Hawaii’s Quarantine System Must be Modernized-An Open Letter to Gov. Lingle

article top

Aloha Gov. Lingle,

I know you have many pressing issues that are deemed much more important than changing the current pet entry procedures and quarantine requirements.


However, you can make a difference to an extremely large number of your constituency with the stroke of a pen. You can override the Agriculture Department’s proposed change for quarantine for qualified pets. You can approve Ruby’s Law now and lead the way to make Hawaii a welcome place for our beloved pets. I know that you understand the heartbreak that our antiquated, unnecessary quarantine system causes.

But it seems that this issue has always been about power and money. One of the objections State Veterinarian Foppoli has with Ruby’s Law seems to be “money.” He can’t seem to figure out where the money will come from to staff people at the airport to scan incoming pets and match their health records to their microchip scan. How ’bout the people he won’t need any longer to staff the quarantine station? Move them to the airport, which already has a quarantine area.

I figure it would take less than five minutes to scan and match records per animal. He says it will take five days. And the Agriculture Department hearings will go on all the way through March, and then the Attorney General has to hear it … and then the Department of Agriculture says it will need even more time. The DOA proposes that after their hearings, there will be a five-day hold and a 120-day wait for qualified pets. And maybe that will happen in
2004. This is unnecessary, illogical, a power-play and absolutely absurd. Ninety-one years should be enough time. Hawaiian time has never been ”’that”’ slow. We can’t wait any longer. We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. Logic and intelligence and scientific fact must take precedence over greed, ignorance, fear of the unknown, and power.

I know that eliminating the quarantine for qualified animals will increase business and improve our economy. But there are always some people who are afraid of change, afraid that they will lose their power and won’t be needed anymore no matter how positive the change.
Following is my testimony in the hopes that, if you have any adversarial thoughts, it might change your mind. It begins with an open letter I wrote to then Gov. Cayetano in 1997, which is followed by a current piece in memory of my two parti-color cocker spaniels, Ace and Deuce.

I would like to be able to send a new open letter of thanks to you within the next few days. Please show your aloha, show that you do indeed care about the people of Hawaii, people like me and my family. We live in Hawaii, we work in Hawaii, and we vote. Please show us the intelligence we know you have. Use your heart and your power to end quarantine as we know it. ”’It’s Time.”’

June 1997 – an open letter written to then Gov. Cayetano.
A Dog’s Eye View by Ace Williams

Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Ace Williams. My brother Deuce and I live in a house with a nice yard in Lanikai. There are only a few steps to walk down to get to the back door. Once I was able to run down those steps without touching them. I was pretty good at high jumping, too. Today, I can no longer do simple things like running and jumping. Walking on the beach is a struggle.

You see, when I first came to Hawaii, I was put in jail for four months. Now don’t get upset. I didn’t do anything wrong. The only thing I ever hurt was a flea (and, I never saw one of those until I came to Hawaii). I’m just a 32-pound, black and white cocker spaniel who likes to be petted and played with. And, as I said, I used to like to run and jump . oh yes, and chase birds.

The four months in prison (quarantine) did me in. I was not allowed to go for walks. I was not allowed to run across an open field or chase a ball more than four feet. Over the long, four months, my legs atrophied somewhat. When it rained, the cement floor stayed damp, and I stayed damp. It takes a long time for my long hair to dry. My brother Deuce had other problems. His ear got infected from the moisture. By the time he got out of quarantine and was able to see a regular vet (the vet at the quarantine station said there
was nothing wrong with Deuce), his mouth was drooping and his eye wouldn’t blink. Although the ear infection was treated, and his eyes work again, his mouth still droops a little. I didn’t fair as well. Oh, I was okay for a short time after I got out of that awful place, but then, one day when I tried to jump, a disc slipped in my spine — weakened by non-use, and I could no longer stand up, no less climb stairs or jump up on the bed to sleep with my people-family. Then I started to get arthritis in my knees. With treatments from both the acupuncturist and chiropractor I know, I can stand again — not perfectly, but I can manage to scoot around. I can no longer run
and jump, although I have managed — with a boost from my people family members — to walk up and down the four steps in our family room. By the way, I’m only 5 years old.

You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with anything. The reason I am writing this is to say thank you to Gov. Cayetano for
signing the bill to reduce the quarantine for qualified dogs and cats to 30 days. I would also like to thank all the people who worked so hard for so many years to make this happen. The ideal situation would be zero days, but I will not look a gift horse in the mouth. (As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t look any horse in the mouth.) So I say to all the people that had anything to do with reducing the quarantine time, mahalo.

One more thing, all of my species will appreciate your humanity if you keep working to end quarantine for my relatives who will be coming to Hawaii in the future. I would not have had my back and leg problems and Deuce would not have his ear problems if we weren’t quarantined. Like Deuce and I, other dogs and cats will have their required rabies vaccinations. They will have their ID microchips. They will be free of diseases and parasites like we were. They will not endanger the people of Hawaii. They will only bring pleasure.

Please do not subject any more dogs and cats to the deadly
pesticides used in quarantine, to the debilitating diseases, and the trauma.

Please do not separate them from their people families. It breaks too many hearts.

Although Ace and Deuce crossed to the Rainbow Bridge a year ago, their quest to end quarantine is still being sought.

Today, I write this in their memory. Much has changed in the last six years. There is scientific proof that the latest vaccines for rabies are more effective than any quarantine system. There is no logical reason for Hawaii to continue its quarantine system as it stands. It is time to bring our system into the 21st century. It is time to welcome visitors traveling with pets with true aloha. It is time that kamaaina be allowed to travel to the mainland with their pets and be allowed to return without placing them in quarantine. It is time to allow business people to travel back and forth with their pets. It is time to stop punishing members of the military because they move to Hawaii without much notice. We should be thanking our lucky stars that they are stationed here. We shouldn’t be punishing them by
taking their pets and incarcerating them in quarantine. It’s no secret that members of the military must have their pets vaccinated. It’s a military requirement.

Ninety-one years of quarantine has resulted in no rabies cases. It isn’t quarantine that is keeping Hawaii rabies free. It’s science. It’s people who take care of their pets. It’s common sense. Eleven years ago, when I asked why my dogs had to be quarantined since they had had all their shots as required since they were tiny pups, I was told that I could be lying. There was no way that anyone could tell if the medical records I presented belonged to my dogs.

Today, we have microchips so that argument doesn’t work.

Some people ask why I care anymore. I no longer have a personal interest. Oh, but I do. The quarantine system is preventing me from holding my 5-month-old grandson. My daughter and her husband live in New York City in a tiny apartment with my new grandson and their three miniature dachshunds.

They would like to move to Hawaii and start a business here. But they won’t move here until they can get off the airplane with their baby boy and their three pups. They will not move here if they are forced to put their dogs in quarantine for even one day. They know the pain, the trauma, the horror.

They know that dogs die in quarantine — dogs that were perfectly healthy when they entered the system.

Would someone please tell me how three tiny dogs, who have had all the proper vaccinations, who have lived in an apartment in NYC all of their lives could possibly have rabies? I have lived in cities and the country. I have lived in cities and towns coast-to-coast on the mainland, and in all my years I have never heard of anyone who had rabies or seen a rabid animal.

It’s time! Please turn Ruby’s Bill into fact, so I can hold my grandson every day — so nobody else has to suffer needlessly, so no dog or cat has to be separated, unnecessarily, from its family and no family has to leave the quarantine station seeing pleading eyes, hearing the cries of a lonely, sad and frightened pet ever again!

”’Carol Williams is a resident of Kaneohe.”’