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Animal welfare ‘titan’ led Hawaiian Humane Society for 27 years


    Pamela Burns, longtime president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, died Tuesday at age 65.

Pamela Burns, head of the Hawaiian Humane Society, was remembered by former colleagues Tuesday for her contagious compassion for animals and love for the people of Hawaii.

Burns, president and CEO of the Hawaiian Humane Society, died at her home Monday night. She was 65.

“Her passion for the organization, for animals and for the entire community was always evident,” Hawaiian Humane Society Board member Pamela Jones said. “She had the ability through her vision and her dedication and excitement … to attract management team members and staff and board members who became just as enthusiastic about the organization.”

The Hawaiian Humane Society said in an announcement Tuesday that Burns died peacefully at her home after taking a leave of absence approximately a week ago for health reasons.

During her time leading the organization, Burns championed the animal welfare movement both nationally and internationally.

“(She) was the guiding force for the Hawaiian Humane Society for the past 27 years and a treasure in our community,” said Bob Armstrong, board chairman of the Hawaiian Humane Society, in a prepared statement. “The board, leadership team and staff are committed to carrying on Pam’s legacy by fulfilling the mission and continuing the essential work of the society.”

Burns served as president and CEO of the Hawaiian Humane Society since 1990. Under her leadership the organization reduced euthanasia, increased adoptions and bolstered prevention and education programs.

Burns also served as chairwoman of the National Council on Pet Population. She was a member of Petco’s Independent Animal Care Advisory Council and the Hawaii Association of Animal Welfare Agencies. She also had previously held the position of president of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators.

Before her leave of absence, Burns created a leadership team to run the organization. The team includes Jones; Lisa Fowler, director of operations; and Allison Gammel, director of community relations.

Jones said the leadership team plans to honor Burns by committing to keep the organization sustainable. “Everyone involved in the organization is dedicated to ensuring her life’s work continues,” she said.

Jacque Vaughn, who had worked with Burns for 12 years at the Hawaiian Humane Society, remembers her as a kind leader who invested in the members of the Humane Society.

“She was the kind of person that really helps people grow in the organization,” Vaughn said. “She is a unique character. There was nobody in world like Pamela Burns.”

Burns, born Dec. 16, 1952, was a member of a prominent family of sugar industry leaders. She was the daughter of Ann Walker Burns, whose ancestors were active in Hawaii’s monarchy, and C.E.S. “Frank” Burns Jr., who was former manager of Puna Sugar Co. and Oahu Sugar Co. and later senior vice president for Amfac Inc.

The Hawaiian Humane Society said plans to celebrate Burns’ life and legacy will be announced at a later time.

“Pam was tall in stature and formidable to some as one of the nation’s leading and most respected titans of animals welfare; yet at times there was a sentimentality to her spirit that was soft and heartbreaking,” Vaughn said in a tribute. “She kept a keepsake from her mother in her car. She never missed your birthday. She had the kind of heart in which she’d show up at your grandmother’s funeral. And she always adopted animals that were not really adoptable. That said volumes to me about what she believed in. She was a believer in second chances and that love is deserving to all.”

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