The Issue is Rabies

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The issue isn’t how good or bad quarantine conditions are; that’s secondary to the issue of whether quarantine is necessary for properly, currently, plurally, rabies-vaccinated and microchip-ID’d dogs and cats.

The facts are that rabies vaccines/vaccinations are safer and more effective than any quarantine of any length (except, obviously, the lifetime of the animal). Hence quarantine, however nice or not, is not necessary for a properly vaccinated animal.


If, therefore, quarantine is not necessary, then all the bad conditions and abuses against unnecessarily quarantined dogs and cats, and their owners, is criminal and subject to rightful prosecution.

We owe our status as rabies-free not to quarantine but to responsible pet owners whose animals are healthy and usually vaccinated against rabies anyway. Before the 30-day quarantine was begun in 1997 they had to do 120 days regardless of their vaccination status.

Those still going through 120 days are animals whose military owners didn’t get their orders in time to qualify their animals according to the specific vaccination schedule stipulated by the 30-day quarantine, and those whose animals “fail” the post-arrival blood test, performed here, and the only one the animals fail. They’re all required to pass a pre-arrival blood test performed at only two specified labs on the mainland (one for civilians, one for military).

Our State Vet is dropping the second blood test; that new regulation goes into effect not soon enough. In the meantime, perfectly healthy, rabies-free animals are being shunted into the 120-day program for failing the state’s blood test. Hmm.

Our State Vet also has admitted that the blood tests are useless and unnecessary — except that we — the people of Hawaii — are so ignorant and fearful that it must be kept to soothe our fears and reassure us that the animal is rabies-free.

The blood test can only show that there are antibodies to rabies in the blood stream. It cannot tell whether the animal has been exposed and is incubating the disease or has been immunized. But it soothes us and reassures us to see those antibodies. Uh, huh.

Quarantine is a merely reactive measure to chart a possibly developing disease and then isolate it if it is positive. And our quarantine has a reliability rating of only 78 percent at 120 days. 30 days is 32 percent. Less is 0 percent.

About 175,000, plus or minus, dogs and cats have come through our quarantine system since 1912. Since the early 1990s, we average about 4,006 dogs and cats through our system annually. We’re overdue, according to our State Vet, who calculated that we should expect at least one case of rabies through our quarantine system every 86 years.

Rabies vaccines are a proactive means to prevent, control, and eradicate rabies, recommended unanimously for those purposes and goals by all international and national rabies experts and public health officials. Rabies vaccinations have a record in the U.S. of 1 questionable failure in over 300,000,000. I am not aware of any documented records of true vaccination failures internationally.

Do we really want to maintain quarantine? Are we really debating a public health issue or a tired tradition?

”’Catherine Robinson is a resident of Waipahu.”’