Plane & Pilot
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Ferry Dogs

Animal lovers go to great lengths to keep their beloved pets happy

I met him on the beach at Waikiki at the appointed time, we sat down to sumptuous steak and lobster, and he asked if I'd be interested in flying his two Afghan hounds in from the mainland. At the time, Hawaii had very strict quarantine laws regarding incoming dogs. The animals were required to be kenneled for four months to make certain they had no diseases, then pass a physical and finally be allowed onto the island, all at owner expense. No matter what the cost, most dog owners felt these oppressive regulations were inhumane and would rather leave their dogs on the mainland or place them in other homes rather than subject them to four months in jail at the Honolulu Airport.

The gentleman was a long-since-retired military pilot who occasionally hung around the airport, and he knew that ferry airplanes arriving from the mainland were never inspected. Delivery flights could land pretty much anywhere in the islands without inspection, since they were regarded as little more than domestic flights, albeit very long ones (2,160 nm).

Before I could suggest that no good deed goes unpunished and there was no way I'd risk fines and possible license penalties for smuggling his dogs into Hawaii, he commented that money was not an object and asked me what kind of airplane he should buy for the transport of his dogs. Incredibly, the dog lover claimed he wanted me to find him the proper airplane, buy it for him, make the round trip and sell the airplane after his Afghans were safely delivered to Oahu.

Just for fun, I decided to humor him to see if he was kidding. He wasn't. He'd made his fortune in the oil business in Louisiana, owned most of Baton Rouge for reasons only he understood, plus he had a home in Honolulu. The two dogs lived on his estate in Louisiana, and though he still had business interests in Louisiana, he acknowledged now that his wife was gone, he was semi-retired and the primary reason he maintained the mainland address was for his dogs.

Whoever said you can't buy happiness obviously never owned a puppy, and the Southern gentleman was so sincere and obviously a very serious dog lover that I couldn't help but sympathize with his situation. Though he understood the state of Hawaii's goal of keeping the islands disease-free, he wasn't about to let his beloved Afghans sit in pens for four months. He was almost tearful in describing how much he missed his dogs.

I didn't have the heart to turn him down cold. Instead, I took the easy way out. I took his card and told him I'd call him when I returned home, knowing I never would. I've always wondered if the Southern gentleman succeeded in moving his beloved Afghans from Louisiana to Hawaii without subjecting them to the quarantine.

Last year, I saw a story on CNN videotaped at the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture's airport impound facility suggesting the onerous rules regarding pet quarantine in Hawaii had been modified to allow dogs on the island after a comprehensive physical and a more reasonable two- to three-day quarantine. For those of us who are sappy about dogs and cats, it's refreshing that veterinary science has finally progressed to the point where animals fly in from the mainland in five hours, then not have to spend three percent of their lives enduring a quarantine.


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