Hawaiʻi Animal Kuleana Alliance
Alessandra Rupar-Weber, Syndi Texeira, Laurie Lyons-Makaimoku and Regina DoDaro Romero Serrano have started a grassroots movement that has positively impacted the lives of thousands of animals on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Their mission began in 2018, when Kilauea volcano erupted, and Alessandra and a friend rallied together to help rescue animals from the impending lava. They started a Facebook group (the Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network) and added a few admins to help out. At this point Syndi, Laurie, and Regina joined forces with Alessandra, and the group grew from there as they rallied family, friends, citizens and volunteers to help rescue animals in the lava zone. They transported and cared for the animals, and sent them to temporary or permanent homes, and worked with various local organizations, including shelters, trusted rescues and vetted sanctuaries. The cohesive effort they spearheaded saved countless displaced animals lives. Many were reunited with their families, and many others moved to safety in foster homes or were rehomed. According to the Hawaii Tribune Herald “the group admins worked nearly 20 hours a day. A GoFundMe account helped cover animal-related expenses, and they also provided information on resources and referrals.” Some of their eruption efforts included field search and rescue, and running a full time Emergency Rescue hotline for affected residents seeking assistance in finding and rescuing their animals. The rescue line was in partnership with Hawaii Island Humane Society, who helped dispatch local officers to assist. Another huge part of their effort was coordinating resources (food, supplies, etc). All of this involved coordination and collaboration between county, state, and private groups like USGS and local NPO’s.
After the eruption died down, a new issue came up that needed immediate compassionate attention. The local dairy on the island, Big Island Dairy, was shutting down after repeated EPA violations and the 2,600+ cows there were being sold off. Alessandra and Syndi worked diligently to help rescue and rehome more than 400 of those cows on the Big Island, sending them to homes, farms and sanctuaries, where they would be loved as pets (and giant lawnmowers) and not working animals. This massive undertaking, which was part of HLFARN, became known as the #hawaiicowrescue. They vetted all the private homes and farms personally, with the help of volunteers, after exhausting the available spaces at local sanctuaries. The adopters all had to sign a contractual agreement that stated that the cows were only to be adopted as pets, not for dairy or meat. If they would need to be rehomed in the future, adopters agreed to contact HLFARN. Not only did they find these cows homes, but they were actively involved in the transport of these animals, with the help of volunteers and a private transport company that was hired for the larger loads. This rescue was a huge undertaking that spanned over 10 months.
After these two massive efforts, Alessandra, Syndi, Laurie, and Regina decided to get themselves organized and truly commit to Hawaii’s animals by creating a nonprofit; thus the Hawaii Animal Kuleana Alliance (HAKA) was born in 2018. HAKA’s primary mission is to aid in emergency and disaster rescues, as well as to help animals and other local organizations. Their primary activities revolve around emergency preparedness and rescue activities — the Hawaii Animal Kuleana Alliance is currently gearing up to train their first cohort of Large Animal Emergency Rescue volunteers, the first training of its kind to happen on Hawaii Island. In addition, they are working on establishing a pet food pantry program, creating a registry for pet parents to request help in emergency and disaster situations, and running their Facebook group (HAKA ‘Ohana) that serves as an information hub and lost and found pet resource for the Island.