Traveling with a pet to Hawaii may seem like a fun thought, but chances are you have no idea of what you're getting into. If you're talking about a cat or dog, it's possible, but not at all easy. If you're talking about some other type of animal, it's close to impossible.
Most will advise you to not bring your pet on your trip to Hawaii. There are also regulations applying to service animals that may surprise you.
Why Not Bring Your Pet?
Hawaii has a special quarantine law that is designed to protect residents and pets from potentially serious health problems associated with the introduction and spread of rabies. Hawaii is unique in that it has always been free of rabies, and is the only state in the United States to be rabies-free. It wants to remain that way.
There have been scares and in 1991 a bat found in a shipping container from California was determined to be rabid, but it was captured and destroyed without incident.
Should You Bring Your Pet?
The requirements of the quarantine law are very complex and potentially expensive. But forgetting the quarantine issue, most people would subject their pet to at least a five-hour flight in the cold luggage compartment of a plane. If you're coming from the east coast, you're talking 10-12 hours. Add to that there are very, very few pet-friendly hotels in Hawaii and common advice, once again, is to leave your pet at home with a pet sitter.
What If You Are Moving to Hawaii?
If you are going for an extended stay or are moving to Hawaii, as do many military families, then you'll need to comply with the quarantine procedure and to do so you'll need to start well before your move—at least four months. While that seems excessive, keep in mind Hawaii's quarantine law is not for your convenience. It's for the safety of Hawaii's people and animal population.
Revised Quarantine Regulations
There are new rules for the Rabies Quarantine Program in effect as of August 31, 2018. The changes include:
- Minimum waiting period after a successful FAVN rabies antibody test before arriving in Hawaii was 120 days and now it has been reduced to 30 days.
- Minimum waiting period after most recent rabies vaccination before arriving in Hawaii was 90 days and now it is 30 days
- The fee for a Direct Airport Release was $165 and is now $185. A fee of $244 for each dog or cat released at the airport will apply when documents are not received 10 days or more before arrival.
- Quarantine fee for 5 days or less was $224 and now is $244.
- The Dog and Cat Import Form, AQS-278 has been revised and now is AQS-279 with a date of August 2018.
- Fortunately, because this is complex, the checklists have been revised. There are four new Checklists dated August 2018.
The Quarantine Law and Forms
It's rather complex, and so it will be necessary to carefully review the State of Hawaii's Department of Agriculture's website where you can get all of the details and necessary forms.
Basically, depending on when or if you complete the required steps of the 5-Day-Or-Less quarantine requirements prior to your arrival in Hawaii, your pet may be directly released to you at the airport or held for up to 30 days at your expense.
If you seek a direct release of the pet at the airport, you must submit the required original documents so that the State receives the paperwork at least 10 days prior to your pet's arrival. Even if you complete all of the paperwork, but it is not received at least 10 days prior to your pet's arrival, your pet will be quarantined for up to 5 days.
Pets that are not directly released under the 5-day-or-Less quarantine will be taken to the main Animal Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley on Oahu. If a pet stays between 0 and 5 days, the cost will be $244. There is an additional per-day charge for longer stays.
Types of things to Do at Home to Prepare
Your pet will have needed at least two rabies vaccinations and be current on them. The second vaccination must be done at least 90 days before arrival in Hawaii.
Your cat or dog must have an electronic microchip implanted.
Your pet will need to have had an OIE-FAVN Rabies Blood Test not more than 36 months and not less than 120 days before the date of arrival in Hawaii.
Numerous documents must be completed by you and your veterinarian and submitted to the State.
The Requirements Can Get Harder Still
All this assumes you're flying into Honolulu and staying on Oahu. If you're flying to the Kona on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai or Kahului on Maui, things are a bit more complicated because the Port of Entry is Honolulu.
There are also special rules for guide dogs and service animals.