If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you don’t have to Oprah’s deep pockets to take pets to Hawaii too. But you do have to plan in advance and shell out a little extra cash for your petsetter to enjoy a family vacation without being subjected to Hawaii’s 120-day animal quarantine. Oprah often takes her pooches to Maui, where she has a home, through the state’s direct release program available at Kona, Kahului (Maui) and Lihue (Kauai) airports. The process can be complicated. Thankfully the Maui Humane Society can help you get your four-legged friend on its island.
Hawaii State law governs the importation of dogs, cats and other carnivores into Hawaii. This law states that dogs and cats meeting specific pre- and post-arrival requirements may qualify for five-day-or-less quarantine program, which also has a provision for direct release at the airport after inspection. To take pets to Hawaii, you must begin the process at least four months before traveling to Hawaii. Fees are $400 for the first pet and $100 for the second pet arriving on the same flight.
Every month, MHS assists a number of visitors in bringing their pets to Maui through this program, which went into effect several years ago. Since 2007, MHS, an approved veterinary service to inspect animals at the airport for direct release, has assisted in the direct release of approximately 800 animals. One of the island’s favorite visitors is Varmit, a 20-year-old DLH white cat that has visited annually from Colorado since 2007.
One of the favorite stories of Jocelyn Bouchard, Chief Executive Officer of the Maui Humane Society, is “When I was doing the paperwork, etc., with the owner and the pilot came off and made a point of coming over and presenting the dog with his “wings” (airline pin) and claiming he was the best behaved passenger ever—much more so than most of the two legged ones.”
Be aware that Alaska Airlines, which flies to Lihue (Kauai), Kona (Hawaii), Kahului (Maui) and Honolulu (Oahu) airports, is the only U.S. carrier that allow pets to travel in the cabin to Hawaii. The other carriers will make you check your pets as cargo, which neither The Jet Set Pets nor The Humane Society of the United States recommends unless absolutely necessary.
Note that some carriers have restrictions on when you can check your pet as well. Due to strong headwinds at various times of year, Alaska Airlines limits the number of pets accepted as checked baggage on flights to or from Hawaii. (This restriction does not apply to pets accepted for travel in the cabin.)
- February: No pets are accepted as checked baggage on flights to or from Hawaii.
- November 1 – January 31 and March 1 – April 1: Only one pet is accepted per aircraft as checked baggage on flights to or from Hawaii.
- April 2 – October 31: Standard pet allowance applies. Please contact Alaska Airlines Reservations for availability on your desired flights.
If you can’t hitch a ride on Oprah’s private plane, considering going in with friends to charter or check out other options to checking pets as baggage.
Service animals and emotional support animals are allowed to travel in the cabin with their humans on commercial flights to Hawaii. Both service animals and ESAs are subjected to quarantine but can utilize the direct release program. Fees are waived for service animals but not ESAs.
Not all carriers participate in the direct release program that makes it easier for you to take pets to Hawaii. However, Bouchard told The Jet Set Pets that she has picked up from the following airlines: United, US Airways, American, Alaska and Hawaiian. Note that Delta Air Lines does not participate in the Neighbor Island Dog and Cat Entry Program.
Maui Humane Society’s FAQs
1. Why do you have quarantine?
Hawaii has no rabies. This is to prevent rabies from entering the state.
2. How long is quarantine?
Normal quarantine is 120 days at the Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) on Oahu.
3. How do you qualify for the 5-Day or Less Quarantine?
a. You must start preparation at least 4 months prior to arrival. Sometimes it is even longer.
b. Your pet must have 2 rabies vaccinations at least 30 days apart.
c. The second rabies vaccination must be given at least 3 months prior to arrival in Hawaii.
d. Your pet must pass a blood test that shows a response to the vaccine. This blood test must be passed at least 4 months before arrival in Hawaii.
e. Your pet must be micro-chipped.
f. Due to the minimum requirements, puppies and kittens must be at least 10 months of age before they can qualify for direct release.
g. This includes direct release at the Kahului Airport, if you meet requirements.
4. What if I am a Hawaii resident and I want to take my pet out of state for a short visit?
a. You need to start preparations at least 4 months prior to your travel.
b. Your pet needs 2 rabies vaccinations at least 3 months apart.
c. The second rabies vaccine must be given more than 2 weeks prior to leaving.
d. Your pet must pass the blood test at least 2 weeks prior to leaving.
e. You will need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian no more than 14 days prior to leaving. Some airlines require 10 days or less prior to leaving. All foreign arrivals need to go through Honolulu International Airport.
5. Are the quarantine rules applied for travel between Hawaiian Islands?
a. No, but your pet should be current on their shots (and) be licensed.
6. What are the fees for MHS to do the direct release check at Kahului Airport?
a. $400 for the first pet and $100 for each additional pet arriving on the same flight.
b. Repeat trips (we have already done the direct release once before for this pet under this owner) are $150 for the first pet and $75 for each additional pet arriving on the same flight.
c. $100 additional fee for requests outside normal hours of operation and holidays. Normal hours of operation are Monday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
d. These fees are separate from the fees that must be paid to the state for direct release. The monies we collect from these fees will go directly back to helping the animals we receive at the shelter.
e. For people with qualified service animals please contact the Maui Humane society directly for special rates.
7. How do I arrange for MHS to do the direct release check for my animals?
a. If you already have approval from the AQS(Animal Quarantine Station) to bring your animal to Hawaii; you qualify for direct release; and you would like MHS to do the direct release then you can either: FAX MHS at: 808-877-5033 or email us at : firstname.lastname@example.org
The following information is required:
i. Airline name and Flight #
ii. Date and time of arrival
iii. Owner’s name, contact phone # and owner’s address
iv. Address you would like the permit mailed to if different from above
v. If you prefer that quarantine Fed Ex your permit rather than having it mailed, please provide us with a Fed Ex account number or notify us that you will be sending quarantine a prepaid Fed Ex envelope.
vi. Information for each pet to include:
2. Microchip #
3. Species (dog or cat)
8. Make sure to download the form “Checklist for Requesting Direct Airport Release at Kona, Kahului and Lihue Airports” from the quarantine website. You must mail quarantine the appropriate forms and fee that they require.
9. Not all airlines are participating in direct release on Maui. Please check with your carrier.
These are general guidelines only. Owners should check the state quarantine website for more detailed information so each step is correctly followed. If owners don’t follow the necessary steps, their pets could be denied direct release at the airport and are subject to be quarantined.
Pet-friendly hotels on Maui
If you’re considering taking your four-legged friend to Maui, The Jet Set Pets recommends these pet-friendly hotels on Maui:
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (Wailea)
Fairmont Kea Lani (Wailea)
Westin Maui Resort & Spa (in Ka’anapali on the west side of Maui)
Have you traveled to Hawaii with your pet? The Jet Set Pets wants to hear from you. Please share your experience with the rest of The Jet Sets Pets community in the comment box below. Mahalo!