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Taking a dog to Hawaii: Reduce quarantine time to a few hours

Photo by dno1967

Friends of ours have a house in Maui and have kindly offered it to us as a vacation getaway. Fantastic! I thought, but how sad I’d be to leave Chloe behind. If we brought her with us, how sad to leave her in quarantine for the first five days of our visit (though it would be an excellent excuse to schedule a really long getaway). Our friends pointed out, however, that Hawaii’s new-ish (since 2003) quarantine program has a “5-day-or-less” option, and while I’d been focusing on the “5 day” part of the name, nearly 90% of the pets traveling to Hawaii are released to their owners within a few hours (FY 2005 data).

Getting your pet directly released takes money (including your vet expenses and a $165 fee charged by Hawaii) and effort, but if you jump correctly through all the hoops, your dog will be in your hands only a few hours after your arrival in Honolulu. The Department of Agriculture’s official checklist (PDF) walks you through the required steps. Summarized briefly, they include:

  • Correct rabies vaccinations — Your dog has to have been vaccinated at least twice for rabies in her lifetime. The vaccines must have been administered at least 30 days apart. The most recent vaccine must have been administered more than 90 days before your dog arrives in Hawaii, but within the vaccine manufacturer’s stated booster interval (that is, your dog must still be covered by her most recent booster when she arrives in Hawaii).
  • Working microchip — Your dog must be microchipped, and the chip must be working properly.
  • OIE-FAVN rabies blood test — Your vet has to send a blood sample to an approved laboratory, which will run this test to determine whether your dog has sufficient levels of rabies vaccine in her blood. At least 120 days must pass between the day after your dog’s blood sample reaches the lab and the date of your dog’s arrival in Hawaii. (That assumes, however, that your dog’s test result is successful. If it isn’t, your dog will need to be re-vaccinated, and a new blood sample will need to be sent in. To be safe, give yourself plenty of time for this step.)
  • Long-acting tick treatment — “A veterinarian must treat the pet for ticks with a product containing Fipronil or an equivalent long-acting product labeled to kill ticks (Revolution® is not acceptable) within 14 days of arrival.” Frontline is an example of a product containing Fipronil.
  • Timely delivery of supporting documents — Original documentation of both rabies vaccinations and the original of a health certificate from your vet, plus a completed Dog & Cat Import Form AQS-278 (PDF), signed by your vet and notarized, must arrive at the Rabies Quarantine Branch more than 10 days before your pet arrives in Hawaii. To save time, enclose the $165 fee (cashier’s check or money order).
  • Timely arrival at quarantine facility — Be sure to schedule your flight so that you arrive in Honolulu before 3:30 p.m. According to the department’s website, “it may take up to one hour for the airlines to transport a pet to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility and animals not arriving at the facility by 4:30 p.m. will not be released at the airport that day.   Pets arriving in the late afternoon and evening will be held overnight until inspections are completed the following morning.”

The mind reels. The main thing, however, is to get moving as soon as the idea of a Hawaii vacation crosses your mind. And once you’ve jumped through these hoops, you buy yourself a period of time (since the blood test results are good for three years) during which return trips to Hawaii will be significantly easier.

There is one further wrinkle to tell you about: Since 2007, visitors willing to jump through a couple more hoops may be allowed to request direct release of their pets from the airports on the neighboring islands of Kaua`i, Maui and in Kona. Here is a “Checklist for Requesting Direct Airport Release at Kona, Kahului and Lihue Airports.”

The last twist, of course, is that only Korean Air allows dogs to fly in-cabin to Hawaii, and the only Korean Air flight going to the islands departs from Korea. That leaves me with the following unpleasant choices: (1) Go to Maui while Chloe stays in Seattle at a kennel or with a petsitter; (2) Take Chloe with us, but under the plane; or (3) Travel with Chloe to Korea and then to Honolulu. Argh! [8/15/11 I’m thrilled to report that this paragraph is now out of date. I’ve just learned that Alaska Airlines is now allowing small dogs and cats to travel in-cabin to Hawaii, as of today’s date.] The point of this post, though, is that once you and your dog arrive in Hawaii, quarantine rules needn’t stand in the way of a great island vacation.


  • Rod@GoPetFriendly

    This is great news for people traveling to Hawaii. However, I am still trying to get past your first sentence. How do your friends feel about friends of friends 🙂

  • Felissa

    There is actually another catch with flying via Korean Air (via Korea) and you would have to check it out but they are a quarantine location themselves which might mean Chloe would end up in doggy jail 🙁 Also just because an airline allows in cabin travel it does not mean that quarantine procedures allow it and it could mean days to weeks of her in quarantine.

    As a seasoned quarentine traveler with Davinia and Indiana you really only have two options.
    A. Put Chloe under the plane in a roomy crate for the long flight and hope you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s
    B. Leave Chloe home somewhere she will be safe and happy (Miami works for us) if you are going to be away for a week or two.

    Personally if you are not staying at least 3 – 4 weeks it is not worth the stress to you or her to bring her with you.
    If you do choose to bring her find out if in the worse case scenario they do not like something about your paperwork if she is allowed to be released to a more friendly boarding type facility in Hawaii where she will feel less stressed then in the government building.

  • Hello, Felissa! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m not likely to travel all the way to Korea with Chloe so that we can bring her in-cabin to Hawaii, but it is do-able. From Hawaii’s point of view, a pet arriving in-cabin is not a problem. According to Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture website, the state has no problem with dogs arriving as in-cabin passengers: “The Department of Agriculture does not have any regulation regarding where pets fly within the aircraft. It is totally up to each airline’s policy. The airline is required by law to bring all incoming animals directly from the plane to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility.”

    The stopover in Korea also doesn’t worry me too much, since incoming dogs over 90 days old equipped with a proper health certificate showing that they’ve been vaccinated for rabies more than 30 days before arrival in Korea do not have to go through quarantine ( ).

    The travel time is the part that gives me pause. I know that Chloe is happiest with us, but dang, that’s a lot of hours in the air. I suspect we’ll be pursuing other alternatives, and saving a Hawaii visit with Chloe for an occasion when we’re already in Asia, and can head home by way of the islands.

  • Following up on Felissa’s comment, I also contacted, a company that transports pets around the world, and Matt Kincaid, their Director of Client Relations, reassured me that “Upon transiting Incheon, you will not have to acquire any permits. As long as you don’t leave the airport, you will not have to go through customs with your dog.”

    He also cautioned me to make sure that the airline I would be connecting to also accepts in-cabin dogs (I didn’t make it clear to him that I’d be getting on another Korean Air flight), or else I’d be stuck. He and Felissa are both making the same essential point: When you’re planning a multi-stage trip, think about each step you’ll be taking and make sure you are prepared for them all.

  • Helen

    If I understand all of Hawaii’s requirements, it is not possible to bring our 6 mo old puppy with us to Maui?????

    In fact, it looks like only dogs of several years old can meet the requirements of at least 2 rabies shots, 120 day waiting period since test results, etc.

  • Hi, Helen — It’d be just barely possible to get a 6-month old dog into Hawaii, but you’d have to hit all of the deadlines — and frankly, I think it’d be too rough on the dog. Rabies #1 would happen as soon as possible (12 weeks seems to be a rule of thumb), then rabies #2 would happen 30 days later, then you’d send off the blood sample right away and wait 120 days. You’d hope that the results were what you want, and you’d book your flight for day #121. That would put you just at the 6-month mark. I, for one, would be very hesitant to give a puppy that young two rabies shots in quick succession! But two shots over, say, a half-year period might be something a dog could handle — you’d want to consult closely with your vet, because I’m just hazarding a guess.

  • As always, MarcAntony, you are a treasure. Thank you — I’ve updated the links I have, but the fact is that I need to revisit and overhaul this post. It’s on the to-do list!

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