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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006

Talks to start on Quarantine Center land

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jonathan Tanjoco, 13, brushes the teeth of Shona, one of his family's two Rhodesian ridgebacks being kept at the state's Animal Quarantine Station. With fewer animals needing quarantine under rules passed in 2003, much of the land at the Halawa center is no longer needed.

Photos by RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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More information about bringing pets into Hawai'i can be found under "Hot Links" at the agriculture department's Web site, www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa

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A cat at being quarantined at the state Animal Quarantine Station in Halawa takes advantage of wooden cat platforms and ramps to scratch and get a closer look at visitors.

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A sign at the Animal Quarantine Station underscores Hawai'i's efforts to keep the state free of rabies. However, new rules have left much of the facility unused, and the state hopes to find other uses for the site.

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Negotiations are to begin as early as next week over the terms of a lease that would allow the Hawaiian Humane Society to use a portion of the state's Animal Quarantine Center in Halawa.

"We basically have to determine what is to be done with the contract," said Isaac Maeda, program manager for the state's rabies quarantine branch. "We are planning to sit down with department personnel and the Humane Society hopefully next week to discuss everything."

Just over 5 acres of the facility became available after laws that had required pets to be quarantined for four months upon arrival in the state were changed in 2003, allowing more than 85 percent of animals entering Hawai'i to bypass a long stay at the center.

Three agencies, including the Hawai'i Dog Foundation and the Obedience Training Club of Hawai'i, submitted proposals for use of the land. The Humane Society's proposal, which, unlike the other two, called for use of all the available space, was approved in August.

The Humane Society would update the shelters for animals, put in an off-leash dog park and an agility course, and build a multipurpose facility for classes and groups.

Legislators passed a law during the past session allowing for an outside group to use the facility. Gov. Linda Lingle signed the measure in late June.

As it passed through the Legislature, wording was added to the bill that required the property be leased at "fair market value."

Maeda said an appraisal of the area was completed in November.

Thursday, he said he would not release the amount of the appraisal.

"That information is not available at this time," he wrote in an e-mail.

Maeda said he would not speculate about whether the fair market value at the facility, as determined by the appraiser, would be affordable to the Humane Society.

Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said the cost of the lease will be a "critical factor" to the society's ability to move forward with its plans, but that she, too, would be unable to speculate on the outcome of the negotiations.

"It just takes time to move through the process," she said.

She said the Humane Society hired an engineering firm to look at infrastructure expenses for information to be used in the negotiations.

Should the negotiations fail, Renita Chang, president of the Hawai'i Dog Foundation, said her organization still would be interested in using a small part of the area.

"Oh, absolutely," she said. "We were very disappointed when we heard we were not selected."

Several officers with the Obedience Training Club of Hawai'i said they probably would not pursue use of the facility if proposals were requested again.

Ron Stebbins, a trainer for the club and a volunteer for the Hawaiian Humane Society, said he thinks the society performs valuable services for the state and should be given a lease at a very low rent.

"Anything more than a dollar for 50 years is too expensive," he said.

The space at the state's Animal Quarantine Center became available once changes were made to the quarantine system.

Instead of quarantine, owners must show that necessary testing, vaccinating and observation had been done before the pet's arrival. Pets also must be fitted with a microchip.

Only those pet owners who need to move to Hawai'i too quickly to fulfill the necessary steps to avoid quarantine and those whose pets have physical problems that muddy the test results now leave their pets at Halawa.

Marybelle Tanjoco, who recently moved from California to 'Ewa Beach with her children and their two dogs, had one pet that passed the tests and one that didn't. Both Rhodesian ridgebacks are in quarantine at Halawa because the Tanjoco family couldn't bear to separate the animals.

"If we take him home she'd be looking for him and he'd be looking for her," Tanjoco said earlier this week as her children brushed the dogs' teeth, cleaned their ears and changed their bedding.

Salote Mannering, operations supervisor at the facility, said this week that the number of pets quarantined in Halawa dropped from about 1,700 under the previous law to 350 under the new standards.

Reach Karen Blakeman at kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.