As a real estate agent with Hawaii Life, we certainly get a ton of phone calls about moving to Hawaii. The conversations as you can imagine are mainly focused around real estate. We discuss parts of the islands, different types of housing and certainly budgets and price points. As a member of the Hawaii Life MST (Military Specialized Team), we also get a fair number of calls from clients who just received orders and are making a PCS move to the islands. There are so many things our military members start to think about from the kids, to the cars, transporting household goods, the movers and then the biggest question of where to live on island, the pets are usually a priority but in the back of the thoughts. Hawaii is great for so many things but one thing that is difficult is moving to Hawaii with pets. This is really something that needs to be a part of the planning process as soon as possible. The entire process can take 3 months or longer. Some orders come in rushed and you simply have no time but if you have the normal lead time put the pet plans at the top of the to-do list. I have had many clients that moved and just didn’t have the time to do all the necessary steps for the state and had to leave the fur baby’s behind until the pet is cleared for direct release.
Hawaii is strict when it comes to protecting the island and is extremely strict with bringing in your pets. The state is very worried about any foreign diseases or issues that can harm the island in anyway shape or form. The main thing with pets is the worry about rabies. The state is rabies free so this applies to cats and dogs equally. The state has a quarantine law in place to make sure no sick pets get in the state. The is regardless of the pet’s age, old or young. If you bring a pet to the state everyone has to go through the process.
I strongly advise that you start talking with your veterinarian as soon as possible about the states quarantine laws. Most mainland vets have not had the experience needed to complete all the necessary paperwork, blood work, and vaccinations in the timeline necessary. I can speak to this personally as we brought in 3 dogs to Hawaii from Colorado. When we had the initial conversation with the vet he assured us he was knowledgeable, and it would be no problem, this was simply not the case and we had to learn the hard way. Pets may be eligible for 30 day, 5 day, or direct release. Believe me when I say you want the direct release. If nothing is done in advance, the pets may be quarantined for up to 120 days in a state facility at your expense.
I would strongly advise everyone to spend a considerable amount of time learning about the animal quarantine rules from the Hawaii Animal Quarantine Page.
There are specific inspection hours for the pets at the HNL airport. You have to try and time the flights to arrive at the same time to avoid delays if you are flying on different airlines. You also have to time the arrivals for the HNL inspection time frames. Not all airlines transport pets. The cut off time for inspections is 4:30 HST. It can take an airline over an hour to get the pet to the animal release section of the airport. If the pet does not arrive by the 4:30 cut off time, the pet will be taken to the quarantine holding facility for the night again at your expense. This can be extremely stressful for not only the owners but mainly the pets. It is a very loud, and I am sure unsettling, flying experience for the pet in a carrier coming from the mainland.
I am a huge fan of Island Pet Movers this is a company that is veteran owned and helps with all aspects of the pet release process. I personally used them and was extremely happy with the results. They helped coordinate with my vet and basically took care of everything. They helped handle the paperwork, the flights, and actually picked up and brought the puppies to my house once they arrived in Hawaii. I was already in Hawaii, and my wife was in Colorado finishing up the house. The rules, paperwork, and flights became so stressful for her mixed in with everything else that it was simply overwhelming. Our vet had dropped the ball, and we happily used island pet movers to pick up the pieces. This is not a cheap process, but in the scheme of things, it’s worth every penny. The thought of having our pets in the quarantine was not an option. As a side note, they separate the pets and keep them mainly in exterior runs near the Aloha stadium facility. This is not the AC, frilly, pet-friendly facility you might be envisioning. This is a state-run and funded animal quarantine facility with limited visiting days and hours. I will repeat again you really want direct release.
Moving is stressful enough, so start planning as much as possible well in advance. I have had many clients have to leave their beloved pets with friends and family while all this gets resolved. If you need any more information please do not hesitate to ask me.