Shorter pet quarantine
goes into effect today

The new program cuts the
requirement from 120 to 30 days

By Neal Iwamoto

For the past three months, the Halawa animal quarantine station has become a second home for Juliet Addington.

She has been visiting her caged Catahoula leopard dogs twice a day while they complete their 120-day quarantine.

"It's been hard," said Addington, who brought her dogs from California in early May. But she may not have to go through the same experience next year when she plans to fly in a new pet.

The animal quarantine station began accepting pets today for shorter 30-day quarantine periods, under a new policy established by the Department of Agriculture to reduce the hardships of pets owners while still providing safeguards against rabies.

Pet owners now meet a number of conditions to ensure that their pets are rabies-free by:

Getting the pet two rabies vaccines 90 days before moving to Hawaii.

Obtaining a Hawaii-issued microchip verifying that the pet had its vaccinations.

Getting the pet a blood test before arriving in Hawaii, and one after arriving to determine whether the rabies vaccine is working in the animal's body.

Since the policy went into effect on May 23, the state has sent out more than 2,000 microchips and has received about 1,000 initial blood tests, said Dr. Dewy Sturges, program manager of the Animal Quarantine Branch.

Sturges said the number of animals in quarantine decreased during the usually busy summer months while owners waited to qualify for the shorter quarantine.

Now that many pets are close to completing the 90-day vaccination period, he anticipates an influx of pets in the next few weeks.

"September is going to very busy," said Sturges.

Sturges said state studies show the 30-day program is four times as safe as the 120-day program due to the new vaccination and blood test requirements.

Critics of the new policy aren't so sure.

They say the blood test is still experimental and that the reduced quarantine could jeopardize Hawaii's rabies-free status.

"I think we may have compromised the safety of the people," said Dr. Allen Miyahara, president of the Coalition for a Rabies-Free Hawaii.

The new policy, however, comes as a relief to owners of the more than 3,500 animals that go through quarantine each year in Hawaii.

Two years ago, Kailua resident Leilani Ahina could not bear the thought of keeping her cat in quarantine for 120 days.

As a result, she gave her cat away before moving back to Hawaii.

Now a graduate student in Illinois, Ahina said her two black Labrador retrievers won't have to meet a similar fate.

"I'm going to bring them back with me now that I know it is just 30 days," said Ahina.

"I'm sure they look forward to days running on the beach."

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