Step 1: Prohibited Animals
Step 2: Vaccinations
Step 3: Microchip
Step 4: Blood Test
Step 5: Flight Booking
Step 6: Kennel
Step 7: Import Form
Step 8: Health Certificate
Step 9: Flight Prep
Step 10: Moving Day
The day has finally arrived for your pet to fly to its new home in Hawaii! At this point, all the prep work is over, so this post will simply guide you through what to expect, based on my own experience flying from California to Hawaii with two cats.
If your pet is a dog, try to give it one last potty break before checking in at the airport. (Many airports have designated areas for this purpose.)
Assuming your pet will be flying in cargo/baggage hold, you’ll need to check in the animal + kennel at the same airline counter where you check in your luggage. If your airline has a counter reserved for odd-size baggage, you may be directed to wait in that line.
If you haven’t already written in the time when you last offered your pet food and water on the Shipper’s Declaration label (on your pet’s kennel), you must do so now. Keep in mind that the USDA requires that this time be within 4 hours of check-in.
Be ready to show the airline agent the documents inside the plastic bag attached to the kennel, particularly the health certificate.
If your pet will be directly released from Kona, Kahului, or Lihue Airport, show the agent your Neighbor Island Inspection Permit.
If your pet is traveling from Guam, Australia, New Zealand, or the British Isles, show the agent the “Carrier’s Statement” section on the affadavit form, and ask when and to whom this form should be presented for completion.
Next, you will probably be taken to a room or enclosed area (so your pet can’t run away), where you’ll be asked to remove your pet from its kennel while security agents inspect the inside of the kennel. If your pet is a dog, have its leash/harness handy, and if you have a cat, be prepared to hold it very tight in your arms (and endure some possible clawing!) or put on a harness and leash.
Once the kennel inspection is complete, you’ll be asked to put your pet back inside of it.
If your pet is traveling from Guam, Australia, New Zealand, or the British Isles, ask if this is the last time your pet will need to be removed from its kennel until it arrives at its final destination. If it is, secure the door with the non-releasable cable ties, in order to fulfill the Department of Agriculture’s requirement that your pet be shipped in a kennel that is “sealed such that removal of the animal will break the seal.”
If your pet is traveling from any other country, you may secure the kennel door using the hand-releasable cable ties again.
At this point, it’s time to say your goodbyes. Your pet will now be taken away in its kennel so it can be transported with the rest of the flight’s baggage for loading on the airplane. Assuming you’re accompanying your pet on the same flight, the next time you’ll see your pet will be at the airport of your final destination.
Boarding the plane
- Notify a flight attendant that you have a pet riding in the baggage/cargo hold. Ask them to please inform the pilot as well.
- Once the aircraft crew has loaded your pet into the baggage/cargo hold of the plane, they will give a flight attendant a baggage receipt, which they in turn will bring to you to let you know that your pet is safely aboard.
- If your pet is traveling from Guam, Australia, New Zealand, or the British Isles: Unless you were instructed otherwise by the airline agent during check-in, show a flight attendant the “Carrier’s Statement” section on the affadavit form, and ask when and to whom this form should be presented for completion.
Disembarking the plane
- If your pet is traveling from Guam, Australia, New Zealand, or the British Isles: Unless you’ve already been instructed otherwise, show a flight attendant the “Carrier’s Statement” section on the affadavit form, and ask when and to whom this form should be presented for completion. Don’t leave the gate until you get the completed form back, as you’ll need it to secure your pet’s direct release.
- If you have a guide dog or service dog and have a Request For Terminal Inspection, give it to an airline agent at the gate and follow their instructions as to where you should take your dog for inspection.
- If your pet will be directly released from Kona, Kahului, or Lihue Airport, show an airline agent at the gate your Neighbor Island Inspection Permit and ask where you should wait for your pet to be delivered for inspection. By the time your pet is delivered for inspection, the contract inspector with whom you’ve made arrangements should be there to inspect your pet and review its documents.
- If your pet is arriving on an international flight, it will be taken through U.S. Customs by airline personnel before being brought to the airport’s quarantine holding facility (or airport terminal, if you have made previous arrangements) for its Department of Agriculture inspection.
- If your pet will be inspected at Honolulu Airport‘s quarantine holding facility:
- Pick up your luggage at baggage claim.
- Bring an empty luggage cart (for transporting your pet in its kennel after release) to the quarantine holding facility.
- Show the Department of Agriculture agent the copies of your pet’s paperwork to facilitate the direct release of your pet.
- Sit back and wait for your pet to be inspected and brought out to you in its kennel.
After your pet’s release
- After your pet has been inspected and directly released to you, it must stay in its kennel until it is transported off the airport’s grounds. This means your pet must be loaded into a taxi or other vehicle while still inside its kennel.
- Once you’ve driven outside the airport boundaries, you can let your pet out of its kennel. However, keep in mind that your pet (particularly if it’s a cat) might feel safer remaining in its familiar kennel until you arrive home.
- If your pet is a cat and it is accustomed to going outdoors, don’t let it roam freely in its new, unfamiliar neighborhood too soon. In fact, if you can keep it from going outside at all, all the better. But if your cat is insistent on exploring its new yard (and Hawaii’s flora and fauna are certainly tempting to cats!), make sure you supervise your cat closely at first. If your cat tends to flee from you when you try to control its whereabouts, put on a harness and leash so it can become familiar with its new surroundings while still under your control. Slowly allow your cat more independence until you’re confident it knows its way around your new neighborhood and can find its way back home.
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