Though it's relatively simple to bring pets into the United States from other countries and it's downright easy to go from one state to another, there is one exception that sometimes presents a challenge for pet travelers: Hawaii.
Because it's an island with stricter import laws (it's the only rabies-free US state), bringing pets to Hawaii requires a few extra steps.
Essentially, Hawaii has a "quarantine law" in place, but this doesn't necessarily mean your pet must be quarantined upon arrival.
If you follow the rules with your pet's paperwork and vaccines, they will be eligible to participate in what's called the "5-day-or-less" quarantine program. This program has a provision that allows direct release at the Honolulu airport after an inspection is conducted.
Here's what you need to know so that your pet can enjoy a simple and safe move to Hawaii.
We recommend that you start planning your pet move to Hawaii at least 150 days before your planned arrival date.
As with any pet move, you'll need an airline approved travel crate and should start working on crate training well before departure.
It's also important to choose a pet friendly airline. Read over these essential pet travel tips as you begin the process.
For import to Hawaii, pets must have been vaccinated at least twice in their lifetime for rabies.
These two vaccines must have been administered more than 30 days apart.
The most recent rabies vaccine should be valid and given at least 90 days before the day of arrival in Hawaii.
Pets must have a microchip to enter Hawaii and it must have been implanted before the OIE-FAVN blood test is performed (see below).
It is advised to have your vet scan the microchip to make sure it's working. If it can't be detected upon arrival, pets won't qualify for early/same day release.
OIE-FAVN Rabies Blood Test
Pets must undergo a rabies blood test to show that the rabies vaccine has been effective -- this test consists of a blood sample taken by your vet that is sent to an official lab (such as Kansas State University).
The test must be done at least 120 days and not more than 36 months from the time of arrival into Hawaii.
Keep a copy of the blood test for your records and make sure the lab sends the results directly to Hawaii.
Pets must complete a 120 day waiting period (this starts at the time the lab receives the blood sample) to be eligible for the 5-day-or-less program.
Original copies of the two most recent rabies certificates.
The vaccination certificates must have the vaccine name, lot or serial number, booster interval, vaccination date and vaccine lot expiration date listed.
An original health certificate.
Hawaii rules state that this must be obtained within 14 days of arrival in Hawaii but many airlines need it to be done within 10 days, so check ahead of time and plan accordingly.
The health certificate must also reflect that the pet has been treated for ticks (by a vet and with a product containing Fipronil) within 14 days of arrival.
A Dog and Cat Import Form AQS-278 (notarized)
Submission of Documents
Send all documents mentioned above to the Animal Quarantine Station at 99-951 Halawa Valley Street, Aiea Hawaii, 96701 more than 10 days before arrival (this allows the staff time to receive and review the documents).
If you don't send an original health certificate with the other documents before travel, this can be presented at the Airport Animal Quarantine Facility.
Submit fees by cashier's check or money order payable to the Department of Agriculture. The fee will be $165 per pet for Direct Release and $224 per pet for the 5-day-or-less program.
Make sure your pet's flight arrives by 3:30 p.m. in order to ensure same day release.
If pets don't meet the 5-day-or-less program requirements, they will be quarantined upon arrival for a period of up to 120 days depending on their status.
If you're planning to travel to another island, you can apply for direct release at Kona, Kahului or Lihue airports. The overall process is similar for pets going to these destinations, however documents must be submitted earlier and a private vet inspection must be scheduled.
Service dogs and pets coming from rabies free countries face different rules. For more information and if you have specific questions about quarantine rules not answered here, feel free to peruse the Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Information Brochure.
Worried about getting everything in order yourself? Consider hiring the assistance of a professional pet shipper with experience bringing pets to Hawaii to avoid problems and delays. (Here's an example of a pet owner whose cat had to be quarantined when she didn't quite get the timing right. It's not the end of the world, but it's not ideal, either.)