Flying dogs to Maui, Hawaii

11October 2012

As I have mentioned in previous posts, flying your dogs to Hawaii from the mainland can be a major test of your patience.  It is very difficult, very time consuming, very expensive, and can be amazingly confusing.  Now that everything is all said and done for us, I would like to share with you some of the steps along the way.  We were very fortunate to get all of our paperwork in order and our two dogs were released directly from the airport with NO quarantine.

Starting your dog on this process actually begins about 6 months before your intended flying time.  The state of Hawaii is very strict on its rules.  Because Hawaii does not have rabies, their rules must be followed to the exact time requirements.  If you are off the time limit, even by a few hours, your dogs will automatically be quarantined for 120 days.

The first step to flying your dogs to Hawaii is visiting the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website and printing off their requirements.  Take this paperwork to the vet with you so that your vet can assist you with the many questions you will have.  Next, schedule your vet appointment to receive a rabies vaccine for your dog.  This is necessary even if you are up to date on all your dog’s shots (as we were).  About a week after the rabies vaccine, you must return to the vet to draw a blood sample.  This sample must be sent to Kansas State University.  Your vet will send the sample to the appropriate address (this will be in the paperwork).

This first step is the most important step to really get you going.  Your dogs may NOT arrive in Hawaii until 120 DAYS AFTER the university receives the blood test.

You will also need to have your pet microchipped (if not already done so).  If your pet is already chipped, be sure to have the vet check the chip to make sure it is working.  If you fly your pet to Hawaii and their chip cannot be scanned properly, your dog will receive the automatic 120-day quarantine.

WARNING:  The amount of paperwork involved with flying dogs to Hawaii is amazingly time consuming.  Make sure you print ALL of this paperwork.  Although it will take you time to go through and figure it out, make sure you have everything, including your check list of the requirements for the 5 Day or Less Program for your pet.  We found this page very helpful to make sure we really had everything we needed.

Finding an airline to fly your pet is another expensive and time consuming adventure.  Because one of our dogs is very large, about 90 pounds, we ended up having an unforeseen complication.  Although I did my homework and actually physically went to the airport and asked questions, I was given incorrect information.  I was told that both dogs were to fly out of the main airport at the counter behind their baggage claim.  Be sure that if you are flying a large dog, you mention that to them.  If I had asked this place, “My one dog is 85 pounds and will be in a kennel that weighs 30 pounds, is this still the right place?” they would have told me no.  Most airlines have a rule that cargo must be UNDER 100 POUNDS.  Had I simply asked this question at the time I was there, it would have saved me a very large headache over two days.  If your dog and kennel will weigh over 100 pounds, your dog MUST be flown through the airline’s Freight Office.

This kennel was the largest airline kennel they had.  We had to add a 5-inch wood spacer to meet the airline requirements for Caravaggio’s size.

Because Caravaggio is such a large dog, and a TALL dog, we had to order and build a special kennel for him.  Check out the Sky Kennel website for available kennels and use the sizing chart to measure your dog.  Properly measuring your dog for a kennel is VERY important.  If you have questions, contact your airline after measuring your dog.  If you have a large dog that will not fit into the largest regular kennel, you will need to add a spacer or build your own kennel.  We used Atwood’s Pet Transport to order our kennel spacer.

Also, airlines will NOT FLY YOUR DOG IF your dog has been SEDATED.  Be sure to NOT give your dog drugs of any kind prior to flight.

Airlines also have a temperature requirement to fly pets.  If the temperature outside exceeds 84F (29C) or drops below 45F (7C), the airline will not accept your pets for flight.  Keep this is mind when scheduling your pet’s flight.  It is also a good idea to plan your flight around this possible complication. My husband and I planned this out very well.  My husband flew out first and was able to handle the dogs coming into Hawaii.  Our flights were scheduled a week apart, with the dogs flying a few days after he left.  It was a very good thing we did it this way because we did indeed have a complication with flying Caravaggio.  Had a been scheduled to fly the same day as the dogs, I would have had to change my flight and pay extra for doing so.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the information on the Dept. of Agriculture website is for flying your dog to the big island of Hawaii.  Trying to figure out how to get the dogs from the big island to another island became just too much of a headache for us.  That is when we decided to hire some help from Akona Pet Travel.  I very highly recommend finding someone to assist you in the paperwork headache with flying pets to Hawaii.  This company put us in touch with a certified verterinarian that met my husband at the airport when the dogs arrived.  The vet checked them over real quick, scanned their microchip, and released them to my husband.  Because of our complication with the airport in Minnesota, our dogs ended up flying separately, and both flights were delayed getting into Maui.  The vet that Akona Pet put us in touch with was extremely nice and very understanding of delays.  She was happy and willing to come any time, no matter when the flight came in.  This was also very important because the department of agriculture will only allow pets to arrive at their open business hours.  You could very easily run into a problem with this, as flights are often delayed, especially those going to Hawaii.

I have since heard of another company that can assist in flying pets to Hawaii as well, Island Pet Movers.  Although Akona Pet was immensely helpful overall for us, I was slightly disappointed in them.  Akona Pet is the reason we ended up having to fly our dogs separately.  They mistakenly booked Caravaggio out of an office that was closed the day of his flight.  I was extremely NOT happy about that and had to endure a large day of headaches because of it.  Since being on Maui, I have heard nothing but good reviews of this other company, Island Pet Movers.  Considering my very large headache caused by Akona Pet’s mistake, I would recommend Island Pet Movers instead!

The Department of Agriculture Hawaii requires you to mail your paperwork ahead of time.  They must receive copies of the paperwork required (with original veterinarian signature) 30 DAYS BEFORE YOUR PET ARRIVES.  The Department of Agriculture website has the Dog & Cat Import Form that lists all the paperwork needed to mail…including two rabies certificates, microchip information, and the health certificate.  Keep in mind the Pet Health Certificate you will not get until 10 days before you fly, and are therefore unable to mail 30 days ahead of time.  We were concerned about this, but it was not a problem.

This was the very expensive, most important, piece of paperwork for direct airport release.
This piece of paperwork (along with copies of both rabies vaccines with original veterinarian signature)
 travels in the documents pouch that will be attached to the kennel.

The last thing you will need to fly your pet to Hawaii is a veterinarian certificate of health.  This must be done WITHIN 10 DAYS OF ARRIVAL.  Please note, some areas of the paperwork say this must be done within 14 days of arrival.  Yet another part of the paperwork that is confusing.  Just know that it is NOT within 14 days, it is within 10 days.  The Health certificate is a fairly easy and quick vet visit.  The vet is basically checking your pet over to make sure they are healthy.  At this time it is also required that the vet apply a flea and tick remedy (such as Frontline).

I’m going to tell you right now, the day you fly your pet you should expect something to go wrong.  There is always a complication.  You may get lucky and get through everything smoothly, but be prepared for drama.  Remember to exercise your pet as much as possible before bringing them to the airport.  It is important to remain calm.  The more calm you can remain, the more likely your pet will remain calm.  Make sure you have been doing Kennel Training with your pet over the past several months so that your pet is familiar with and comfortable in the kennel.

Because we put in the time and effort to kennel train our dogs, and I made a point to stay calm when taking them to the airport, we were able to keep their travel day as stress-free as possible for them.