Unless you're crossing national borders, you don't usually need to worry about special restrictions on taking your dog with you. But if you want to take your pet for a tropical vacation, you need to know that Hawaii has very strict entry regulations, designed to keep the islands rabies-free.
In recent years, the rules have been relaxed, so that your dog may be inspected upon arrival and then released directly to you from the airport. But if you haven't gotten the right vaccinations, done all the tests, and submitted the right paperwork ahead of time, you dog could be quarantined for up to four months.
Direct Release or 5-Day Quarantine
You can qualify for the five-days-or-less program if you've taken all these required steps before the dog arrives in Hawaii:
- the dog must have received at least two rabies vaccinations, not less than three months apart, the most recent one not less than 90 days before arriving in Hawaii
- the dog must have had a microchip identification implanted by a veterinarian, and
- a blood sample, identified by the microchip ID number, must have been tested for rabies antibodies 120 days to 36 months before the dog arrives in the state.
There are many detailed rules about what paperwork is required and when fees must be paid. (And how they must be paid--you need a cashier's check, because personal checks aren't accepted.) All documents must be received by the Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Branch more than 10 days before the dog arrives. Make sure you get all the information you need well in advance—keep in mind that there's a 120-day waiting period after the blood test, and if you arrive sooner, the dog will have to stay quarantined until the 120-day period elapses.
If your dog arrives at the quarantine facility during normal inspection hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week), it may be released to you the same day. Because transport from the airport to the quarantine facility can take up to an hour, be sure to book a flight that arrives at the airport by 3:30 in the afternoon.
The fee for direct release is $165; it costs up to $224 for up to five days of quarantine.
If the airline you're using participates in the Hawaii program, your dog can be released to you from the airports at Kona (Big Island), Lihue (Kauai), or Kahului (Maui). The requirements for the shorter quarantine are the same as for Honolulu, except that all required documents must be submitted earlier--at least 30 days before you arrive. You must make a reservation with a local veterinary hospital or humane society (there's a list on the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website) for a pre-release inspection of the dog.
If you don't qualify for the five-days-or-less program, your pet will be quarantined for up to 120 days. Not only do you have to give up your pet, you have to pay for it: the current cost is $1,080 for 120 days. Airlines deliver pets directly to a state holding facility, and the state takes them to the quarantine station on the island of Oahu. Dogs are kept in individual outdoor runs. Owners can visit their dogs during afternoon visiting hours but cannot take the animals out of the kennel.
State officials stress that it's important for owners to arrange, in advance, for a private animal hospital to provide emergency veterinary care. The quarantine center handles minor ailments, but it does not have facilities for major medical problems. Unless a veterinary hospital has agreed in advance to accept an ill pet, the state will not take the animal to a private hospital.
Special Rules for Assistance Dogs
Different rules apply to assistance dogs, as a result of a lawsuit by guide dog users. (Crowder v. Kitagawa , 81 F.3d 1480 (9th Cir. 1996). If you meet certain requirements, you can keep your dog with you after only a brief examination in the Honolulu airport. Before you go, you must:
- Get a letter from a physician setting out your disability, unless your dog is a guide dog.
- Get an ID card or certificate that shows that the dog was trained at a specialized school.
- Have an identifying microchip implanted in the dog.
- Make sure your dog's rabies vaccination is current, and have documentation.
- Have the dog undergo a blood test for rabies.
- Get a health certificate issued within two weeks before arrival.
- Notify the animal quarantine station at least 24 hours before you arrive, so they'll be ready to take an immediate blood sample from the dog when you get there.
When the dog arrives in Honolulu, airline personnel will take it to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility. There, the quarantine officials will examine the paperwork and the dog. If everything is in order, you should be able to leave, with your dog, in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Hawaii Quarantine Information
As you can see, these rules are complicated; they also change from time to time. Make sure you have up-to-date information by checking the state's website, and get your specific questions answered by contacting the quarantine station directly.
Animal Quarantine Station
99-951 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaii 96701