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How to Take a Dog or Cat to Hawaii and Avoid Quarantine

January 31, 2020 3 Comments

How to Fly with Your Dog In-Cabin To Hawaii

A few years ago Mike and I (Steph) considered visiting Hawaii with our dachshund Django (@djangothegent). I imagined Django's stubby little sausage dog legs sprinting down Kauai's iconic Hanalei Beach and immediately went into research mode. I skimmed over Hawaii's strict pet import and quarantine requirements, came to the *wrong* conclusion that Django would have to fly via cargo and be quarantined upon arrival, and prematurely tossed out our dream of vacationing in Hawaii with Django.

A few years ago I incorrectly assumed that all dogs visiting Hawaii from the continental U.S. must (1) fly in cargo (2) be quarantined upon entry into the state. I now know I was mistaken on both counts! After more extensive research, we are happy confirm that dogs can indeed fly in-cabin to Hawaii and avoid quarantine.

Are you looking to fly in-cabin with your dog or cat to Hawaii without the risk of quarantine? Here is everything you need to do before you arrive in Honolulu.

Why is the Hawaiian government strict about pet travel to Hawaii?

If you are a dog or cat owner, you are likely very familiar with rabies vaccinations. In the United States, almost every state requires domesticated dogs and cats be vaccinated for the virus. Hawaii is the one exception.

Hawaii is the only state in the United States that is rabies-free. Because rabies poses zero threat in Hawaii, the Hawaiian state government does not require pet owners to vaccinate their four-legged family members for the virus. Why vaccinate your pup for a viral disease that doesn't exist in the surrounding environment.

Because Hawaii is rabies-free, the Hawaiian government is extremely strict when it comes to four-legged tourists. Dogs and cats traveling to Hawaii from states and countries where rabies exists must follow strict protocols to ensure they do not introduce rabies into Hawaii's unique ecosystem.

Hawaii's quarantine requirements for dogs and cats

To prevent rabies from entering the state, the Hawaiian government requires that dogs and cats be quarantined upon arrival. Before you freak out, know that there are three quarantine options for travelers: the 120-day quarantine program, the 5 Day Or Less quarantine program, and the direct release program.

We're going to skip over Hawaii's 120-day quarantine program - up to 4 months of quarantine is obviously a non-starter for us and Django! - and mainly focus on the direct release program.

Direct Release vs. 5 Day Or Less Quarantine Programs

Hawaii's Direct Release quarantine program (aka Direct Airport Release or DAR) allows your dog or cat to fly into Hawaii and be released from the airport on the same day as arrival. Your pet will be examined by the Animal Quarantine Station upon arrival (or within a few hours of arrival) and will not be quarantined overnight. In order to qualify for the Direct Release quarantine program, you must ensure your airplane's arrival time is within the Animal Quarantine Station daytime office hours.

To avoid any confusion, the Direct Release quarantine program is technically part of the 5 Day or Less quarantine program. Additionally, the pre-arrival requirements are the same for the Direct Release and 5 Day Or Less quarantine programs.

What then is the difference between the Direct Release and 5 Day Or Less quarantine programs? The 5 Day or Less quarantine program covers arriving dogs that arrive outside the Animal Quarantine Station's office hours. As the title of the program suggests, pets are quarantined for no more than 5 days.

Is there a quarantine fee?

Yes. Hawaii's Direct Release quarantine program costs $185 per pet. The 5 Day Or Less quarantine program costs $244 per pet. Pet owners are required to pay the fee prior to arrival, and there are no discounts for multiple pets.

Guide dogs for the blind and certified service dogs do not have to pay this fee. Active duty U.S. military members may also qualify for fee reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Defense.

How can my pet qualify for Direct Airport Release?

There are several pre-arrival requirements that must be completed to qualify for Hawaii's Direct Airport Release. We outline every pre-arrival requirement below. Before skimming those, keep in mind that you and your pet (1) must be flying into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Oahu (2) must arrive during the Animal Quarantine Station's normal inspection hours between 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM (3) must send all completed documents to the Animal Quarantine Station at least 10 days before your arrival.

Pre-Arrival Requirements for Direct Airport Release

1. Microchip identification. All dogs and cats arriving in Hawaii must be microchipped for identification, and microchip implantation has to happen before your pet is tested for rabies antibodies.

It is very important to verify your pet's microchip works before traveling to Hawaii. If for some reason Hawaii officials cannot find your pet's microchip, he or she will disqualify for 5 Day or Less and Direct Release quarantines and be forced into the 120 day quarantine program.

2. Rabies vaccination requirements. Dogs and cats must have received at least two rabies vaccinations in his or her lifetime. The second rabies vaccination cannot be administered within 30 days of the first vaccination, and it cannot be expired upon your arrival in Hawaii.

Your pet's most recent vaccination must have been administered no less than 30 days, and no more than 12 months prior to arrival in Hawaii for 12-month licensed vaccines and no less than 30 days and no more than 36 months prior to arrival in Hawaii for 3-year licensed vaccines.

What is the 30 day waiting period? If your dog or cat needs a rabies vaccination before your trip, you must wait 30 days after administering the vaccination before entering Hawaii. If you do not wait 30 days, your dog or cat will be quarantined until the 30 day period has lapsed.

3. Rabies antibody test. Hawaii requires that all dogs and cats receive a Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization (FAVN) rabies antibody test. This blood test confirms if your pet's rabies immunization level is high enough. Sufficient immunity means your pet's blood test will show a reading of at least 0.5 IU/ml. 

Tests must be done at an approved lab (see Hawaii's checklist for more detailed information on this). The lab must receive your pet's blood sample no more than 36 months and no less than 30 days before your arrival in Hawaii.

4. Waiting period. Assuming your pet passes the FAVN rabies antibody test, you now need to wait 30 days before arriving in Hawaii. If you travel to Hawaii before this 30 day window closes, your pet will be quarantined until the 30 days have passed.

5. Tick treatment. Dogs and cats must be treated for ticks within 14 days of arrival in Hawaii. Treatment must be recorded in your pet's health certificate.

5. Completed documentation. As we mentioned above, all completed documents must be mailed to the Animal Quarantine Station at least 10 days before your arrival. The documents needed are:

  • Dog & Cat Import Form AQS-279
  • Two original rabies vaccination certificates. These certificates must be signed by a licensed veterinarian and detail the vaccine name, lot or serial number, booster number, vaccination date, and vaccination expiry. Photocopies of certificates are not accepted.
  • Original health certificate completed within 14 days of arrival in Hawaii. The health certificate must detail your pet's rabies vaccination history and tick treatment. You must bring the ORIGINAL health certificate with you to Hawaii; a photocopy is not allowed.
  • Airport Release Card. If you are re-entering Hawaii with the same rabies antibody test that was used before for entry, you need to have a copy of your pet's Airport Release Card from the previous visit.

Can dogs and cats fly in-cabin into Hawaii?

Unlike the United Kingdom government which prohibits in-cabin pet travel to the UK, the Hawaii government does not care how your pet reaches its state. As long as you follow all of Hawaii's required protocols outline above, your dog or cat is allowed to fly in the cabin of airlines to Honolulu. Great news, right? Not so fast...

We have only been able to identify ONE airline that allows in-cabin pet travel to Hawaii: Alaska Airlines

For your reference, here are the in-cabin pet policies of every major international airline.

Keep in mind that service animals and emotional support animals may qualify for in-cabin pet travel with other airlines. Here we are strictly referring to pets that are not qualified service or support animals.

Before you go...

We hope you found this article useful! If you have any questions, or if you've already visited Hawaii with your pet and want to share your experience, please leave a comment below! We'd love to hear from you.

Also, don't forget to follow our pup DJANGO on Instagram: @DJANGOTHEGENT.

Additional resources

3 Responses


February 05, 2020

@JOHN @NORMANWILKES So glad you found this article useful!


February 05, 2020

Thanks for the information! The Dog Hug


February 02, 2020

That’s good information to know, thanks for sharing Djano.

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