Preparing cats and dogs for island life
As you’re planning your move to the Hawaiian Islands, you’re likely looking forward to leisurely walks on the beach with your dog or taking Instagram-worthy photos of your cat in your new home. And while those dreams are within reach, there are some important steps to take to ensure you’re not separated from your cat or dog for several months due to the state’s pet quarantine regulations. Fortunately, you can avoid a mandatory 120-day quarantine by preparing animal import paperwork early and making sure your pets have the vaccinations and blood tests required to enter the state.
Suggested reading: Check out our practical guide to moving with pets.
Rules for importing animals to Hawaii
Hawaii is strict about importing animals because the state is rabies-free — and the inhabitants want to keep it that way since rabies is typically fatal for domestic pets and the disease can be transmitted to people. The best way to protect your pets is to have them vaccinated, and it’s required for pets in Hawaii. But introducing new animals to the state requires a little more work than just getting them vaccinated.
5 steps for avoiding pet quarantine
You must meet the following requirements for each adult dog and cat you plan to bring to Hawaii to avoid a 120-day quarantine:
Have a microchip implanted
All dogs and cats must have a working electronic microchip implanted. Your pet will need the chip in place before they can have the vaccinations and blood test required to enter the state. Contact your vet for additional information about the process.
Show proof of two Rabies vaccinations
You’ll need records for two current rabies vaccinations administered by a licensed veterinarian no less than 30 days apart. The most current vaccine must be administered at least 30 days before the pet arrives in Hawaii. Keep in mind that puppies and kittens must be at least six months old to complete both doses of the vaccine..
Receive a successful OIE-FAVN blood test
Your vet must submit a sample of your pet’s blood to an approved lab for a FAVN (Fluorescent Antibody Serum Neutralization). This test is designed to show Rabies antibodies and must be completed more than 30 days (but less than three years) before arrival in the state.
Pass the mandatory waiting period
After your pet gets a successful OIE-FAVN test result, there is a mandatory 30-day waiting period before the animal can arrive in Hawaii. Test results are available through your vet’s office or the Animal Quarantine Microchip Search.
Submit paperwork and payment
Hawaii’s Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) requires all pet owners to complete and submit the following: Dog & Cat Import Form AQS-279, two rabies vaccination certificates (signed in ink by your veterinarian), OIE-FAVN test results and payment of fees. It’s best to submit the paperwork at least 30 days in advance and no less than 10 days before the animal’s arrival.
Note: Due to COVID-19, OIE-FAVN testing results might be delayed. Also, make sure to follow current travel guidelines if you’re required to quarantine.
Direct Airport Release
If your cat or dog qualifies (all 5 steps from above), they can leave the airport with you once they pass an entry inspection without having to quarantine. Not only is Direct Airport Release (DAR) the preferred option for most pet parents; but it’s also the cheapest (more about fees later). Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture provides detailed checklists based on your arrival airport:
- Checklist 1 for arrival in Honolulu
- Checklist 2 for arrival in Kona, Kahului or Lihue. (Also known as the Neighbor Island Inspection Checklist)
This program helps with pets whose owners can’t pick them up at the airport due to separate travel dates or if they miss the paperwork deadlines required for DAR (at least 10 days before the animal’s arrival).
For more information about the program, here are some FAQs.
Most people don’t want to be separated from their pets for months, but sometimes it’s the only option when you can’t meet the requirements for DAR or the 5-day-or-less quarantine.
Here are some reasons your cat or dog may be subject to the longer quarantine:
- The animal is too young to receive Rabies vaccine
- Don’t have the proper Rabies vaccines or paperwork
- No OIE-FAVN blood test
- Enter the state before the 30-day mandatory waiting period has passed for the blood test
- Are disqualified from DAR or 5-day-or-less programs for another reason
How much does it cost to bring my pet to Hawaii?
The Hawaii Animal Industry Division webpage lists the following fees (as of April 2023):
|Direct Airport Release||$185|
|Neighborhood Island Inspection Permit||$165|
|Early arrival for 5-Day-or-Less||$14.30/each day early + $244|
Note: No personal checks are accepted. For a quicker release, pay in advance with a cashier’s check or money order. You can also pay upon arrival at the Hawaii airport with cash, a traveler’s check or a VISA® or MasterCard®. These are individual prices per dog or cat, and full payment is required before your pet will be released. Fees are subject to change at any time.
Can I bring my puppy or kitten to the state?
Because puppies and kittens should be at least six months or older before they can meet the Rabies vaccine requirements, the Hawaiian government recommends waiting until they’re old enough. You can bring younger animals, but they will be subject to the 120-day quarantine.
What about my elderly or chronically ill pet?
Older cats and dogs and those with health problems may have trouble traveling or adapting to life in a new climate, so it’s generally not recommended to move them. Consult your veterinarian for specific concerns about your pet’s health.
Are there dog or cat breed restrictions?
According to the Hawaiian government animal quarantine information page “non-domestic dogs, cats, and hybrids such as wolf, wolf cross, Dingo, Bengal, Savannah, etc. are prohibited under Plant Quarantine Branch Laws.” And while not prohibited from entering the state, breeds that do best in colder climates (like Huskies) might not fare well in the tropical climate of Hawaii. Consult your vet for more info about your pet’s breed and adaptability to different climates.
Can I bring a non-domestic pet with me?
Mammals like ferrets, gerbils and hamsters, and reptiles like lizards, snakes and snapping turtles are prohibited from entering the state. For a complete list of prohibited animals, visit Hawaii’s animal guidelines website.
What happens to my pet when they arrive at the airport?
Airport personnel will take pets to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility (AAQHF) for inspection. Each pet will have a private indoor kennel and fresh water (food is provided at your request).
Animals arriving on flights after 3:30 p.m. must spend the night at the airport facility and will either be ready for release the next morning or taken to the Animal Quarantine Station (for animals who are not qualified for DAR).
Can I visit my quarantined pet?
Yes. Each quarantine facility will have posted visiting hours during which you can see your pet and attend to any grooming needs.
If you have questions about U-Pack® services or moving to Hawaii with pets, let us know in the comments.
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