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Old April 24th, 2003, 07:40 AM
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New pet law isn't all good

New pet law isn't all good

By Chris Loos/ Tribune-Herald

The Big Island's only animal quarantine substation will lose business if Gov. Linda Lingle ratifies new rules to shorten or eliminate rabies quarantine time for dogs and cats that enter Hawaii.

The state Board of Agriculture approved a proposal last week that would make it possible for owners who follow certain procedures to take their pets directly home from the airport or, at most, leave them in quarantine for five days.

Sarah Scanlon, owner of Bar - King Dog Kennels in Keaau, said the rules would be bad news for her quarantine business but good news for pets and their owners.

"It is difficult to have to put a pet through quarantine," she said. "There are people who don't even move here till their pets die."

Scanlon said people who move to Hawaii suddenly because of jobs or military service would still have to put their pets through a 30 - or 120 - day quarantine. She acknowledged that others would opt for the new system.

"It's not going to have a positive impact on our business," she said. "We won't be seeing the number of pets that we've been seeing the past five years."

The Keaau quarantine substation is tiny compared with the main Oahu station, which can accommodate nearly 1,500 pets. Bar - King Dogs' quarantine section has eight small dog rooms, 12 large dog rooms and 12 cat rooms.

The kennel also offers regular boarding for 37 dogs and 19 cats. Scanlon doesn't think the boarding part of the business would suffer much, even though travelers would have the option of taking their pets with them to the mainland rather than boarding them.

"If you're only going for a week, it's probably not worth the humbug," she said.

Scanlon said unforeseen factors often result in dogs staying at her boarding facility unexpectedly. For example, many newcomers to the Big Island don't realize how difficult it is to rent apartments or houses that allow pets, so they often end up boarding their dogs and cats until they can find a place that allows them.

Scanlon urges anyone who plans to bring a dog into Hawaii to make sure they know every detail of the new rules. "It can be very heartbreaking to fly over to Hawaii and find out you screwed up and now your dog's got to do 120 days of quarantine," she said.

The rules, approved by a 6 - 2 vote Thursday, require the pet to get its first of two rabies shots at least 180 days before its arrival into Hawaii. The dog or cat must wait 120 days after submitting a blood sample before entering the state and must have a microchip implant to verify its identity.

The fee for direct release from the airport would be $165, while a five - day stay would cost $224. That compares with $655 and $1,0890 for 30 - day and 120 - day quarantines.

A clerk at the Department of Agriculture said Friday that it will take time to work out the logistics necessary for starting the new rules, should they survive gubernatorial review.

Although those rules would hurt business at Bar - King Kennels, they could increase it at the few Hawaii hotels that allow dogs as guests.

Barbara Hicks, director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Orchid in South Kohala, said the new rules would allow mainland guests to take advantage of the Orchid's "pet friendly" policy.

Hicks knows what it's like to be separated from a loved pet. She moved from Canada to the Big Island in late February but can't get her soft - coated wheaten terrier into quarantine on the island until October because of a waiting list. She is encouraged by the proposed new rules.

"This is great news all around," Hicks said. "For me, personally, because I'm really looking forward to having my boy with me, and for the Fairmont Orchid because it opens up a whole new niche market for us - the traveler who wants to stay ... with their dog."

Mary Clarose, a Hilo dog exhibitor and breeder, said the new rules wouldn't make it any easier for people to import young dogs because of the 120 - day waiting period. "If you want to bring in a puppy, I don't think the new system will help you," she said. "In some breeds you can't bring in an older dog and expect to integrate it into your household."

Clarose is also worried that "rich people" from the mainland would be able to enter dog shows in Hawaii, increasing competition for local residents.

At the same time, Clarose is happy that the rules would make it easier for her to travel with her pets. "I'd love to go to the mainland," she said, "and go to doggy camp."
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