Arizona Humane Society deploys team to Maui to search for animals impacted by wildfires

Aug 17, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:52 am

PHOENIX — The Arizona Humane Society sent an emergency response team to Maui Wednesday morning to aid in search and rescue efforts of animals impacted by the recent devastating wildfires.

The five-member team will deploy for seven days as requested by the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Animal Incident Management, AHS said.

“They’re searching for pets. Their purposes is to find injured animals that may be wandering the disaster zone and to find animals that have died. They very well could discover human remains, as well,” CEO of AHS Steven Hanson told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The animal welfare group said efforts will be made to reconnect any pets recovered in the aftermath of the wildfires with their owners, whether it be through social media outreach, microchips or identification on collars.

AHS said it will continue to monitor the situation in Maui and provide additional resources as needed.

What comes next for AHS when the team returns to Arizona?

Hansen expects the Maui deployment to take an emotional toll on the emergency response team.

“When the team comes back, we actually are prepared to assist them with emotional support, compassion fatigue,” he said.

“This is probably going to be one of the worst situations they’ve been in. The extent of this disaster, I think, is difficult to comprehend.”

It’s not yet certain if AHS will be taking in any pets from the island.

“We have been an intake facility for the islands in the past, so if there is a need, we certainly would be willing to help,” Hanson said.

“I’m not sure that there will be animals that actually need to go out. I think it’s going to be more of a reunite situation.”

Why was AHS asked to help after Maui fire disaster?

AHS has been involved in the rescue efforts of at least 12 significant natural disasters in the past few years, Hanson said.

“The Arizona Humane Society is the designated responder for disasters within our state, which means we get invited in for the more serious events,” Hanson said.

“And this particular team has been through the complete FEMA training process, as well as a wildfire institute training program, so they are very skilled at being involved with wildfires.”

Hansen said 2021 was a particularly busy year.

“We were involved in the Gila Bend flood, and we were also at the Backbone Fire and the Telegraph Fire that year, as well,” Hanson said.

AHS teams have also responded to natural disasters outside of the state, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Heidi Hommel contributed to this story.

Bonneville is raising funds for those impacted by the devastating fires in Maui. All funds will benefit the Hawaii Community Foundation.

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Arizona Humane Society deploys team to Maui to search for animals impacted by wildfires