Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
From  Issue
17 February 2002
Pet Quarantine in Hawaii

By Linda Conway - [email protected] 

I am writing concerning Pet Quarantine. I am the wife of an active duty Army Chaplain, who received orders to report to the Island of Oahu on July 2, 2001. Because we have a daughter with many medical problems (including mental illness), our orders were held up while a review was made of her records to be sure the military medical system here would be able to handle her requirements. Thus we did not get our orders until April 7, 2001. Fortunately I spoke to our Vet (Dr. Evans, Ft. Belvoir, VA) concerning the possibility of Hawaii being our next duty station. She was quite upset, advising us that there is no medical reason for Hawaii's quarantine requirements. We then made the decision to start the costly medical requirements to qualify for the 1 month quarantine, even though we were not sure we would be coming here. I am so glad we did. If I had waited until my husband had orders, my furry friends would have spent 120 days in quarantine.

I would like to take a moment to talk about our dogs, They were both adopted from shelters. Chi-Chi, our 11 lb poodle mix, was badly abused, when we adopted her at 2 years old. We affectionately call her "Neurotica". We have spent 8 years loving and reassuring her and have been rewarded by a sweet loving companion who tries to do every and anything we ask. Itty Bitty, a 5lb Maltese, was found on the streets, about 5 years old. She was very aloof and totally withdrawn and very sick. We have spent the past five years gaining her trust and nursing her back to health. She became a vivacious fur ball, very affectionate and loving.

It was these two friends we placed in quarantine for one month. Neither one could understand why they could not be with us. Dogs are pack animals. They view their humans as part of their pack. We know from canine studies that there is nothing as stressful for a canine than to be totally isolated from the pack (that is why we have 2 dogs). With this in mind I asked that my dogs be placed together in one cage. I was initially told this was impossible. When I arrived the afternoon of July 3. I found my dogs in side by side cages. They could see, but not touch. Itty Bitty had scraped her front paws raw trying to dig out through the concrete flooring to get to Chi-Chi. Chi-Chi was hyperventilating and shaking. I said to the staff there at quarantine that this was unacceptable and that my dogs needed to be together. I was told that the staff would not enter a cage with more than one animal, but that I could do complete care and take care of my dogs myself. I agreed since I felt had no real choice due to what separate cages was doing to my animals medically and emotionally. From that point until August 1, 2001 I did everything. I cleaned, fed (I provided the food also) watered, groomed and had the dogs see the vet when they became ill. For my work and the rental of one 3 ft by 12 ft cage, I paid $1,310.00.

But that was not all. Itty Bitty developed diarrhea and vomiting within the first week. As she began to feel better, then Chi-Chi started to take sick. At the end of the third week, Itty Bitty developed an eye infection. My dogs had never before had diarrhea and vomiting like they did in quarantine. I was told by the workers it was from the change in the water. However as a military family, my dogs have moved and traveled across the Continental United States many times. Either Hawaii's water is far substandard to just about everywhere in the U.S or it was something else.

Another problem we encountered was that Chi-Chi would not use her kennel as a bathroom, which is required since the animal is not allowed outside the kennel. I was told to go buy a plot of grass, which we did so that Chi-Chi could use it. She did, and we found that we needed to keep it sprayed with insecticide, since the roaches also liked the moist grass in a plastic tray environment.

We found ourselves spending a lot of time sitting in this cage trying to reassure our dogs. We also noticed feral cats frequently around the area. Since they are unvaccinated, they carry many diseases as well as parasites such as ticks and fleas. These parasites were managed only by diligent grooming.

I was also very concerned that many cages contained old rusted benches and fencing, increasing the odds of injury to the animals and visitors. I saw staff going from one cage to the next feeding and cleaning, but NOT washing their hands. This unsanitary practice increased the chance of transferring infection from a sick animal to a healthy one. Also, the grass around the cages was not mowed regularly enough to keep the grass short. The high grass and the constant presence of water (from cage cleaning and rain) bred large numbers of mosquitoes (they were horrible!) and roaches.

As a "complete care owner" I was required to bring my own equipment in order to clean my dogs cages. I bought a stiff long handled brush, disinfectant, and hose nozzle. I was informed by a worker that I was to provide my own hose, despite the fact that a hose was present just outside the cage, a hose that many other owners used with no comment from the staff. I hit the roof and was then "allowed" to use the hose, but I had several run ins with this particular worker who insisted it was my job to make sure the hose was put back in a figure 8. This included her belittling comments as to why I was unable to put the hose back (please understand I was not the only dog owner cleaning my dogs' cage). On the other hand, I watched as barking or more aggressive dogs were hit with water spray if the workers felt like it. The level of care varied greatly depending on who was on duty.

While there, I watched as a little Yorkie in the next cage did not eat his food, while the birds invaded his cage and ate it for him. When I alerted the staff that he was not eating I was told he wasn't my dog. I watched and intervened as this little dog would run to the gate as a worker approached only to be hit with water spray because it was cleaning time (why not wait one moment, to let the little guy know the worker had a hose??) As soon as he realized they had the hose, he would run for his life to the back, but he was already wet and shivering from the cold water.

On the very first day of quarantine, my dogs had blood drawn for an OIE-FAVN test to prove they had an immunity to rabies (in other words their Rabies vaccination was working). The results of earlier administered tests were forwarded to the animal quarantine station before our arrival. Now they had drawn blood for a second verification. I was told the results of the second tests would be back in 10 days to 2 weeks. I asked if my dogs could leave after these results were received, but was told no. The staff said that all dogs must be in quarantine for 30 days to prove they do not have rabies. This is in spite of the fact that we had proof that that they did not have rabies, both upon arrival and after 2 weeks of quarantine. I do not understand why you keep an animal in a small cage even after you know they are rabies free (but not disease free due to the diseases in the quarantine station). This was very different than the spirit of Aloha that I have experienced elsewhere on O'ahu.

Because of this one month (I shudder to think what 4 months would have done) we are back to house training Itty Bitty and coaxing her to be petted. Chi-Chi left the station depressed and frightened, needing constant reassurance from us. All of this is not to mention the effect that quarantine has on our Bipolar I (a severe mental illness) daughter. We had to leave her with friends in the mainland until the 30 days were over.

Science has advanced much since the inception of Hawaii's antiquated quarantine rules. The "Pet Passport" system is almost four times safer than a 120 day quarantine. Common decency calls for no less that a modernization of Hawaii's laws. People no longer use leeches because of medical advances. Isn't it time for Hawaii to modernize its treatment of animals?

One of the toughest parts to this, is how many younger enlisted families are forced to give their animals up before being transferred to Hawaii, because they can not afford the fees involved in quarantine. As an officer's wife it was a sacrifice, but we could do it.

We are trying to change the quarantine Laws, but need help from anyone who is willing to add their name to our membership (there is no cost) and who are willing to let Hawaii know the world knows their dirty little secret. Our web address is: 

Thank you,
Linda Conway
Wahiawa, HI

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