To many people, pets are family. That’s why, when you’re moving to Hawaii, it’s important to be able to take your dogs, cats or other pets to your new home.
Moving pets to Hawaii can be a little tricky. Because it’s the only state in the U.S. that’s rabies-free, the Hawaiian islands have very strict protocols for bringing in cats, dogs and other domesticated animals. Additionally, because of the unique and delicate ecosystem, you’ll find in the islands, some animals are entirely restricted.
To help you understand the process for prepping your pet for the move to the Hawaiian islands, we’ve put together this guide. We’ll connect you with the forms, checklists and resources you need to get your whole family to Hawaii, quickly, safely and easily.
Why Are Hawaii’s Rules for Pets So Different?
Even though Hawaii is part of the United States, its unique position in the Pacific Ocean has endowed with it a diverse ecosystem. As a result, Hawaii is home to many endemic species you won’t find anywhere else. In order to protect those species, Hawaii has restrictions around the kinds of pets you can bring to the state.
Additionally, there’s one thing you won’t find on any of the Hawaiian islands: rabies. As such, pets in Hawaii are not required to be vaccinated. A single case of rabies could create a catastrophic event for the island, spoiling so much of the natural beauty so many visitors and residents love.
As a result, the state has established a quarantine program for incoming cats and dogs, one that’s paid for by the owners of these pets.
We’ll walk you through how the program works. But, first, if you’re considering bringing in a pet that’s not a cat or a dog, you’ll want to make sure your pet is eligible to join you in Hawaii.
Verify That Your Pet Is a “Go” for Hawaii
You might be surprised to know that some common pets in the United States are not allowed in Hawaii. For example, several types of birds, snakes and hamsters are on the no-go list. Guinea pigs, however, are welcome in Hawaii.
Before you go through the importation process, you’ll want to verify that your pet will be allowed in the state. Considering the fact that importing an illegal animal carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines up to $500,000, you’ll want to be 100% certain before bringing your pet with you.
Pets Who Get the Green Light: In general, you’re allowed to bring domesticated dogs and cats to Hawaii, as long as they are not cross-bred with a wild animal, such as a cat cross-bred with a lynx or wolf-dog crossbreeds.
In addition to dogs and cats, you’re also allowed to bring pets like guinea pigs, chinchillas and several varieties of parrots. If you have any questions, check the official list of conditionally-approved animals from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Pets Who Get the Red Light: If you’re bringing something more exotic than a Fluffy or a Fido into Hawaii, make sure to review the list of prohibited pet imports, which forbids:
- Caribbean hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus)
- All types of snakes
- Hamsters (or any members of the family Cricetidae)
- Snapping turtles
- Pregnant animals
Pets Who Get the Yellow Light: Although not restricted from entry, some types of pets may require some extra consideration on your part.
- Puppies and kittens: Due to the minimum amount of time needed to prepare a puppy or kitten to meet the requirements of the 5 Day Or Less quarantine program, a puppy or kitten will be about 6 months of age by the time preparations are completed. Puppies and kittens not able to meet all of the requirements for the 5 Day Or Less program will be quarantined for 120 days. (More on the different types of quarantine programs in the next section!)
- Older animals may not respond well to the stress of traveling. Additionally, pets who do not handle a tropical climate well may not be good candidates for bringing to Hawaii.
Once you’re sure your pet is cleared for conditional import to Hawaii, you’ll want to check the requirements for importing your pet on the Plant Industry Division website.
Since dogs and cats are the most common pets our customers inquire about, we’ll walk you through their import requirements next.
Prepare for the Right Quarantine Program for Your Dog or Cat
A new set of rules for the Rabies Quarantine Program came into effect on August 31, 2018. If you’re moving your dog or cat to Hawaii, there are two main programs:
Program #1: The Direct Airport Release & 5 Day or Less Quarantine
Pets who qualify for Direct Airport Release can leave the airport with their owners once they pass an entry inspection.
If for some reason, owners can’t pick up their pets immediately after the inspection—or if there’s a small glitch in the paperwork that can be resolved quickly—the pets may go into the 5 Day or Less quarantine program. Once the owners can pick up their pets, or resolve the issues, the pets will be released.
In order to qualify for this program, the Department of Agriculture brochure provides a checklist to help you meet the requirements:
If your dog or cat is NOT located in Hawaii:
- And you’re flying into Honolulu/Oahu (HNL), use Checklist 1 in this brochure.
- And you’re flying into Kona/Big Island (KOA), Kahului/Maui (OGG), or Lihue/Kauai (LIH), use Checklist 2 in this brochure. (Note: Please read the NIIP requirements in this checklist thoroughly to make sure you avoid any hiccups on arrival.)
If you live in Hawaii and you want to take your pet to the Mainland, then return to Hawaii, there’s a different set of requirements for you to follow.
- If you’re flying into Honolulu/Oahu (HNL), use Checklist 3 in this brochure.
- If you’re flying into Kona/Big Island (KOA), Kahului/Maui (OGG), or Lihue/Kauai (LIH), use Checklist 4 in this brochure.
To spec out the cost for each program, check the official Animal Quarantine Information page. (And don’t forget to factor in the airline’s fees when putting your budget together!)
Program #2: Full 120-Day (4 Month) Quarantine
If your dog or cat doesn’t qualify for the Direct Airport Release or the 5 Day or Less quarantine program, your pet will be required to undergo a full, 120-day quarantine program. In this case, your pet will be kept in the Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) on Oahu.
If your pet falls under this program, you’ll likely have many questions, including: How should I prepare my pet? What will quarantine be like? Where will my pet be kept? The Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Information Brochure offers answers to these common questions—and more. Start on page 31 for information specific to this program.
One of the biggest questions many pet owners have is whether they can visit their pets during quarantine on Oahu. Absolutely! During the quarantine period, you can visit your pet on:
- Tuesdays and Thursdays: 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Wednesdays: 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Saturdays and Sundays: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Are There Any Exceptions to These Rules?
Yes—in two cases:
#1: Dogs and cats from specific rabies-free countries, including Australia, New Zealand, British Isles and Guam on a direct flight to Hawaii do not require an import permit number, which means they do not need to complete the standard requirements. However, they do need to complete this checklist.
#2: Service and guide dogs have modified quarantine requirements for entering the State of Hawaii. You can find more information on service and guide dogs entering Hawaii.
Note: On January 1, 2019, a Hawaii law went into effect that makes it illegal to knowingly misrepresent an animal as a service animal. Violators may be subject to civil penalties.
What Do I Do If I Have More Questions?
A moving company is likely to have some expertise in this arena. However, when it comes to something as important as a member of your family, you’re best bet is getting answers straight from the people administering the program.
To contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture on matters related to quarantine/import of cats and dogs:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call: 808-483-7151
Due to the volume of calls and the time zone difference, the department recommends using their email address to reach out. Additionally, email will offer you a paper trail in case there are any disputes over who said what during your conversations.
Moving Your Whole Family with Ease—and Aloha
Once you understand the procedures for clearing your pets into Hawaii—and you have all the checklists you’ll need to complete the right paperwork—your task gets easier. Now, it’s just a matter of working with your veterinary professionals to gather what you need so every member of your family (even the four-legged ones!) can join you on your Hawaiian adventure.
Have other questions about moving to Hawaii? We’d be happy to help! After 35+ years of moving families in, around and to the Hawaiian islands, it’s safe to see we’ve seen it all and moved it all. Just reach out to us and let us know how we can help!