Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Returning pets soon
may skip quarantine

New quarantine rules are expected to be further revised to allow Hawaii pet owners to leave the state with their animals and forgo the 120-day waiting period upon returning, the state veterinarian told House lawmakers yesterday.

The new quarantine rules -- signed into law Sunday by Gov. Linda Lingle -- take effect Monday and are expected to ease a system that previously required that all cats and dogs be confined between one and four months.

Under the new rules, pet owners have to arrange vaccinations and blood tests for their animal at least 120 days prior to their arrival in Hawaii.

Dr. James Foppoli said he hopes to further ease the rules by allowing residents to forgo -- with clearance and proper blood work -- the 120-day waiting period upon returning to Hawaii.

Under the new rules, out-of-state pet owners whose animals meet specific requirements would be able to arrive at Honolulu Airport and leave with their pets within hours of arriving.

"This should be a very workable program, but the thing is that you have to be prepared to plan ahead," Foppoli said, adding that the risk of getting rabies in Hawaii because of the ease in rules has increased only minimally, if at all.

Foppoli said the department plans to relocate two to three employees from its main quarantine station in Halawa to the airport station. He could not say whether any employees would lose their jobs because of the expected decrease in animals at Halawa.

The new rules mean the state will be spending an estimated $500,000 less for animal shelter and feed. Foppoli said the department's quarantine fee structure was recalculated to allow for the drop in expenditures, noting that the department makes no profit from its pet quarantine stations.

The regulation changes were hailed by many pet owners who criticized the previous system as an undue burden.

Hawaiian Humane Society spokeswoman Eve Holt said she is pleased that the state has taken "into consideration the effectiveness of vaccination," adding, "We think that the majority of people will be able to meet the new requirements."

Under the old rules, about 75 percent of the 4,600 animals brought into the island last year qualified for 30-day quarantine, Foppoli said.

He said the military also is working to make it easier for its pet owners to move to Hawaii. Among the changes in the works is a plan to allow personnel to begin vaccination procedures and blood testing as soon as they know of their pending move, Foppoli said, noting that at present orders must be in hand before that can begin.

The military has accounted for 35 percent to 40 percent of all quarantined animals, according to the U.S. Pacific Command.


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