New rabies quarantine rules go into effect Aug. 31

KAILUA-KONA – Gov. David Ige on Tuesday signed revised rules for the state’s rabies quarantine program, which prevents the introduction of the rabies virus into Hawaii.

The main changes reduce the waiting periods for those following the Five-Day or Less Rabies Quarantine Program, which allows pets to avoid actual physical quarantine in Hawaii by following a strict protocol of required rabies vaccinations and blood testing.

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The new rules go into effect on Aug. 31. They were approved by the state Board of Agriculture on May 29 after public hearings were held statewide.

Under previous rules, there was a waiting period of 120 days after the blood antibody (FAVN) test and a waiting period of 90 days from the last rabies vaccination before arriving in Hawaii. The new rules lessen those waiting periods to 30 days for both requirements.

This rule change only affects the Five-Day or Less program. Pets that do not comply with the requirements of that program are still subject to the full 120-day quarantine if transported to Hawaii.

“Many may not realize the importance of the quarantine program since we don’t have to worry about rabies because we live in the only state that is rabies-free,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the state Board of Agriculture. “Over the years, the Department of Agriculture has continuously considered ways to make the process less burdensome for pet owners, while preserving the integrity of the quarantine program.”

In 2017, the state Department of Agriculture processed more than 16,500 dogs and cats entering Hawaii, of which 90 percent were qualified to be released at the airport.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoon, skunks, bats, and foxes. However, in 2015, about 8 percent of the rabies cases involved dog and cats.

Under the Five-Day or Less program, pets may be released at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport if they complete all the pre-arrival requirements, which include:

– Two rabies vaccinations, with the last vaccination administered no more than one year prior to arrival if it was a one-year licensed vaccine, or no more than three years prior to arrival if it was a three-year vaccine. (The two vaccinations may not be administered less than 90 days of each other; and the most recent vaccine must be administered no less than 30 days prior to the pet’s entry into the state);

– Microchip implantation for identification purposes;

– Blood serum (OIE-FAVN) rabies test results with > 0.5 U/mil level of rabies antibodies;

– 30-day pre-arrival waiting period between the time the lab receives the blood sample and the earliest date the pet may enter the state under the program.

– Health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian no more than 14 days before arriving in Hawaii indicating the pet is not showing signs of infectious or contagious disease and was treated for external parasites (ticks and fleas);

– Found to be free of external parasites upon arrival inspection; and,

– Required paperwork must be received more than 10 days prior to the pet’s arrival.

Those traveling directly to Kahului, Maui; Lihue, Kauai and Kona must follow additional requirements for entry, which include:

– A Neighbor Island Inspection Permit issued by the Department of Agriculture must be showed to the airline and is required to fly a cat or dog directly to an approved neighbor island airport.

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– All procedures must be followed or the dog or cat will be denied entry at Kona, Kahului or Lihue airports. Pets that are denied entry will be transported to Honolulu for inspection or transported out-of-state at the owner’s expense.

For more information on the changes, visit http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/ai/aqs-info.

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