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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 11, 2003

Bill to end quarantine expected

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Republican lawmakers plan to introduce a bill eliminating the quarantine requirement for pets entering Hawai'i, dubbing it "Ruby's Law" in memory of a miniature pinscher that died in quarantine last November.

At a news conference that included about a dozen dogs and their owners, Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Portlock), called the quarantine program "archaic and useless" and a way of collecting fees to support state bureaucracy.

"We think that there's adequate means to inoculate dogs and have safety precautions to keep Hawai'i (disease-free) as other jurisdictions are doing, without quarantine," Hemmings said.

Rep. David Pendleton, R-49th (Maunawili, Enchanted Lake, Kane'ohe), who will introduce the bill in the House with Rep. William Stonebraker, R-17th (Hawai'i Kai, Kalama Valley), said the bill fixes the obsolete quarantine law and protects families with pets from confinement charges. "It is time now that we use vaccination to allow the pets to go home with their families right away because vaccines are safe. Quarantine is based on 1912 science."

Susan Tartaglia carried a small plastic bag containing Ruby's ashes. She said she believes that the 3-year-old pet therapy dog died from pesticide poisoning while in quarantine after Tartaglia moved here from Boston in November.

She said she supported abolishing the quarantine law.

"I don't think it's necessary. Ruby had never been outside without a leash, with me at all times. She went to the vet religiously. There's no way this little dog had rabies, there's absolutely no way," Tartaglia said.

"From what I understand, as long as they're vaccinated and they can prove that they're vaccinated, that's all that's necessary."

State Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi said the department could not comment without seeing the bill, but noted the Board of Agriculture has approved a proposal for public hearing that would reduce the confinement period to five days, rather than the 30- to 120-day quarantine period. A public hearing should be scheduled in the near future, she said.

The five-day period was approved after a peer review by rabies experts from outside the state, Saneishi said.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo), chairwoman of the Water, Land and Agriculture Committee, said she would be willing to give the bill a hearing. She said she would like to hear from stakeholders such as the state Agriculture and Health departments.

While she did not know whether she would support getting rid of quarantine entirely, Inouye noted she previously supported reviewing the number of days pets are required to spend in quarantine, especially in light of the problems the quarantine law causes for military people.