humane Society. For more information, visit http://www.mauihumanesociety.org or http://www.mauicats.com
I just discovered this blog and “The Maui Goodness” site. Therefore, this response to Candy’s August comment above is a bit late. My comment is going to be a lot shorter and more a description of the direction all humane organizations should be embracing. I am going to quote Michael Mountain, one of the original founders and more recently President of Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary, the largest animal sanctuary in the United States. Below is a direct quote from Michael Mountain
“The next largest number of animals brought to the nations shelters (after pit bulls) are cats. Some are alley cats, others are homeless pets. And it can be difficult to tell the difference. Both are terrified, cringing at the back of their cages, and lashing out at the people who have “captured” them. So the easy, accepted and most promoted solution is just to kill them all. And in spite of all the progress, we are yet again hearing the same chorus of impossibility from the humane establishment that we (Best Friends) heard back then (in the 1980’s). And yet again, they’re missing the point.. NO KILL is not some idealistic, futuristic goal. It’s not what happens at the end of a campaign. It’s where we have to start. It’s how we begin.
And it’s not that stopping the killing is a better way. It’s that stopping the killing is the only way. That’s because it’s only when you take killing off the table as a way of “helping” the animals that you really start looking for new ways that are truly going to work. And that’s why any organization that claims a leadership role in the humane movement has to take that position, once and for all. It’s up to the leaders to find the solutions – to be real agents of change, to open the way to a new generation of animal protection.” 9th Life Hawaii wholeheartedly agrees with Michael’s statements and with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s NO KILL ideology. It’s time to stop blaming the community. It’s time to provide FREE spay/neuters with all the tax dollars that are funneled into the Maui Humane Society by the County of Maui. It’s time to fully implement on a massive scale the only method absolutely guaranteed to stop cat over-population and that is sterilization.