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Wednesday, May 14, 1997

Pet quarantine cut to
30 days, despite concerns

Star-Bulletin staff

Despite last-minute protests, there's now a shorter quarantine for pets: 30 days rather than 120.

The new rule takes effect May 23, with the first animal to be accepted 90 days afterward, in late August.

Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday approved the Board of Agriculture policy change.

The action came despite concerns from some that a newly required rabies blood test is experimental, and that a reduced quarantine would ruin Hawaii's rabies-free status.

But Cayetano said: "The new rule will provide Hawaii an added measure of protection against rabies necessary to keep our state safe by allowing for a combined use of serological testing and vaccinations never before allowed under the old rules."

"Shortening Hawaii's quarantine period will minimize the hardship experienced by 60 percent of our resident pet owners and 40 percent of our military community stationed in Hawaii," Cayetano said.

"After 85 years, we are finally able to make way for an improved prevention program in maintaining our rabies-free status."

To qualify for a 30-day quarantine, a pet must meet certain requirements, including proper vaccinations with an approved inactivated rabies vaccine, two rabies blood tests (one conducted prior to arrival, the second conducted upon arrival in Hawaii), and implantation of a microchip obtained from the state.

Call the Department of Agriculture animal quarantine station for more information at (808) 483-7171.


E D I T O R I A L

Thursday, May 15, 1997

Animal quarantine

GOVERNOR Cayetano knows what it's like for pets and their owners to endure four months of quarantine. He's experienced it himself with his pet bulldog. So it's understandable that he would be sympathetic to calls to reduce the quarantine period to a more bearable one month. The governor has approved new regulations that shrink the quarantine period but require rabies vaccination and blood tests.

This action is sure to be popular with the owners of pets they are trying to bring into the state. It is less certain that the new regulations will provide the same measure of protection to keep rabies out of Hawaii as the regulations that had been in effect for 85 years.

This is a scientific and medical issue that is beyond the competence of most newspaper editors -- or, for that matter, governors. However, we are not reassured by the fact that many veterinarians and medical doctors consider the change unsafe.

The scary thing about this problem is that it would only take one animal carrying rabies to slip through to bring this rightly dreaded disease to Hawaii. There is no way to know whether or when that might happen but it could easily be when Cayetano was long gone from the governor's office and a future chief executive was forced to deal with the problem.

We would feel much more comfortable with the governor's decision had he waited until a solid consensus of expert opinion had formed. As it is, we aren't confident that he made the right decision. If he is wrong, it could do irreparable harm. Veterinarian Nick Palumbo, in a letter published in the Star-Bulletin, deplored the governor's decision. He urged "my friends and neighbors to be vigilant and to think about ways to keep Hawaii rabies-free. It is not a nice disease!"

No it isn't, and we can only hope that the new regulations keep it out as their supporters claim they will.


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