Gov. David Ige on Wednesday approved new rules that will reduce the waiting period for pet owners wanting to bring their animals to the Aloha State.

The owners currently have two choices: physical quarantine of their animal for 120 days after arriving in Hawaii or following a strict protocol of rabies testing before leaving the mainland.

The new rules apply only to the latter option, known as the “5 Day or Less Quarantine Program.” Currently, owners could bring their animal to Hawaii after waiting 90 days from the last rabies vaccination and 120 days after a blood antibody test proves there is immunity against the disease.

Under the new rules, those owners will be able to bring their animals to Hawaii 30 days after the rabies antibody test and the requisite vaccinations.

Dogs at the Animal Quarantine. Halawa Valley. 15 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Dogs at the animal quarantine facility in the Halawa Valley. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“It is vitally important that we protect our state from the introduction of rabies, not only for animal health, but human health,” Ige said in a statement. “These quarantine rule changes have been researched to maintain adequate safeguards to keep rabies and other tick-borne diseases out of Hawaii.”

The new rules, first approved last spring by the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, go into effect Aug 31.

Department of Agriculture officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday about why the rules were changed.

Hawaii is the only state free of rabies, a disease that that kills 59,000 people worldwide each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no test that can tell whether a live pet has or does not have rabies.

In 2017, the 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 through the “5 Day or Less Quarantine Program.”

Under the new rules, fees to bring a pet to Hawaii increase by $20.

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