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

January 31, 2020 8 Comments

How to Fly with Your Dog In-Cabin To Hawaii

Updated March 2021

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 the Aloha State.

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.

Hawaii's Direct Release Program

Hawaii's Direct Release quarantine program (aka Direct Airport Release or DAR) allows your dog or cat to fly into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL) 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.

As Hawaii's Animal Quarantine Station explains: "Arrange for your pet to arrive at the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility (AAQHF) at HNL - Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu during normal inspection hours between 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. It may take up to one hour for the airlines to transport a pet to AAQHF [Phone: (808) 837-8092]. Animals not delivered to the facility during normal inspection hours will not be released when they arrive."

It is recommend that you and your dog arrive at HNL airport no later than 3 PM to ensure there is enough time for your dog to be transferred to the Animal Quarantine Holding Facility upon arrival and inspected before the facility closes.

Do you have a connecting flight from Honolulu to another Hawaiian island? If so, the Animal Quarantine Facility suggests allowing at least 4-5 hours between flights.

5 Day Or Less Quarantine Program

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. As of March 2021, 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.

6. 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.

What if our final destination is Kauai, Maui, or another Hawaii island?

Owners can fly with their pet directly to Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA), Kahului Airport (OGG) or Lihue Airport (LIH), but certain requirements must first be completed. In addition to completing requirements #1-5 outlined above (see: Pre-Arrival Requirements for Direct Airport Release), pet owners must:

  • Contact a listed veterinary hospital before booking your flight to see if they can perform the inspection upon arrival (see below). The veterinary hospital has to send documentation to Hawaii's Animal Quarantine Station confirming they will do the inspection upon arrival.
  • Confirm which airline you can fly direct to your destination.
  • Complete all required documentation:
    • Dog & Cat Import Form AQS-279
    • Original rabies vaccine certificates for the 2 most recent vaccinations.
    • Payment of $165 in cashier’s check or money order made out to the Dept. of Agriculture.
    • Flight information (Airlines, flight number, date and time of arrival).
    • A letter from the owner requesting Direct Airport Release at either “Kona” or “Kahului” or “Lihue”.
  • Submit all required documents 30 days or more before the intended date of arrival (this is earlier than the 10 day requirement for Direct Airport Release in Honolulu).
  • Obtain a Neighbor Island Inspection Permit (NIIP)

Here is a very detailed checklist issued by the State of Hawaii outlining everything you must do in order to fly direct to Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA), Kahului Airport (OGG) or Lihue Airport (LIH) with a pet. Please make sure to review Checklist 2 thoroughly to ensure you complete all required pre-travel steps.

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

    What about Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)? In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it was providing new regulations for animals that travel by air and amending its definition of ESAs. The rules officially went into effect in January 2021. If you had an Emotional Support Animal prior to 2021, this is major news. Here is everything you need to know about flying with an ESA in 2021 and beyond.

    As always, service animals are governed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are allowed by law to be able to accompany their owners in commercial airplane cabins for no fee.

    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 us on Instagram: @DJANGOBRAND.

    Additional resources





    8 Responses

    jocelyn
    jocelyn

    May 01, 2021

    Hey there,
    Were you able to be with your pet at all times, or when they did the inspection, did they take your dog into a separate room or anything? any other advice? my dog qualifies for the 5 day or less program so we are starting that. From what im reading as long as your dog qualifies for the 5 day or less program, and arrive within business hours than you dont have to quarantine them. Thanks for the article, really helpful, and hopeful :)

    Nancy Hashimoto
    Nancy Hashimoto

    March 20, 2021

    Thank you for the information. What was it like for you pet to be transported to the Animal inspection facility? Where did you wait for pick up?

    Madonna Machado
    Madonna Machado

    March 15, 2021

    Your article has been the greatest find for me. We are planning on returning to the Big Island this year. We have two goldendoodles. Want to bring them to Hawaii without quarantine. This help so much Mahalo Nui Loa

    DJANGO
    DJANGO

    March 11, 2021

    @MICHELLE Hello, and thanks for the comment! You wrote “We were hoping to have an extended stay in Hi and bring our puppy, but not sure how it works if he’s not old enough to even get his 2nd rabies vaccine.”

    In order for your dog to qualify for Hawaii’s Direct Release Program, he has to meet ALL requirements of Hawaii’s “5 Day Or Less” quarantine program. In other words, he must have been vaccinated at least twice for rabies in his lifetime. Rabies vaccines must have been administered more than 30 days apart, and the current (most recent) rabies vaccine must have been administered: (1) More than 30 days before the pet’s date of arrival in Hawaii; and (2) Not more than the vaccine’s licensed booster interval listed on the manufacturer’s label.

    Because your puppy will not have received his second rabies vaccination, he cannot qualify for Direct Release. Rather, he’d be assigned to 120
    days quarantine which is obviously not what you want.

    Unfortunately, it’s best not to take a vacation in Hawaii with your dog until he meets all requirements for the 5 Day or Less Quarantine Program.

    Michelle
    Michelle

    February 28, 2021

    We were hoping to have an extended stay in Hi and bring our puppy, but not sure how it works if he’s not old enough to even get his 2nd rabies vaccine.

    DJANGO
    DJANGO

    February 10, 2021

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

    NormanWilkes
    NormanWilkes

    February 10, 2021

    Thanks for the information! The Dog Hug

    John
    John

    February 10, 2021

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

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