Virus Outbreak Pet FlightWorkers unload a dog from a cargo plane after the landing of a "Paws Across the Pacific" pet rescue flight Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Seattle. Volunteer organizations flew more than 600 dogs and cats from shelters across Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, calling it the largest pet rescue ever. The animals are being taken from overcrowded facilities in the islands to shelters in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
HONOLULU (AP) — More than 600 dogs and cats flew across the Pacific Ocean from crowded Hawaii shelters to Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, where there's more space for them to await adoption — a charity operation that organizers said is the largest pet rescue flight.
The furry friends arrived in Seattle Thursday on a chartered Hercules C-130 plane. The rescue flight was necessary because the coronavirus pandemic has led to overcrowding in Hawaii pet shelters.
“Lots of kittens,” said Douglas Carroll, spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which helped coordinate the effort.
He noted that some owners are no longer able to afford their pets because of economic struggles caused by the pandemic. The situation has contributed to crowded Hawaii shelters.
Carroll watched Wednesday night as masked workers loaded carriers of various sizes holding the animals into the plane in Honolulu.
The flight started on Kauai and made stops at three different islands before departing for a seven-hour flight to Seattle, said Noah Horton, chief marketing officer of Greater Good Charities.
A veterinarian accompanied the animals.
Angie Wehmeyer was among the volunteers who greeted the flight in Seattle.
“You know, it brings tears to my eyes when I get to see all of the animals getting off the plane and being able to feed them and there is animals from babies to adults," she said.
Beyond the logistical challenge of planning the operation, the flight was special to Greater Good Charities CEO Liz Baker because she is adopting one of the transferred puppies. Her 10-year-old pit bull Stella died unexpectedly this week, she said.
Associated Press journalist Manuel Valdes contributed to this report from Seattle.