State quarantine exemption
law closer to approval
By Diana Leone
Pet owners whose pets meet new state requirements for rabies vaccinations and tests may soon be able to bring dogs and cats into Hawaii without putting them in quarantine.
The new rules, approved yesterday by a 6-2 vote of the state Board of Agriculture, will take effect after review by the state attorney general and the departments of Budget and Finance and Business, Economic Development & Tourism and approval by the governor.
Those hurdles could be crossed by the end of May, said state Veterinarian James Foppoli.
"The approval of this new program is a positive step in reducing the burdens of quarantine on pets and their owners and also reducing the cost of bringing pets to Hawaii," Gov. Linda Lingle said. "The program will also allow Hawaii residents to travel with their pets and return to Hawaii without quarantine if they follow the specified procedures before they leave."
It would be the first time since 1912 that cats and dogs will be allowed into Hawaii, the country's only rabies-free state, without some form of quarantine.
The change comes because research has concluded that two rabies vaccines in conjunction with blood testing and a waiting period will be highly effective at keeping the disease out, Foppoli said.
Under the new rules, pet owners must document that an animal has:
>> Had a minimum of two rabies vaccinations, with the most recent no more than 12 months before arrival in Hawaii if it is a one-year vaccine, or no more than 18 months before arrival in Hawaii if it is a three-year vaccine.
Pet owners who send ahead proper documentation of compliance with these rules will in most cases be allowed to take their pet directly from Honolulu Airport and pay a fee of $165.
>> A test to show there are sufficient rabies antibodies in the blood, then undergoes a 120-day waiting period before coming to Hawaii. The waiting period ensures that its rabies antibodies are from vaccination, not from having the disease. If the animal has the disease, it would develop symptoms during the waiting period.
>> An identifying microchip implanted in its body before the blood test and waiting period.
Pets that arrive at the same time as their paperwork will have to stay in quarantine up to five days and cost owners $224.
People whose pets do not meet all the requirements will still have to put their animals in quarantine. The 30-day quarantine costs $655 and requires rabies vaccinations, a blood test and a 90-day pre-arrival waiting period.
The 120-day quarantine costs $1,080 and does not require pre-arrival vaccinations.
The state will need to maintain some kind of quarantine facility, but the number of animals there will drop, Foppoli said.
Last year, 75 percent of the 4,681 pets brought into the state qualified for the 30-day quarantine, Foppoli said. He said he expects that under the new rules more than half of incoming pets will qualify for five days or less confinement.
For more information, see the Department of Agriculture's Web site at www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa and click on "importing."