Flying Off On Visitors And Pets

Susan Page
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Wednesday - October 12, 2005
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I was all set to write about the Honolulu airport this week when I heard from the Hawaiian Humane Society that October is “Love a Dog” month. Then, I read about Katrina rescued dogs riding in coach seats in an airliner, so I decided that were enough of a connection to write about both. The challenging segue from one topic to another left me panting. (Beware of puns.)


First impressions count. A pet peeve of mine for years has been the Wikiwiki bus that takes arriving United Airlines passengers - often first-timers to Hawaii - from the gates to baggage claim. You arrive dog tired after a minimum five-hour flight, and if you don’t know better, you’re led to think that riding that exhaust belching, groaning bus is mandatory. Despite your desperate need for a good stretch of the legs, a large inhale of real air, and a chance to take in the verdant beauty of the mountain ridges and valleys just off to the right, obediently up into a packed vehicle you go for a ridiculously short ride. Is this how a Hawaiian dream vacation should commence? I beg to differ. I say scratch the Wikiwiki buses for something cleaner, easier to get into, open-air and faster. Even though in Hawaiian, “wikiwiki” means “quickly,” the walkers always high-tail it past the bus riders to baggage claim.

So what to do for those with physical challenges? Moving sidewalks are out because the connecting walkway is open-air, but the kind of large golf-cart type transporters used in major airports like Dallas-Ft.Worth (DFW) would be perfect, easy to get into, quiet and fume-free. The rest of the walking guests can start their holiday by experiencing why Hawaii is one of the healthiest places in the U.S. to live.

(Here’s the awkward segue): Life certainly wasn’t healthy for the canine victims of the New Orleans flood, many of which still await rescue. Television images of the most faithful of mankind’s animal friends stranded on rooftops and windowsills, swimming in disgusting water, and being plucked off of floating debris were heartbreaking. But where are the thousands of animals brought into the various shelters to go?

Well, a few lucky dogs of “Operation Pet Rescue” went to California in a chartered Continental jet. A dog airlift bankrolled by Texas oil tycoon Boone Pickens and wife Madeleine allowed some of the 80 traumatized canines of Katrina in the cabin seats of the $50,000 pooch airliner for their trip to California for placement into new homes. (Maybe Pickens could bankroll new Honolulu Airport transporters?)

But the larger reality of animal rescue in Louisiana is grim. According to humane society volunteers who have spent time in the animal shelters, there are more animals than space or volunteers can accommodate. While no one in New Orleans was prepared for the flood that came after the hurricane, those who evacuated into shelters before Katrina hit were forced to leave their pets behind. Shelters don’t allow animals.


Well, in my view, that needs to change. During “Love a Dog” month, our state civil defense planners need to reform any policy that doesn’t include a safe evacuation plan (and shelter) for pets. In the event of a hurricane, we can’t just leave our pets behind any more than we can leave a child behind. It’s painful to the pet owners, and we can see by the countless heartbreaking images in the aftermath of Katrina it’s cruel to the pets.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be determined by the way its animals are treated.” And an unknown author says correctly about dogs: “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

The Hawaiian Humane Society says to never leave your pet behind in case of a hurricane, and offers a class and tips on how to manage a dog, cat or other pet both when evacuating or, if you’re in a higher elevation, hunkering down with your pet (go to www.hawaiianhumanesociety.org). The society’s recommended hurricane pet readiness items are essential stuff:

* Pet carriers, crates or cages, one for each pet

* Collars, identification tags and leashes

* Current pet photo * A supply of dry pet food * Non-spill bowls for water and food

* Unbreakable water storage containers with three-day supply of water

* Newspapers, plastic bags, cleansers and paper towels

* Pet medication It’s time to take a new look at how we treat our visiting friends at the airport - and how we treat our furry friends in emergencies. And we need to do it wikiwiki!

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