Pet quarantine requirements slashed

Gov. Linda Lingle today greatly reduced the length of time pets are required to be held in quarantine when brought into the state. With the appropriate vaccinations and paperwork, animals can now be cleared in five days or less — perhaps discharged directly from the airport. Hawaii’s pet quarantine law — previously requiring the detention of animals for one to three months — is one of the most contentious barriers for people coming to Hawai`i with pets. Designed to keep the islands free of rabies, critics have long said the law is overly strict and brings unneccessary stress and expense.

“I am very pleased that we were able to devise a system that allows pets to enter the state without quarantine and still provide the islands with a high level of protection from the introduction of rabies,” Lingle said. “I have heard from many responsible pet owners who realize the importance of keeping Hawai`i rabies-free, and they are excited about the new rules.”

Lingle said the new system will effectively end quarantine for half of the pets arriving in Hawai`i. Last year, about 75 percent of arriving pets qualified for the existing 30-day program.

Under the program announced today, pets may be released within five days or less if they have had documented rabies vaccinations, are implanted with identification microchips, and pass a follow-up blood test. It still requires advance planning, however, as pets must pass their initial blood test at least 120 days before arriving in Hawai`i.

“The staff at our Animal Industry Division is working to make the arrival procedures as seamless and stress-free as possible,” said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture. “To help facilitate expeditious release of arriving pets, we encourage pet owners to be diligent in complying with the requirements and submitting the necessary documents in a timely manner.”

The board has developed a preliminary checklist to assist pet owners in qualifying their pets for the 5-day-or-less program, but warns would-be travelers that the procedures are still being developed. The program is expected to be implemented July 1.

The cost for the 5-day-or-less quarantine will be $165 if the pet qualifies for release from the airport and $224 if the pet must be held for up to five days. The cost of the existing 30-day and 120-day quarantine programs will remain at $655 and $1,080, respectively.

The new rules allows Hawai`i residents to travel with their pets and return to the state without quarantine if they follow proper procedure before leaving.

Additionally, Guam has been added to the list of other rabies-free areas from which dogs and cats can arrive without any quarantine requirements. Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain are already exempt.

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