How To: Get Your Dog to Hawaii
Disclaimer: Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.
I’m writing this post so others have a better, easier to read resource for exactly what you need to do to get your dog to Hawaii! I researched this topic for MONTHS online & I talked to SO MANY different companies, veterinarians, etc. And through my research and real life experiences, I’m putting together a clear, concise procedure to follow to get your dog to the islands. This guide does not apply to dogs coming from British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, or if they’re already in Hawaii.
Getting your dog to Hawaii is a process. There is no way around it. But I’ve tried to make this guide as straightforward and informative as possible to make it easier for others. Whether it’s for vacations or a permanent move, I hope this comes in handy. I’ve packed it full of links to the sources so you don’t have to search for them. I’ve also divided it into sections to make it easier to find what you need.
First and foremost, the State of Hawaii has good checklists to follow (I’ll put my own simplified one down below). There are two different ones: 1. Honolulu, Oahu arrival 2. Any other island arrival. While Honolulu arrival can be arranged in less time & is easier than another island arrival, start preparing AT THE VERY LEAST two months ahead of time.
- Start the process at least two months before your dog’s travel date.
- Make sure your dog is up-to-date on rabies vaccines (at least two in their history) & microchipped.
- Get the FAVN Rabies Antibody test done at LEAST 30 days before arrival date.
Setup the appointment for the FAVN test with your vet more than 30 days before your planned arrival. They will take a blood sample & fill out the needed form. The test needs to be received by the lab at least 30 days before the arrival date. Otherwise you’re going to have a LONG & EXPENSIVE quarantine for your puppy. Make sure the FAVN form states Hawaii as the destination, has the correct microchip number of your dog, & is sent to an approved lab. The approved labs are Kansas State University (KSU), Auburn University (AU), & DOD Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory in Texas (DOD).
The lab tests your puppy’s blood to make sure that they have an appropriate amount of the rabies antibody. They send the results directly to Hawaii and your veterinarian. Get a copy of the results from your vet, not the lab, for your records. Hawaii keeps an updated list on your dog’s test results, showing if they passed/failed & when they are eligible for entry. Search the Hawaii list by microchip number here. The test result is good for your dog’s travel for up to 36 months.
- Send the AQS-279, Cashier’s Check, & Rabies Certificates to Hawaii.
If your dog is flying directly to Honolulu from the mainland you want to fill out the AQS-279 form for Direct Airport Release. Even if their final destination is another island. Currently, the fee is $185 and must be received by the state at least 10 days before your dog’s arrival.
Fill out the form with your pet’s information, including expected arrival date, your information, where they will be staying in Hawaii, check the DAR (Direct Airport Release) Program, & add any other owners or handler information. Send the completed form, a cashier’s check or money order for $185 made out to Department of Agriculture, & two original, signed rabies certificates (most recent & previous) to the Animal Quarantine Station (address on form). I recommend sending with tracking so there is confirmation of delivery.
If your dog is flying directly to Kona, Kahului, or Lihue from the mainland it is a bit different & a little more complicated. More on that below in the inspections section. Fill out the AQS-279 form for Neighbor Island Inspection Permit. Currently, the fee is $165 and must be received by the state at least 30 days before your dog’s arrival.
Fill out the form with your pet’s information, including expected arrival date, your information, where they will be staying in Hawaii, check DAR Neighbor Island Inspection Permit Program (NIIP), & any other owners or handler information. Send the completed form, a cashier’s check or money order for $165 made out to Department of Agriculture, & two original, signed rabies certificates (most recent & previous) to the Animal Quarantine Station (address on form). I recommend sending with a self-addressed pre-paid envelope for an overnight carrier so you get the permit faster. Yes, the state mails you an actual permit to bring your dog & you need it to get on your flight.
Not on the State checklist, but should be sent with the above for NIIP: a letter that requests direct release at the (Kona, Kahului, or Lihue) airport and states which veterinary clinic has been contracted to perform the agricultural inspection.
- Get flea & tick medication.
- Get health certificate.
According to the State, the health certificate should be within 14 days of arrival and the meds only need to be for ticks. HOWEVER, I am going to tell you what my Hawaii vet told me to do right before my dog’s arrival.
Schedule a vet appointment within 10 days of arrival to get your pup treated with a long-term flea AND tick product. Such as Frontline, Bravecto, or Nexgard. Have them fill out a health certificate & make sure they put the treatment they used on there.
A health certificate varies from state to state and there is a USDA one, either of which works. But it will be a 1-2 page form that shows your dog’s information including tests, vaccines, & medications. Sometimes they will be titled “Certificate of Veterinary Inspection” or “Certificate of Health Examination”.
You will need to have this with your dog while traveling!
For DAR, you have the option to mail it in with your other forms too. As DAR has a 10 day docs received to arrival time, it’s technically possible to do.
- Honolulu has on-site inspections.
- Kona, Kahului, & Lihue need appointments with specific vets.
For Honolulu, have your dog’s flight arrive between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm for inspection. They will be released to you after the inspection is finished. And you are done!
If your fly-in date changes, let the state know ASAP.
For Kona, Kahului, or Lihue it’s a bit more than that. You will need to start setting this up as you are filling out the AQS-279 form!
Each island has specific veterinarians that have been approved by the state to do inspections. See your options in Step 5 on checklist 2. Each veterinarian has different schedules, prices, & airlines they service. Yes, for pet arrival at these three airports, a vet inspection must be paid for separately from the state fee.
You will need to match your flight with the vet. This means that the airline you use & the day/time you arrive must be OKAY’ed by the veterinarian. So, you find a flight, then check that the vet is available, then book the flight, and finally confirm details with the vet. Whew!
For example, Kona has two approved vets to choose from. Each has separate airlines they inspect, so depending on who you fly in on, determines which vet you can use.
If your flight changes in any way, contact the vet immediately!
Flights & Such:
Now that we have talked about the paperwork & veterinary portion of getting a dog to Hawaii, let’s move on to other practical matters that have to be taken care of – such as flights. The below does not apply to service dogs. (NOTE: This is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet)
Scenario 1: Small dog that fits into an airline-approved carrier for the cabin. (Amateur Level)
This is the easiest and cheapest to plan for because you can schedule your dog to fly with you on the plane. Each airline’s allowed number of pets per flight and carrier dimensions vary, but essentially, you’ll book your flight and add on your dog for extra monies. Make sure they have availability for your dog & to abide by the airline’s carrier dimensions. Here’s my personal favorite.
Scenario 2a: A dog too big to fit into the cabin. (Hard Level)
As of this writing, many airlines have higher restrictions on or just plain shutdown their pet programs thanks to COVID. Some airlines would allow you to “check in” your pet for cargo on your flight. But, I’m here to give you what options are available so…
Let’s start with the easiest in this scenario. You have a bigger dog with a long snout (e.g. German Shepherd). This means you have a couple more options available than the scenario below. You can book them for a cargo flight through: Alaska, Hawaiian Air Cargo, American Cargo, Aloha Air Cargo, Amerijet, or Pacific Air Cargo.
These airlines are limited in where they fly to and from, so you will need to figure out which option is best for you. Take into consideration if you can drop them off at their departure airport or if you need to hire transportation. Also consider when to schedule their arrival at the destination in comparison to you. For example, Hawaiian Air Cargo runs a limited flight schedule departing JFK or LAX and arriving in Honolulu ONLY.
If you pick a flight that arrives into Honolulu (common), you’ll need to find an inter-island flight for your pet if they need to get to another island. Your options are Aloha Air Cargo or Hawaiian Airlines. Keep in mind, they’ll need enough time in the layover for inspection.
Scenario 2b: A dog too big to fit into the cabin that is considered SNUB NOSED. (Boss Level)
So, if you’ve never tried to arrange travel for a ‘snub nosed breed’ dog before, you’re in for a ride. For those that don’t know, some snub nosed or brachycephalic breeds are pugs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, boxers, & pitbull terriers. Even if your dog has a longer snout, if they are one of the breeds classed under this, they are considered snub nosed. (I have to stop saying snub nosed, it doesn’t even feel like a word anymore).
These dogs have a BUNCH of travel restrictions on them for anywhere you want to go (not just HI). There are also restrictions on WHEN they can travel, due to temperature, so check each airlines policy because they differ! Your only options for cargo travel to Hawaii are Hawaiian Air Cargo, Aloha Air Cargo, Amerijet, & Pacific Air Cargo. See links above. These airlines mostly depart only from the west coast so if you live anywhere else, you’re going to either have to drive your dog to the airport or setup long-distance land transportation for them.
With either of these big dog scenarios, it’s important to get a proper kennel. Like this one.
Using a Pet Moving Company:
I have talked to a dozen or more pet moving companies, so here are my thoughts on them:
- All of them are expensive.
- Some are sketchy or never respond.
- Some don’t provide travel to Hawaii or
- Others don’t provide mainland travel.
- Some make you pay & sign contracts before answering questions.
- Many don’t ‘deal’ with snub nosed breeds.
Here’s my advice on whether you should use one or not:
- If you have a dog that you can carry on the plane with you, definitely arrange travel yourself. Regardless of where you’re coming from or which island you are going to, it’s relatively easy to do. And it saves you a bunch of money that you don’t necessarily have to spend.
- If you have a big dog and live on the west coast or within easy driving distance of LAX or JFK, I would recommend arranging travel yourself. Since most of the cargo flights leave from the west coast (or JFK with Hawaiian), it will be easy enough to setup flights for your dog.
- If you have a big dog with a long snout and can get an American or Alaskan Cargo flight departing within easy driving distance from you, I would recommend arranging travel yourself.
- If you have a big dog with a long snout & have to figure out long-distance land travel and flights, I would say consider using a pet moving company. My personal opinion is that trying to coordinate the multiple travel companies is better off in someone else’s hands.
- Lastly, if you have a big dog with a short nose & have to figure out long-distance land travel and flights, I recommend using a pet moving company. With so many restrictions on snub nosed dogs, you may find it better to pay someone else to handle the logistics.
Who would I recommend? Well, there’s only one company I could whole-heartedly say to use. I’m not getting paid or sponsored in any way for this recommendation. It’s just been my personal experience with them that leads me to send you to Starwood Animal Transport. They have been really amazing to deal with from the beginning. They were happy to answer my questions and concerns, quick to reply every time, & gave me a no-hassle quote. I couldn’t ask for much more!
To end this longest-post-I’ve-ever-written, I just want to say I hope it helps you prepare for your puppy’s trip to Hawaii! Whether for a vacation or permanent move, I want to wish you safe and happy travels. I’ve provided my simplified checklists below for you to use. But keep in mind the Hawaii checklists have many more details.
Let me know your puppy travel tips, tricks, & advice in the comments below!