BY ANDREW PERALA/ West Hawaii Today and The Associated Press
Family pets, cats and dogs, may no longer have to be quarantined for up to 120 days upon arrival in Hawaii after a deal was reached during administrative hearings Thursday between the state Board of Agriculture and legislators, announced state Sen. Fred Hemmings, R - Oahu.
The new rules must pass review by the state Attorney General's office, Department of Budget and Finance, and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism before being sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for final approval, said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Department of Agriculture chairwoman.
The Board of Agriculture voted 6-2 to approve the five-day-or-less rabies quarantine proposal that would essentially eliminate quarantine for pets whose owners follow specified procedures, she said.
Under the new rules, pets could enter Hawaii with proof of two rabies vaccinations, insertion of a microchip, presentation of blood-serum tests and a 120-day pre-arrival waiting period from the time the state receives the blood samples and the first date the pet would be eligible to enter Hawaii without undergoing quarantine.
Pets could be released within five days or less, ideally at Honolulu International Airport, depending on the time it takes owners to provide all the information regarding pre - arrival requirements, the Department of Agriculture announced.
Hemmings had proposed a total elimination of the quarantine, which places pets in isolation for up to three months at the owner's expense, said Carina Tagupa, communications coordinator for the Senate Minority Research Office.
But that initiative failed, she said, and a compromise was reached Thursday afternoon.
"This program safeguards Hawaii's rabies - free status," Kunimoto said.
"And the exciting thing for Hawaii pet owners is they could actually travel to the mainland for a dog show or whatever and then come back in without (the animal) being quarantined," she said.
The current 30-day and 120-day quarantine programs would remain in effect for when the new requirements aren't met.
The fee for the direct release of a pet from the airport would be $165, but $224 for up to five days of quarantine.
The cost of the 30-day and 120-day quarantine programs remains $655 and $1,080, respectively.
Hawaii's strict quarantine was imposed in 1912 to prevent rabid animals from entering the islands. Today, Hawaii is the only rabies-free state in the nation.
In 2002, more than 4,600 animals spent time in the state's quarantine stations, Kunimoto said.
Lingle praised the move Thursday.
"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," she said.
The governor noted residents who complete pre-arrival requirements and submit all required documents in a timely manner would be allowed to travel with their pets and return to Hawaii without the animals being quarantined.