Moving Pets to Hawaii: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Part 2

Moving Pets to Hawaii: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Part 2

  • Amber Lee
  • 10/31/21

Moving your pet to Hawai’i can be the most stressful part of an otherwise exciting move!

We’ve got pets of our own, so we get it! That’s why we’ve answered four more of the most common questions we hear about moving with your pet in Part 2 of our 3-part series, Moving Pets to Hawaii.

To help you make the move to Hawai’i go as smoothly as possible, we’ll answer these frequently asked questions about moving your fur baby, four-legged pal, or feathered friend to Hawai’i in Part 2, including:

  • What Are the Airline Requirements for Pet Crates?

  • How Can You Prepare Your Pet’s Kennel for the Aircraft?

  • How Can You Prepare Your Pet for Traveling in a Kennel?

  • What’s the Difference Between Direct Airport Release and the 5 Day-or-Less Program?

For your peace of mind, and your pet’s comfort and safety, keep reading to get the answers you need about moving pets to Hawai’i!

6. What Are the Airline Requirements for Pet Crates?

Make sure you do all the necessary research before purchasing a pet kennel. Even if a manufacturer says a kennel crate is “airline-approved,” it doesn’t mean that it’s approved for flights to Hawai’i.

Since every airline has different requirements, always check with the airline you’re using on their pet kennel requirements before purchasing a pet carrier or crate. And take the following into consideration prior to purchasing a pet kennel and booking your pet’s flight:

Choose an International Air Transport Association (IATA)-compliant, airline-approved kennel crate. Kennel requirements for pets riding in the cabin are a little different from kennel requirements for pets riding in cargo (keep reading for more info). Some airlines only allow kennels with certain dimensions, which is another reason to check with your airline on their requirements.

In some cases, your pet may be riding in both the cabin and cargo during their move to Hawai’i, so you will have to use 2 different airline-approved kennels.

Airline Required Pet Kennel Features

For all you resourceful pet owners out there thinking about using a kennel you already have or building a container yourself, make sure it has the required airline-approved features. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to modify the kennel or purchase a new one.

For more information, watch this video on Preparing your Pets’ Carrier for In-Cargo Travel and Transport

Approved and Required Pet Kennel Features for Riding in the Cabin:

  • Appropriate-size. Your pet must have enough room to stand, turn around normally while standing, sit erect, and lie down in a natural position. If your pet has a short nose (for example, a Pug or Persian), it is recommended that you choose a kennel that is 2 times larger than needed to protect them from overheating.

  • Fits under the seat in front of you.

  • Escape-proof. Secured with zippers, not snaps.

  • Leak-proof. Absorbent, waterproof material on the bottom of the kennel (Pet pads are recommended).

  • Adequate ventilation. A minimum of 2 sides of your carrier should have mesh ventilation.

  • Must enclose your pet completely. Your pet’s head cannot stick out of the carrier.

Approved and Required Pet Kennel Features for Riding in Cargo:

  • Appropriate-size. Your pet must have enough room to stand, turn around normally while standing, sit erect, and lie down in a natural position. If your pet has a short nose, it is recommended that you choose a kennel that is 2 times larger than needed to protect them from overheating.

  • Leak-proof. The bottom of the kennel must be solid, absorbent, and waterproof (Pet pads are recommended).

  • Escape-proof. The kennel must have 1 small hole near each corner of the door for inserting cable-ties to ensure the door remains closed.

  • Made of thick plastic, fiberglass, solid wood, plywood, metal, or weld metal mesh (no completely metal wire cages). Important note: Not all airlines will accept crates made of wood, so check with your airline.

  • Held together with metal hardware (no plastic pegs).

  • One-inch, handling space bars or handles must be present on the long side of the kennel crate.

  • One door that can be securely fastened (cannot be located on top of kennel). The door must have a secure, spring-loaded, all around locking system with the pins extending a minimum of ⅝ inch (1.6 cm) beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door. The door must be constructed of cast or welded metal, or heavy plastic that is strong enough to prevent your pet from bending it. The door must be paw and nose-proof to protect your pet from being injured in any way.

  • Food and water trays that attach to the inside of the front door. Trays must be refillable from the outside of the crate, so your pet can be given food and water without opening the door. Food can be attached to the top of the crate in a plastic bag. Travel Tip: Small funnels attached to the door with cable ties make it easier for airport handlers to refill water bowls.

  • Adequate ventilation on all 4 sides that equals 16% of the kennel’s total surface area. Openings must be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) over the upper ⅔ of the opposite end and the remaining 2 sides, at a distance of 4 inches (10 cm) from center to center of each opening. Ventilation holes must not be taped over or blocked in any way.

Unapproved Pet Kennel Features:

The list below contains carriers and kennels that are NOT approved or accepted by most airlines. This list also contains features that CANNOT be used on pet kennels that will be onboard an aircraft (even if advertised as “Airline Approved”).

  • Kennel cannot be made entirely of metal-wire caging.
  • No dial latch attachments. That means no round plastic dials, which often fail.
  • No plastic, wing-barrel door latches. That means the door CANNOT come out completely when all 4 latches are turned to the open position, as these can accidentally be turned to the open position, releasing your pet.
  • No plastic doors. Doors must be made of metal grate.
  • No plastic pegs. That means no plastic pegs inserted into the holes that turn to the right or left to keep the peg in place.
  • No snap latch attachments – No plastic latches that snap together, as these often fail to stay snapped closed.
  • Cannot be collapsible or foldable. That means no kennels that fold down after use.
  • No wheels or battery-powered fan.
  • No top-loading, double doors (only one door is allowed and it CANNOT be on top of the kennel).

7. How Can You Prepare Your Pet’s Kennel for the Aircraft?

What to do when preparing your pet’s kennel for the aircraft, before you arrive at the airport:

  • Put absorbent material on the bottom of the kennel. Do not use hay, kitty litter, straw, or wood chips, as messy shavings are not allowed. While a clean towel will work nicely, pet pads are recommended.

  • Check kennel hardware for loose or broken parts, as well as for plastic. Replace any plastic parts with metal pieces (bolts, door, etc). Use crate hardware to fasten the upper and lower halves of the crate and zip tie each corner.

  • Place appropriate stickers on the kennel. Place LIVE ANIMAL stickers on the top and sides in letters at least 1 inch tall. Also, there must be directional stickers and a Shipper’s Declaration sticker adhered to the top of the crate stating when your pet was last fed and watered (wait until you arrive at the airport for this part). This declaration will inform airline personnel of how to feed and give water to your pet. The USDA requires you to do this within 4 hours of check-in.

  • Tag your pet’s kennel with the appropriate identification. Label the crate or carrier with both you and your pet’s name, as well as your contact information. It is recommended that you put your pet’s identification papers in a plastic sleeve or large, clear plastic bag, and attach it to the outside of the kennel with sturdy tape, such as duct tape. Be sure to include the following:

    • Pet’s name

    • Identifying information (anything that airline personnel should know)

    • A current photo of your pet

    • Your name

    • Name of the person who is picking up your pet (if it’s someone other than you)

    • Your Hawai’i address

    • Your contact phone number (and the number of the person who is picking up your pet if applicable)

Then, put your pet’s veterinary certificates in the bag or sleeve with the other paperwork, and mark the bag or sleeve with “ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS – DO NOT REMOVE.”

dog on beach wearing sunglasses and lei

  • Hang the food and water tray on the inside of the kennel door. If possible, put the tray(s) in a place that is easy for your pet to reach, but not likely to spill. It is recommended that you either fill your pet’s bowl with water and freeze it the night before the trip (don’t forget it though!) or add some ice cubes to the water bowl just before you hand your pet over to airline personnel. This will ensure that your pet has water throughout most of the flight. A pet water bottle is another option, as long as it is the “no-leak” variety and your pet is familiar with drinking from it.

What to do on moving day:

  • Attach one clear, sealable plastic bag with your pet’s food to the top of the kennel. This will be used by airline personnel if the flight is delayed. If your pet will need medication during the flight, consider putting it in a smaller plastic bag (snack or sandwich-sized bag), and then inside of the larger food bag (gallon-sized) and include a brief set of instructions.

What to do once your pet is in its kennel and ready to be handed over to airline personnel:

  • Do secure the kennel door. To properly secure the kennel, place 4 hand-releasable cable ties through the holes at the corners of the kennel door.

  • Do NOT give your pet a sedative or medical tranquilizer. As we mentioned before, sedation is the worst thing you can do to your pet before their long flight. To calm your pet, opt for natural, animal-relaxing products that will encourage sleep without affecting their breathing.

  • Check your pet in according to your airline’s requirements. For cargo transport, this may be up to 4 hours prior to take off. For pets flying in-cabin, it is generally 1.5 to 2 hours before. After boarding your plane, ask a flight attendant to inform the Captain that there is a pet traveling in cargo and confirm it has been loaded (this is more for your own peace of mind than anything)!

We cannot stress this enough! Check with your airline on their kennel specifications and requirements for transporting pets to Hawai’i. And remember that only one animal is allowed per kennel, no matter what airline you travel to Hawai’i with.

8. How Can You Prepare Your Pet for Traveling in a Kennel?

To protect them and minimize their stress during travels, be sure that your pet is familiar with and comfortable in their crate or carrier. In the weeks leading up to your move to Hawai’i, test out the kennel to be certain that there is no way your pet can escape. It is highly recommended that you begin crate-training your pet a minimum of 30 days before your flight to Hawai’i.

If your pet doesn’t usually wear a collar, consider collar-training them a month or so before the trip. This provides security in the rare case that your animal gets out of its kennel. Select a collar with a tag and include your current contact information on it.

And double check that your pet’s collar and tag have the correct address and phone number before your trip to Hawai’i. Break-away collars are recommended, as they won’t easily snag or get caught on the kennel door.

Also, be sure to have your pet’s nails trimmed before the flight for added safety (especially if your pet has to ride in cargo). Follow the guidelines here and you’ll feel confident knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to make the move to Hawai’i as comfortable as possible for your pet!

9. What’s the Difference Between Direct Airport Release and the 5 Day-or-Less Program?

Both the Direct Airport Release and the 5 Day-or-Less Program have the same requirements, enabling you to get your pet to Hawai’i while spending as little time as possible away from your furry friend. You just have to adhere to the State of Hawaii’s rules and guidelines.

woman hugs fluffy white cat

There’s no getting around it – Every pet being transported to Hawai’i must wait 120 days (or 4 months) before entering the state, starting the day after an approved laboratory receives the blood sample for the OIE-FAVN test. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay extra fees and endure being separated from your pet while they are in quarantine. You can opt to have your pet wait at home (with you) before being brought into Hawai’i!

Then, after all of the other Hawaii pet quarantine requirements are met, you can choose from the Direct Airport Release or the 5-Day-or-Less Program options.

Note: If your pet arrives early in Hawai’i, they will not qualify for Direct Airport Release or the 5 Day-or-Less program. Additionally, the $14.30 per day fee applies for each day your pet is kept.

The Difference Between the Direct Airport Release and 5 Day-or-Less Programs

Direct Airport Release is for those traveling with their pet that plan on picking them up upon arrival, before leaving the airport. For those not traveling to Hawai’i with their pet, Direct Airport Release means that you plan to have your pet leave the airport and be transported to your private residence shortly after you arrive.

If your four-legged friend is qualified for Direct Release, you can pick them up at the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility (AAQHF) at the Honolulu International Airport or at an approved animal holding facility for Direct Release on neighbor islands (make sure to ask where to pick up your pet)!

To qualify your pet for a Direct Airport Release, follow all of the necessary steps for Hawai’i pet quarantine carefully before landing in Hawai’i. This means that your animal must have completed the necessary waiting period and you can present their required vaccinations, paperwork, etc.

The 5 Day-or-Less program was set up because so many people arrived in Hawai’i with their pets and a hotel reservation, only to discover that you can’t simply take your animal to any hotel. If you are spending a couple of days in a hotel or rental that doesn’t allow pets, or need a couple of days to get situated when you arrive in Hawai’i before picking up your pet, the 5 Day-or-Less Program might be for you!

And since any animal prepared for the 5 Day-or-Less Program is eligible for Direct Release after paying the $185 fee, you can pick up your pet as soon as you find housing, even if the 5 days are not up.

Through this program, your pet can stay at the Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) for a few days (for a flat rate fee of $224). Of course, your pet will still need to complete the necessary waiting period before arriving in Hawai’i, as well as have all the required vaccines and paperwork.

Unless you make arrangements with the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility prior to arrival, pets in the 5 Day-or-Less Program whose final destination is their home on Oahu will be brought to the AQS in Halawa Valley. Once all of their documents are received and verified, you can pick your animal up there.

Important Reminders for Pet Parents: Once the airport releases your pet, they can no longer take the animal back, even if the owner has no place to go or take it. On the Dog and Cat Import Form, be sure to specify whether you prefer the Direct Airport Release or the 5 Day-or-Less Program for your pet.

Answers to Your Important Questions About Moving Your Pet to Hawai’i

Still concerned about where your pet will fly when they travel with you to Kauai? Need more details on how quarantine works before you make your big move to Hawai’i Island? If you have any questions about moving your pets to any of the Hawaiian islands, feel free to ask us in the comments!

Our Hawai’i Life agents will also be offering more helpful information in Part 3 of our blog series, Moving Pets to Hawaii, including: Info on housing pets together for the 5 Day-or-Less Program, where Oahu’s Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility is, what he COVID requirements, what the requirements are for moving rabbits, birds, horses, and other animals to Hawai’i, and what companies can provide help with the Hawai’i pet relocation process.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Part 1 of the Moving Pets to Hawai’i series!

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