The governor signed new rules last month allowing pets arriving in Hawaii to pass through state quarantine in five days or less -- easing a strict system that required all cats and dogs be confined for at least one month.
Under the new rules, Hawaii residents for the first time ever will be able to travel with their pets and return to the islands without their animals being quarantined.
The regulation changes were hailed by many pet owners who criticized the previous system as an emotional and financial burden.
"It will change people's lives here," Gov. Linda Lingle said before hundreds of people participating in the Hawaiian Humane Society's PetWalk 2003 at Magic Island. "We were able to devise a system that allows pets to enter the state without quarantine and still provide the islands with a high level of protection from the introduction of rabies."
Hawaii's current quarantine was imposed in 1912 to prevent rabid animals from entering the then territory. Revised rules adopted in 1997 ordered two rabies vaccinations and a 90-day waiting period before arrival in Hawaii and at least 30 days of confinement once the animal arrived in the state.
Under the new rules, pet owners hoping to bring their animals into Hawaii with reduced confinement lengths must meet a number of qualifications, including two rabies vaccinations, microchip implantation for identification and blood serum test results.
The prospect of shorter separations between owners and their pets was met with cheers by a crowd of animal lovers toting everything from a dachshund in a visor, to a scarlett macaw that gave high-fives, to a Portuguese water dog adorned with a red, white and blue lei.
Even Lingle allowed herself to be licked on the face by her canine constituency.
Officials estimate about half of the pets arriving in Hawaii -- some 4,681 were brought here last year -- would be eligible for the shorter quarantine. The rest would be subject to existing rules, which call for animals to be confined for 30 days if immunization and testing requirements are met, or 120 days if they are not.
The new rules could also ease the financial strain on pet owners. If a pet qualifies for direct release from the airport, the fee is $165; $224 if it requires up to five days of quarantine. The cost of the 30- and 120-day quarantine programs is $655 and $1,080.
The new rules took effect June 30.