It’s now legal to import service and emotional support animals
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Repatriation Program is now allowing the import of Service Animals (SA) and Emotional Support Animals (ESA) into American Samoa via Hawaii, under new emergency rules adopted through the regulatory process through the American Samoa Administrative Code and it doesn’t require legislative approval.
The new rules come more than two months after a federal lawsuit was filed Apr. 23rd at the US District Court, Central District of California by a local resident who is a US National and identified in federal court documents as “Jane Doe”.
The lawsuit sought declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) against officials of the ASG COVID-19 Task Force in connection with ASG’s ongoing repatriation program.
The lawsuit claims that the ASG COVID-19 Task Force rule, which prohibits pets from entering the territory is discriminating against service animals and those local residents that genuinely require the assistance of Service Animals. (See Samoa News edition June 10th for details.)
The new emergency rules — Quarantine of Pets and Agriculture Products — shall be in full force and effect when they are filed with the Secretary of American Samoa (who is also the lieutenant governor), according to the 8-page document, which has the signature of Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua and Agriculture director Solia Mutini dated July 1st.
Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Va’alele Ale signed the new emergency rules on July 2, 2021 — which is also when the rules were officially adopted, according to the document, which was posted yesterday morning in the “Notice” section of the ASG website (www.americansamoa.gov).
The rules state that the Agriculture director and Health director finds that because of the on-going state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic there is an imminent peril to public health, safety and welfare which requires the promulgation of emergency rules, pursuant to local law, to protect the health and safety of the people of American Samoa from the COVID-19 and rabies that may be spread thru imported service animals and emotional support animals.
The document, also signed by Attorney General Fainu’ulelei Falefatu Ala’ilima-Utu, on July 2nd and two others also says that these Emergency Rules shall expire 120 days after they become effective or upon the promulgation of new rules, which supersede these emergency rules.
The new rules state that importation of SA and ESA into American Samoa via Hawaii shall follow applicable American Samoa laws, federal and Hawaii state laws, Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Department of Health (DoH) policies and requirements under the ASG repatriation program permitting the transport, inspection and quarantine of dogs, cats, etc into American Samoa.
The new rule also outlined requirements that must be met for all SA and ESA transiting through Hawaii as required by that state. Among the requirements, is that current rabies vaccines — not expired and not administered 30 or more days before arrival in Hawaii. Also required is a rabies vaccine certificate as well as Dog & Cat Import Form, to be provided 14 days before arrival in Hawaii.
The rule also require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection — also known as a Health Certificate — executed no more than 14 days before arrival in Hawaii. And SA and ESA are treated for ticks no more than 14 days before arrival in Hawaii.
The rule also outlined requirements on the Direct Airport Release (DAR) upon arrival at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.
The rules also detail several required documents and other information to be submitted in advance of arriving in Honolulu and as well as submission to DoH’s repatriation website. It also outlined reasons for any denial of transport of the SA to Pago Pago.
DAR is prohibited upon arrival in Pago Pago International Airport, according to the rule which states that DoA will not accept any dogs or cats into American Samoa unless the animal’s owner provides to DoA 14-days before arrival into the territory proof of rabies shot and a booster, which can be no less than three months apart and not more than one year apart and proof that the animal has been spayed or neutered.
Other provisions of the rule for entry into American Samoa states that ESA shall be quarantined with DoA for 3-5 days or until approved for release by DoA and DoH.
It also says that service animals, if repatriation requirements are fulfilled before traveling, are not to be separated from its handler during air travel from Hawaii to American Samoa unless the COVID-19 Task Force determines after advise from DoH and DoA that such separation is required to protect American Samoa public health and safety.
“DoH and DoA will work to ensure responsible accommodates are made for the SA while in quarantine,” it says.
Service Animals are defined in the rule — per the ADA — as any guide dog, signal dog, or another animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with disability cannot perform for him or herself.
The rule states in part that ESA animals provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
Additionally, the US Transportation Department does not recognize an emotional support animal to be a service animal. Furthermore, a pet is also considered an emotional support animal.
The adopted rules also touches on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying that based on available information to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
Additionally, more studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
“People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock and wildlife,” according to the emergency rules.
(Click on attachment below to download or view the entire document, along with the link to the ASG website, where it’s posted, with more specific details on requirements by the government. Also check on www.americansamoa.gov and click on notices to view the new rule Online link to the Emergency Rule 002-2021)
A local resident, who is a US National and identified in a federal court document as “Jane Doe”, filed in April this year, a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) against American Samoa Government officials in connection with ASG’s ongoing repatriation program.
A temporary restraining order was sought to prohibit the defendants (ASG) from enforcing a rule that excludes plaintiff’s service animals from entering American Samoa.
It was denied by the court with one of the issues raised by US District Court Judge John W. Holcomb in his denial decision, the local policy of not allowing service animals into American Samoa, saying that the plaintiff didn’t cite the specific “policy” in her motion.