Bringing your pet to Hawaii is an exciting adventure, but be prepared to navigate the complex travel requirements. Hawaii has strict requirements to keep Hawaii’s people, pets, and native animal populations safe. This article will take a deep dive into the travel restrictions and help you understand why they are so important.
Current Travel Requirements
The current requirements for dogs and cats flying to Hawaii are:
1. Health Certificate completed by a USDA accredited veterinarian
- Your pet must get a health certificate within 14 days of travel.
- Check with your airlines before flying, as many airlines require a health certificate within 10 days of travel.
2. AQS-279 Dog and Cat Import Form
- Pet owners can find this form on the State of Hawaii’s Animal Quarantine Information website.
- It must be completed by the veterinarian preparing the health certificate for your pet.
3. Proof of 2 Rabies Vaccinations
- Rabies vaccines must be given at least 30 days apart and can not be administered in the 30 days before travel to Hawaii.
4. FAVN Rabies Antibody Test
- Your pet’s veterinarian must submit this test to a proper lab no more than 36 months and no less than 30 days before travel to Hawaii.
- The antibody test result must be at least 0.5 International units (IU).
- The microchip must be placed by a veterinarian before FAVN testing and must be listed on the FAVN test results.
6. Tick treatment
- Dog and cats must have veterinary documentation that they have received a long-acting tick treatment within 14 days of travel. Some common tick treatments, such as Revolution, do not meet this requirement.
7. Neighbor Island Inspection Permit (NIIP)
- This permit is required to fly any dog or cat into Kona, Kahului, and Lihue airports but is not necessary for pets flying to Honolulu.
- Arrangements must be made 30 days before arrival to have a veterinary inspector perform the arrival inspection at the Animal Quarantine Station.
- More information about securing a veterinary inspector can be found here.
All documents must be submitted 10 days before travel. Following these guidelines will qualify your pet for the 5 days or less quarantine program. Proper document submission is crucial. Failure to meet the requirements may result in your pet getting stuck in a mandatory 120-day quarantine at a state facility. Double-check the requirements, and don’t let your furry friend get left behind.
Traveling with Exotic Pets
While the restrictions above apply to dogs and cats, you may have other animals that you wish to bring with you to Hawaii. Unfortunately, not all pets are allowed to enjoy the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. Ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, snakes, and bearded dragon lizards are some of the animals that are not allowed. However, if you have a pet sea cucumber, you are in luck!
Hawaii’s list of approved and banned exotic animals may seem very random. The reality is that these restrictions are in place to protect Hawaii’s residents and natural populations from potential diseases that certain species are at greater risk to spread.
Exotic pets that are permitted for travel to Hawaii require specific permits for travel. The travel requirements may be different than the requirements of cats and dogs. For example, rabbits must receive a health certificate from an accredited veterinarian no more than 72 hours before their arrival in Hawaii and can only enter through the Honolulu International Airport.
If you have questions about the specific requirements to travel with your exotic pet, contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Industry well in advance of your trip.
Why is Hawaii So Strict About Rabies?
Hawaii has such strict rules about rabies because it is the only U.S. state that is considered rabies-free. Hawaii goes to great lengths to ensure it stays that way. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It is most commonly found in wild animals but can be spread to pets and humans. Once contracted, rabies is nearly always fatal. Worldwide, rabies causes close to 60,000 human deaths a year.
The good news is that rabies is 100% preventable with proper vaccination. The rabies antibody titer test is to ensure that appropriate vaccination has occurred and the pet’s immune system has responded accordingly.
Like Hawaii, other countries around the world have been declared rabies-free. A complete list of countries and their rabies status can be found here, on the CDC’s website. The British Isles, Australia, Guam, and New Zealand are the only countries Hawaii recognizes as rabies-free. Pets who have lived in these countries for more than six months before traveling to Hawaii do not have to go through the same quarantine protocols and rabies documentation.
Pet Import Restrictions Over the Years
Hawaii created the rabies quarantine program in 1912. When the program began, all pets were subject to a 120-day quarantine program. This long quarantine requirement remained until 1997 when the state created an alternate program requiring only 30 days of quarantine.
In 2003 Hawaii initiated the 5 days or less quarantine program. This program allowed pets with proper rabies vaccination and FAVN titer testing to undergo a much shorter quarantine process. In some cases, pets that met all of the requirements could be immediately released at the airport.
Hawaii updated the 5 days or less quarantine program in 2018. This update reduced the time that pet owners had to wait to travel after rabies vaccination and FAVN titer testing. The new rules reduced the wait time from 120 days after FAVN testing and 60 days after rabies vaccination to 30 days for both.
More recently, COVID 19 has caused some delays in when pets are released on arrival. Due to new COVID 19 protocols, it can take more time to process your pet for immediate release, and owners may have to wait to pick up their pet.
Traveling to Hawaii with your pet is a big commitment. Safety measures are in place to protect the people and animals of Hawaii from diseases that imported pets may carry with them. Knowing what to expect of the process and why it is essential will make bringing your pet to the islands a more relaxing experience for everyone.
Helpful Links & Resources:
CDC Rabies status: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/resources/countries-risk.html
Importing Other Species, State Of Hawaii Animal Industry Division: https://hdoa.hawaii.gov/ai/ldc/importing-livestock/other-species/
2018 updates to the 5 days or less quarantine program: https://governor.hawaii.gov/newsroom/latest-news/news-release-on-new-rabies-quarantine-rules/