By in Country Guides March 3, 2020

Starting a new life on one of the paradise islands of the Aloha State may be a dream come true. Still, it wouldn’t be quite as good if your faithful furry friend wasn’t there to keep you company, so moving to Hawaii with pets is the only real option on the table. Stay with us as we guide you through the hooks and bends of Hawaiian animal import rules.

The ecosystem is beautiful and perfect as a home, but fragile

Why Is Moving to Hawaii With Pets a Complicated Process

Sun, long beaches, tropical climate, and marvelous landscapes make a perfect background for long and happy walks with your pet after moving to Hawaii. However, unlike other US states, where moving with pets is nothing out of the ordinary, and you can bring in animals almost unrestrictedly, Aloha State puts a lot more procedures in place. And for a good reason.

Hawaii is the only rabies-free US state, and the authorities in Honolulu are determined to keep it that way. Strict regulation is imposed for the sake of the entire ecosystem since that disease is almost always fatal. There are a series of preconditions that specific animals have to meet to be allowed on the islands. For a full and detailed list, you should contact the state’s Department of Agriculture and get the latest information.

All in all, you should start preparations for relocation quite early to complete all the necessary tasks so that your cat or dog can go with you straight off the plane instead of spending time in quarantine. In any case, there is still a four-month period during which a pet’s considered quarantined, only now it doesn’t have to spend time in a holding facility. Time spent at home also counts.

Hawaii is the only rabies-free US state

What’s Not Recommended and What’s Prohibited

First of all, not all canine breeds are allowed on the islands, nor all species. Some are strictly prohibited from entering. For example, all non-domesticated dogs, cats, or horses, all snakes, many species of birds, squirrels, hamsters, and all poisonous or aggressive species of frogs, lizards, fish, or turtles are not allowed to enter the island state.

Know that bringing an illegal specimen of fauna into the Islands of Aloha can mean up to three years in jail and hefty fines. And when we say hefty, we are talking about some half a million dollars. Definitely not worth it.

In many brochures, the Hawaiian government advises against bringing a pet that is too old or too young. Puppies and kittens who haven’t yet come of age to be immunized for rabies will have to wait until they are, which can take months. Old animals may suffer from the trip. The same goes for any chronically ill animal. A pet with any specific medical requirements has to be registered.

Also, a pregnant pet will not be allowed in. If the pregnancy is discovered while you’re there, your furry friend will be put into a veterinarian facility, and you’ll have to pay for it.

Because of the climate on the islands, it is not recommended to bring along any breed of dog or cat that prefers colder weather.

Some pets aren't allowed in

Rules for Bringing an Animal to Aloha State

Now that we scanned through the list of which species you can’t or shouldn’t bring along, let’s deal with those that can.

The first crucial point is vaccination. It is a deciding factor in whether your furry friend will be eligible for Direct Airport Release (e.g., leave the terminal with you upon arrival), or if it will have to be quarantined. For the former to come into play, your pet has to have been vaccinated for rabies at least twice with more than a month between the shots. The first immunization has to have still been active when the second one was received, and the second one has to be active at the time of arrival. If any of those requirements aren’t met, your friend will have to stay quarantined at your expense until all preconditions are met. As we’ll see a bit later, that period can last for a couple of months.

The next step is taking a blood test, the so-called OIE-FAVN test. It checks how a pet’s immune system reacted to the vaccines, and it should be done at least three weeks after the second vaccine was administered. Waiting for a bit is recommended to give time for the antibodies to develop and therefore improve the chances of your furry friend passing the test. Once the test is successful, the results can be used for the next three years. There are two laboratories that perform those tests (one is part of the Department of Defense and the second belongs to Kansas State University), so contact them and ask for any information you might need. The labs will provide you with instructions to take to the vet, who will fill in the submission form for the testing. After that’s done, you’ll wait a few weeks for the results to arrive.

The third condition that relocation can’t proceed without is a microchip. Every animal entering Hawaiian isles has to be chipped. The chip should contain data on your furry friend, including the results of the OIE-FAVN test. Implantation of the chip is quick and painless and requires no sedation. Make sure with a vet that the chip is properly working. If it isn’t, the pet’s going to have to be quarantined for three months. If you have more than one pet, make sure to know identification numbers of all microchips and which chip belongs to what furry friend. In case you are moving internationally, you can order the right chip from relevant Hawaiian authorities.

It is essential to note that different entry points have a separate checklist of requirements. The airport in Honolulu has one set of terms. On the other hand, if you’re moving to Kona, Kahului, or Lihue, airports in those cities will ask for different things from you.

The final piece of documentation that you’ll need is the Dog & Cat Import Form. In it, you’re applying for either immediate release of your furry friend or one of the quarantine programs.

Crucial Step in Moving to Hawaii with Pets – Prepare Your Pet For a New Home

Once you have resolved all the paperwork and health issues, it’s time to prepare everything for the trip itself. When booking a flight, make sure that the airline has an excellent track record in carrying animals. Other things to think about are whether the particular airline has a flight to Hawaii during a specific timeframe, but also on which island it lands. When you’re moving with dogs or cats, it’s significant to know that Honolulu Airport’s rules on Direct Airport Release differ from airports on the other islands. In Honolulu, if your plane arrives after 3 pm, your furry friend won’t be able to get past inspection, and you’ll have to wait until the next day for its release.

Also, if possible, pick an airline that will allow your friend to travel in the cabin with you, rather than in a cargo hold.

The next thing on the checklist is the carrier. Contact the airline for information on the permitted size of the carrier or crate and other specifics. Take note, also, that not all canines and felines can endure being locked up in a cargo hold in the same way. Still, the carrier has to be waterproof and impossible to escape from, and yet with enough space for four-legged friends to lie down or move around.

After that, all that remains is to make sure that your companion is fed before the flight and safely boarded.

Relocating Pets Internationally: Pet Carrier
Preparations can last for many days, but you need to complete them all

Quarantine Options

Finally, the plane landed in the Paradise of the Pacific, and it’s time to face the port authorities. If your furry friend is eligible for immediate release, you should show the inspector the Neighbor Island Inspection Permit. With it, the pet’s going to go straight for the inspection, and if all documents are in order, it will be released. On the other hand, if something is missing, your friend will spend some time in quarantine. There are two types of those, they are administered depending on circumstances, and both are subject to fees.

5-Day-or-Less Program

5-Day-or Less is the option for those people who, for some reason, can’t immediately take their four-legged friends home, even though all vaccines and other documents are in order. Do note that once you pick up your friend from the facility, you can’t bring it back.

Full 120 Days Quarantine

A full period behind bars is reserved for puppies and kittens who are too young to receive two vaccines and those furry friends who, for any other reasons, lack vaccines and paperwork, or those whose microchip can’t be read. During that time, you’ll be able to visit your canine (or feline) in the Animal Quarantine Station. Visiting hours work pretty much as in hospitals, with a few hours to visit every day, except on Mondays, Fridays and holidays.

If you do everything properly, your animal companion will be free without a day in quarantine in Hawaii

Who Is Exempt from Quarantine Rules

There are two categories of exceptions to the general rules on quarantine. The first one is for cats and dogs that come from other rabies-free countries and territories. For now, those are Australia, New Zealand, British Isles (Great Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), and Guam. Furry friends from those places are exempt from requirements on vaccinations, blood tests, and microchips under the condition that they arrive on a direct flight. Also, you’ll have to provide a sworn statement that your furry friend hasn’t traveled abroad for at least half a year before arriving on any Hawaiian island. Additionally, the aircraft pilot will have to declare either that the animal was on only on the plane or to put in detail the circumstances of connecting flights. Also, the carrier has to be sealed for the entire duration of the trip.

The second one is for a guide or a service dog. The service animal has to be vaccinated against rabies, with inoculation active until the moment the canine arrives in the 50th State, and also a certificate from the vet, no less than two weeks old. The document must have the original signature of the vet on it and full information on the vaccine (manufacturer, serial number, expiration date, and the route by which it was injected).

Also, misrepresenting your dog as a service one is illegal on the Hawaiian islands, and can land you a civil penalty.

Some are exempt from rules when moving to Hawaiian islands

Enjoy the New Life With Your Furry Friend

After reading all this, you can’t be blamed if you’re wondering what kind of people live on the Hawaiian islands. Very pet-friendly, actually. Every single island will offer you and your friend days of endless fun. After a few days of roaming around the beaches and forests, the period of preparations (which is a drag, no doubt about it) will seem like a distant dream.

Word of caution, though. As with any other relocation, it wouldn’t be wise to let your four-legged friend on a free roam from day one. Let it explore new surroundings bit by bit. That way, both of you will enjoy your new life even more. So don your lei, and sip a colorful cocktail with your friend at your side.