Traveling to Hawaii with a cat or dog has gotten easier since their “5 days or less” program went into effect some 8 or 10 years ago. As long as you know 6 months to 3 years ahead of time that you are going to Hawaii, this is the way of importing pets to Hawaii without a lengthy quarantine. However it is a little complex so I thought a guide might help others wishing to do this. Be sure to read the full checklist for the five-days-or-less program, but my steps below may make it a little easier. Note that their instructions are specifically directed at those arriving by airplane, but the program works for sailors, too.
Basic Rules for Importing Pets to Hawaii
- Domestic Dogs and Cats only (no non-domestic crosses such as wolves etc); no puppies or kittens – don’t attempt to bring in a pet that is less than 10 months old
- Microchip required
- Pet must have had at least 2 rabies vaccines administered more than 3 months apart, the last must still be valid
- Current rabies vaccination must be verified by blood test mailed off to testing agency
- Health Certificate by vet at previous port before entering Hawaii
- Major arrival ports supported by prior arrangement
Useful Links and Information
Read the information given at the links below. Yes, it’s a little overwhelming so I’ve summarized it in the 10 Recommended steps, but here’s where the actual requirements are.
- Read Hawaii State Animal Quarantine information
- Take these contact numbers with you when you head to Hawaii
- Email address rabies [email protected]
- Phone number: 808-483-7151
- Required Import form AQS 278 (pdf)
- Required Blood testing Form (pdf) . Note this must be done < 3 years and > 120 days before arrival
- Helpful Checklist (pdf)
Ten Steps for Importing Pets to Hawaii
Disclaimer: this attempts to be a useful summary of the requirements of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture for importation of cats and dogs. However the real information is above and that’s what you are responsible for. Note that the dates I give are not the minimums but are intended to give you ample time to fulfill the requirements.
- Make sure your pet has a working microchip implant and that you know the number.
- Six months or more before arrival: get a rabies vaccination if your pet’s current vaccination will not be good on your arrival in Hawaii then wait at least 3 weeks before proceeding to next step
- Three weeks to one year after the test you can look up your results at the item number one on the linked page (you’ll need your pet’s chip number).
- Five months before arrival: have your vet send a certified blood sample to the KSU or DOD testing laboratory with Blood Testing Form above. This costs $45 currently but your vet may have additional costs. Most vets are familiar with this process but if not give them the Instructions for Blood Test above. Make sure it is marked for Hawaii and KSU/DOD will send the results for you.
- After you receive the blood test results put together the following paperwork including:
- Cover letter:
- let them know that you’re traveling by sailboat and cannot exactly predict your arrival but that you will notify them when you leave and as soon as you can make phone contact and know your exact arrival.
- estimate your arrival date
- indicate your landfall point – best if you know the actual marina such as “Radio Bay in Hilo, Big Island”
- include pet’s microchip number (this seems to be how they file the paperwork, also by your last name)
- include your name and boat’s name
- Completed copy of AQS 278 Dog and Cat Import Form
- Originals of last 2 rabies vaccination certificates (get signed originals from vet if you don’t have them)
- Cashier’s check for fees ($165 at time of writing for “direct airport release” i.e. no quarantine – see Checklist for current fees)
- Cover letter:
- Keep the originals to bring with you and make a copy of this paperwork
- Mail the COPY to:
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Animal Quarantine Station
99-951 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaii 96701-5602
- A month before you leave – For dogs: acquire heartworm pills and flea treatment or collars. Sentinel is a relatively inexpensive monthly pill that does both worms and fleas. You will need a prescription so visit your vet. Start your pet on this medication as you leave and continue to apply monthly as recommended throughout your stay. This is not required by Hawaii but will keep your pet healthy. Heartworm is a serious issue in Hawaii.
- Immediately before you leave – get Health Certificate from vet. This is technically required 10 days or less before your arrival, but if you have not visited any non US ports between the time you got the Health Certificate and the time of your arrival you may be ok. Worst case – you’ll have to pay a vet to issue a new one on arrival. We did not have to do this, despite a delay of more than six weeks between receiving the Health Certificate and arriving in Hawaii.
- Call Hawaii Dept of Agriculture as you leave to let them know your best estimate of arrival.
- One or two days from arrival at port – warn them of your arrival. Call if your cell phone is in range or email via ham/sailmail to update your arrival time and date. Mention your pet’s microchip number, boat name, as well as your name. Call again when you know what time you’ll be able to meet the vet.
Our Experience Importing Pets to Hawaii in 2008
I did the steps above. However we did not leave anywhere near on time so I kept them posted as to our changes in plans. The day we finally left the coast, before getting too far from shore, I called to say we were actually leaving and expected to arrive in 21-30 days. A few days before my earliest arrival prediction, when it was clear we’d be late, I emailed from sailmail to let them know our new expected arrival and to assure them we’d call as soon as it was feasible. My cell phone started working about six hours from Hilo so as soon as their offices opened at 8 am I let them know I expected to arrive in Radio Bay at noon or one pm and that my Health Certificate was out of date but that I had not stopped at any ports outside the US since it had been signed. They said they’d alert the local contract vet and that I should call them again when I was anchored. I called again from Radio Bay and they gave me the number of the contract vet who I then called. We made an appointment for 4 pm that afternoon at dockside. We put the dinghy together, and rowed in with the dog and all our paperwork. The vet arrived, checked over Willow and signed off on the paperwork. Willow was then authorized to freely visit Hawaii!