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Borrow a shelter dog for a fieldtrip in Kauai – All You Need to Know

As travellers who are always looking for ways to give back to the local communities we visit, we were so excited when we learned about the Kauai Humane Society “Field Trip for Shelter Dogs” program through a friend who had recently adopted a Kauaian dog after their trip. We’ve always been passionate about dog adoption, especially after doing a dog rescue mission in the States and adopting our own little Asher from Texas (both stories for another time).

This doggy date integrated perfectly into our schedule as a “rest day” where we would go at our own pace without a fixed agenda, and we spent the entire day with our dog. We had such an incredible experience that we wanted to share our learnings, experience, and tips. We hope that you will also do a doggy day out while travelling (or even locally if a program is available where you live), and perhaps even adopt your own rescue dog as well!

Why are there so many stray dogs in Kauai, Hawaii?

According to the Kauai Humane Society, there are more dogs than people on Kauai. Many of them were once bred for hunting wild pigs. When the hounds failed to be trained or were too old, they would be left out on the street. With such a mild climate in Hawaii, these dogs can survive on the streets for a little while until they starve, are picked up, and brought into the shelters. This problem has snowballed into pushing the shelters to critical capacity where there are simply not enough spaces to take in and provide adequate care to more stray dogs.

The sign at the Kauai Humane Society entrance shows how overloaded they are with homeless dogs.

About the Kauai Humane Society

This non-profit animal shelter was founded in 1952 and is the only open-intake animal shelter in Kauai. It takes in dogs, cats, and critters of different kinds, and partners with no-kill shelters which is important since many shelters are forced to euthanize select animals when overloaded. The Kauai Humane Society does an incredible job in engaging the community through various programs, even for non-adopted dogs, such as boarding and dog park day passes. Every year, the shelter helps approximately 3,000 animals!

Field Trip for Shelter Dog Program Logistics 

Here is a rundown of the important details you must know:

Location: 3-825 Kaumualii Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766. The shelter is about a 10 minute drive from the Kauai Lihue Airport. If short on time, you can plan this around the time you land or depart from Kauai.

How to book: on the KHS website

Cost: $40 donation to support the humane society’s operations. There are different donation tiers (from $40 to $300) which can include food for the dog or even sponsoring the dog’s flight to mainland Hawaii for adoption.

Hours for the field trip program: Pickup between 10AM – 12PM, Drop off before 5PM

Materials provided: Waterbottle and water, treats, poop bags, bowl, toys, towel

A backpack is provided by the Kauai Humane Society with all the materials you will need for the day.

Our Experience

We travelled to Kauai not long after Covid restrictions were were lifted (September 2022), so some precautions were still in place. For one, the staff chose a dog for us, whereas prior to Covid, fieldtrippers could enter the kennel area and choose a dog they felt connected with. This was slightly disappointing but it made the day less emotional as I am sure we would have teared up seeing so many homeless dogs, and wanted to give all of them a home. They only allow viewings for those Viewings who are very serious about adopting on the island.

With the booking and donations completed online, it was a smooth process when we entered the building. The staff asked us about our plans for the day (hiking, of course) and returned with Tigger, our new buddy for the day.

Tigger was a beautiful hound mix with a dark orange/brown brindle that made him look like a Tiger from behind. As soon as our eyes met, we knew we had a friend in him! Tigger was very sociable with people from the outset. We could tell that he had done this many times before and was excited about meeting new people who would take him on a new adventure. We later learned that Tigger was one of the dogs that had been in the shelter for the longest time (over 100 days by the time we met him).

We picked Tigger up at around 11AM and by the time we had completed the briefings and intros, it was lunch time. Seafood cravings were calling our name so we visited a local hidden gem, Konohiki Seafoods, and had the most amazing pork laulau with poke plate and fresh Chirashi. Tigger waited patiently with Geoff outside the restaurant, and in that first 15 minutes with the dog, we already had people asking about Tigger and his “adopt me” harness. We were able to share about the Kauai Humane Society easily, and spoiler alert – at the end of the day, we found the local couple (whom we met at the restaurant) waiting at the shelter looking for a dog to adopt!

After lunch, Sleeping Giant (Nou Nou) Mountain was our choice of hike that day. We wanted something challenging that was still suitable for dogs so we took this suggestion from the shortlist. The Sleeping Giant East Trail was 5.5km with 293m of elevation, rated hard, timing was about 2.5 hours. We would only recommend this trail if it is good weather and hadn’t rained recently, as the trail would be very slick otherwise.

Tigger took a bit of time to adapt to walking with us; he would either pull ahead or lag behind. As dog parents and former fosters, we are experienced with dog behaviour and training. However, those skills are not necessary to do the field trip as long as you have basic dog walking knowledge and are able to adapt to the dog and read its body language.

Eventually Tigger fell into a rhythm, but it was so humid and hot, even this Hawaiian dog could not do any more hiking past 3km! We turned back despite almost making it to the peak because it was important that Tigger felt safe and comfortable with us. While Tigger did drink some water and eat a bit of treats, the staff let us know that most dogs do not use the washroom when out on a field trip as they are slightly nervous. Tigger proved them right and we did not need to pick up after him.

Throughout the hike, Tigger was a magnet. People would come up to us to chat and ask about him. It was such an organic way to spread the word about the Kauai Humane Society. We did not see any other dogs on the trail, which was helpful as it’s important that the shelter dogs do not meet other dogs.

The trailhead was about 30 driving minutes away from the shelter, but we started our drive back an hour before the cutoff. Rush hour traffic in Lihue is notorious for being inaccurately represented on Google Maps. Our tip is to drive back early to avoid the late penalty. Upon our return to the Kauai Humane Society, we filled out a short form detailing Tigger’s likes, dislikes and behaviours to help the staff collect up-to-date information for future adopters.

Tigger passed out on the drive back – he was so cute!

Saying goodbye to Tigger was hard but we knew that he would be adopted since he was such a good boy. We recently checked back on the humane society’s website and learned that he had been adopted a couple months after we saw him. Our hearts were so full after that experience and we would do it again in a heartbeat.

Why is this dog field trip program so important?

  • The Kauai Humane Society is at critical capacity and there are almost two dogs doubled up in each kennel. Being crated up already means that dogs don’t have much space to stretch and roam, but now their space has been halved. Taking these dogs out is extremely helpful for them to get fresh air, a variety of exercise, and be socialized with people.
  • The animal shelter can learn more about the dog’s behaviour which is important in creating a detailed profile and finding an adopter with a perfect fit.
  • Walking on the streets with a dog with an “adopt me” harness helps raise awareness and get people talking about the cause. Even locals are very interested in doing what they can to help and it increases the dog’s chances of getting adopted by a local.
  • The program raises funds through the donations that are made when the field trip is booked.

Other tips to make your doggy date perfect

  • Dogs must be transported in an enclosed vehicle and tethered to the seats (no riding in trucks or convertibles). It would help significantly if you have your own rental vehicle while doing this activity in Kauai, but it is still possible if you don’t.
  • A rag is provided to line your car seats before the dog sits on it, but keep in mind the dogs are not able to shower and will have been out and about on beaches and trails. Bring a wet paper towel to wipe your rental car clean after the excursion.
  • Return your dog well before the 5PM deadline to avoid a $100 charge on your credit card. A $200 fee will be charged in case the dog if the dog is not returned at all.
  • Do your research on dog-friendly activities beforehand. The animal humane society does a great job on their website and in person with activity ideas ranging from calm to adventurous. However, we noticed that Kauai is not very dog-friendly as many trails prohibit dogs. Particularly, they encourage staying on the East side of Kauai, because the West (ie. Koke’e State Park and Waimea Canyon) are off limits. Many of the dogs came from that area and we do not want to remind them of this trauma.

Similar dog fieldtrip programs in other vacation destinations

  • The Maui Humane Society runs a similar program called the “Beach Buddies” which you can do if you’re on that island and not in Kauai!
  • The Potcake Place in the Turks and Caicos runs a similar program where you can volunteer to take a puppy for a walk to get them socialized.
  • Other shelters in the United States that participate in the Doggy Day Out program can be found here.

What do you think of this budget-friendly day trip in Kauai? Would you participate in a doggy field trip?

Hope this helped and thanks for reading!


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