Ag board votes to cut
quarantine for pets

If Cayetano OKs it,
pets could be sprung in just 30 days

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The state Board of Agriculture today eased animal quarantine rules.

The state's current 120-day quarantine would be replaced with a 30-day quarantine, vaccinations and blood tests before and after an animal's arrival.

However, several conditions must be met under the new 30-day quarantine, including having a microchip implanted in the animal certifying that it had two rabies vaccinations 90 days before it arrived in Hawaii.

Two blood tests also must be administered before and after the pet's arrival.

If all conditions in the decision are not met, an animal would have to be quarantined for 120 days.

The new rules would take effect by the middle of next month if approved by the governor.

Dr. Allen Miyahira, president of the Coalition for a Rabies-Free Hawaii, tried unsuccessfully in the meeting today to have the board reverse its decision, saying the University of Hawaii School of Public Health, UH School of Medicine and the Hawaii Medical Association were never asked for their expertise.

"This issue needs to be revisited," Miyahira said.

The board today also approved a change that would allow a state-approved lab, either in Hawaii or elsewhere, to do the second blood test. Earlier proposed rules required the second test be done by a state lab.

The state Health Department had expressed concern that the rabies virus could infect untrained lab workers in Hawaii and reach the animal population.

A 1996 Agriculture Department study held that the risk of rabies coming to Hawaii is four times higher now than it would be under the new plan.

Cayetano had urged the board to approve the new rules rather than wait to settle a dispute over the safety of testing for the rabies virus.

His compromise is to allow Hawaii's blood tests for rabies to be conducted at a mainland laboratory.

Citing examples of countries that have cut their quarantines without harmful results, supporters of the shorter quarantine period say the longer quarantine isn't necessary.

Opponents say it would leave the only rabies-free state in the nation vulnerable to contamination if owners use false documents to bring in animals.

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