the heroes of homeless pets

Michelle Liu
January 09, 2024

PAWS of Hawaii is comprised of three women who love animals, a small army of foster families, and hundreds of dogs in need. The nonprofit organization rescues up to 60 dogs every month, many of which come from homeless situations.

“We take them in, get their vaccinations and medical tests done, and clean them up,” says Kuulei Durand, executive director of PAWS of Hawaii. “Then we place them in foster homes, where they’ll stay until they’re healthy and ready for adoption.”

Durand with her foster puppy.

Incredible transformations
The dogs often arrive in bad condition, covered in fleas and wounds. There have been cases of dogs being eaten alive by maggots or needing amputations.

One of the nonprofit’s most notable cases was Leialoha, whose story captured worldwide attention in 2019. She was found buried on a beach with a cut on her leg. She was badly sunburned, covered in sores, and in pain.

“There have been many times when animals come in and we’re not sure they’re going to make it,” says Durand. “But with medical care, foster care, and love and support the animals need and receive, they’re able to flourish and go to their new homes in great shape.”

Leialoha made a full recovery and was later adopted by her foster mom.

Fostering fluffballs
Since PAWS of Hawaii is a foster-based rescue, it can only take in dogs if there’s a foster family lined up. That’s why their crew of 100 foster families plays such a vital role.

Durand's foster puppy and Archie playing together.

“When dogs go to adoption, they’re clean, healthy, and happy,” says Durand. “But when they go to fosters, they’re still in recovery. They need deworming or flea baths and just that extra boost. Our foster families give all they have to loving on and helping these animals progress.”

Finding their "furever" home
People looking to adopt these dogs play a vital role, too. They’re helping ease the caseload so that foster families can take in other animals. Most importantly, they’re giving puppies and adult dogs their forever home.

Tina Sybinsky, senior sales plan consultant at HMSA, met her furry best friend when he was 6 weeks old.

Sybinsky with Archie as a puppy. Photo courtesy Tina Sybinsky

“Archie had our hearts as soon as we saw him,” says Sybinsky.

She was able to take him home a week after the initial meeting. It’s been three years of love, happy tail wags, games of fetch, and tummy rubs.

“He’s been the greatest blessing for our multigenerational family,” says Sybinsky. “My dad walks him with me in the morning. Archie has my mom wrapped around his little paw and keeps her on her toes. He brings us all such joy with his companionship and unconditional love, which has also improved our lives and well-being.”

How you can help
There’s currently an influx of unwanted or accidental litters. PAWS of Hawaii has been so busy that they sometimes can’t take in puppies, so the need for fosters is high.

“Opening up your home in any way can help the animals,” says Durand. “Without the community, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

If you can’t foster or adopt, consider donating. PAWS of Hawaii always needs puppy pads. They supply foster families with the pads, food, a kennel, leash, collar, and toys, but they’re running low.

Monetary donations are also welcome. Every year, HMSA chooses local nonprofits to donate to on Giving Tuesday. Sybinsky submitted PAWS of Hawaii last year and it was selected.

PAWS of Hawaii helped Archie and is now helping this little fluffball.

“PAWS of Hawaii does a huge amount of work, not just for the animals, but also for people who adopt them to improve their lives,” says Sybinsky. “HMSA recognized that and I know that the donations will go a long way to help animals.”

“All the community support helps push us forward in our mission to save, rescue, and protect these animals that come to us,” says Durand. “And it all goes toward helping dogs find their loving forever homes.”

First time meeting
Watch Archie and Durand’s foster dog play and romp around while learning how PAWS of Hawaii helps animals in need:

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