An All-around Animal Lover
Mirah Horowitz absolutely loves pets of all shapes and sizes. Little wonder why she holds the dual roles of executive director for Kaua‘i Humane Society and founder of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue on the East Coast.
The Garden Isle’s popular food truck Kikuchi is busy serving ahi wraps as keiki enjoy a bounce house and face-painting under an outdoor tent. But this is not a typical Sunday afternoon at Kaua‘i Humane Society. At least, it wasn’t until Mirah Horowitz took over as executive director in mid-October.
“Our big news is that the Kaua‘i Humane Society is now open on Sundays,” she says. “We want the shelter to be more accessible to the local community, both for purposes of adoption but also so people can come volunteer and spend time with the animals. Opening on Sundays (and closing on Wednesdays) is a huge step in that direction.”
Horowitz began serving on the KHS board of directors in January. Although new to the position of executive director, she’s is no stranger to the island. She spent much of her childhood vacationing on Kaua‘i with her mother Lenore, who wrote the famed Kaua‘i Underground Guide.
“The profits of the guide book were given back to five charities on the island — so giving back to Kaua‘i is extremely important to me,” Horowitz says. “At KHS, I am able to do both: help the community and the island I love so much, and work on behalf of the island’s animals.”
Her love for animals goes back as far as her love for Kaua‘i, though.
“I grew up competing horses, and when I had to get a job and no longer had time for the horses, I turned to dogs and cats instead,” she says. “I have three adopted dogs — Sparky, Pepper, and Hobo — and a cat, Kona Kitty, that my sister rescued from the street at three weeks of age. I bottle-fed him for a few weeks, intending to find him a home, and he ended up staying.”
Her passion for animals initially took a professional backseat to her other career as a full-time lawyer. After graduating with a law degree from Duke University, Horowitz clerked for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court. She served as counsel for U.S. Sen. John Kerry and chief counsel for Sen. Bob Menendez before working for the Department of Justice.
Her last professional move was as an executive search consultant at Russell Reynolds Associates in Washington, D.C., a position she held until finally finding her new home with KHS.
While working at the Department of Justice in D.C., Horowitz founded Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, an all-breed dog and cat rescue powered by volunteers.
“Since its founding, Lucky Dog has saved more than 13,000 animals,” says Horowitz.
In an amazing act of cross-continent multi-tasking, Horowitz still maintains her role with Lucky Dog while also serving as KHS’ executive director. She divides her time between D.C. and Kaua‘i, flying back and forth every two weeks.
When asked how she manages to do both concurrently, she opens up her phone and shows a laundry list of Lucky Dog adoptions that she approved while on Kaua‘i setting up KHS’ inaugural first Sunday celebration.
Splitting her time does not mean she is any less dedicated to the work of either organization. When off-island, she remains in daily contact with the humane society, running staff meetings, approving adoptions, overseeing fundraising and creating new partnerships. In fact, Lucky Dog is one of the partner organizations that receives transfer animals from KHS.
Mainland transfers play an important role in the humane society’s adoption efforts. From July 2017 to June 2018, KHS took in 3,473 animals. Nearly 900 were adopted on-island while 811 were adopted through mainland transfers to organizations such as Lucky Dog. This is just one of the services provided by KHS that often goes overlooked by the public. As executive director, Horowitz is keenly focused upon improving the organization’s relationship with the public and erasing any lingering preconceived notions.
“I think the biggest misconception about KHS is that we are pro-euthanasia,” she says. “I know that we had a director at one point in our history that was not forthright about the shelter’s euthanasia policies and that the community was rightly disillusioned. While I cannot speak to what happened before my time, I can say that this is absolutely not the case now.” This is the beginning of a new chapter for KHS, according to Horowitz.
“For all the great work that KHS does, we have not had the best reputation on the island in previous years,” she adds. “Things at the shelter have and continue to change, but it will take a while for our reputation in the community to catch up. We’re working on that!”
One of her immediate goals is to increase KHS’ ability to provide low-cost community spay and neuter appointments.
“Right now, we have limited capacity for these services, and, as a result, they book up more than a month in advance,” she explains.
As a long-term goal, she hopes to be able to bring adoption days out to the North Shore and the West-side, so people do not have to drive halfway across the island for an opportunity to adopt an animal. She also has plans to highlight upcoming puppy adoptions on the KHS website and, of course, opening on Sundays to better accommodate the busy schedules of island residents.
KHS is the only open-admission shelter on the island, which means it’s the only place people can bring stray animals or surrender animals they can no longer keep. It also holds the animal-control contract for the county.
“We save lives every day, complete families and work to (educate) people on how to be great pet parents,” Horowitz says. “We are an important resource for the community, and being able to help the animals of the island is what motivates us every day.”
For more information, call 632-0610 or visit kauaihumane.org.