“Hamsters Are Illegal” & Other Things You Ought to Know About Pets in Hawaii
Okay, let’s get the most critical point out of the way first. Yes, you read that right: Hamsters are indeed illegal to own or transport in the state of Hawaii.
The reason given for barring Mister Buttons and a host of other fauna from entering the state essentially boils down to ‘we’re trying to protect the ecology of the islands.’ And while it sounds ridiculous that your little pet hamster could possibly present such a huge risk to the Hawaiian ecosystem, it’s actually more likely than you’d think.
You see, the various ecologies on the islands are actually quite fragile, and the introduction of any kind of invasive species — as which hamsters, being rodents, unfortunately, qualify — could be devastating. As an example, the introduction of mongooses several years ago in an attempt to take care of a rat infestation has now led to a sharp decline in the Big Island‘s bird population as the new predators steal eggs from nests.
So it’s not that Hawaii doesn’t like Mister Buttons specifically; it’s that the state is extremely protective of its islands and extremely zealous when it comes to regulating the transportation of animals into the islands from the mainland.
This list goes over every single type of animal that is prohibited on the islands. Some of them will make sense (like alligators, for instance), but some (like the hamster) are ones you wouldn’t necessarily think of if you weren’t looking for it. So I suggest, if you have an exotic animal as a pet, that you go through the list to make sure that it’s not on the restricted list.
Conditionally Restricted Animals
Something that isn’t always brought up is the fact that in between the ‘approved’ list and the ‘restricted’ list, there are a bunch of animals that are ‘kind of restricted.’ This means that you can bring them in, but you have to apply for permits beforehand. Some of the more common animals on the list include guinea pigs and domesticated rats and mice. Typically you’ll see people shipping smaller critters in as laboratory animals or larger animals destined for zoos. But if you have a pet that falls into this category, there are a few extra hoops you’ll have to jump through to get it to the island.
A full list of restricted animals can be found here.
Transporting Pets to Hawaii
The first thing you need to know about bringing pets into Hawaii is that there’s quite a bit of paperwork you need to complete before you even get on the plane; otherwise, you’ll not only experience delays upon getting to Hawaii, you may find your pets quarantined for up to 120 days. Hawaii, you see, is a rabies-free state, and the state is determined to stay that way. They are absolutely rigorous about inspecting animals coming in from off-island, and if you don’t have the appropriate paperwork to prove that your pets are rabies-free, they will take no chances and confine your pets to quarantine — and likely fine you — until such proof is acquired.
To summarize the requirements: You’ll need to get a FAVN rabies antibody test to prove your pet does not have rabies, as well as provide proof of at least two rabies shots that the pet has received over the course of its lifetime, and they must be at least 30 days apart. Then you’ll need to wait a minimum of 30 days after a successful FAVN test before you bring your pet to Hawaii. You’ll also need to provide all the required paperwork on your pet. If your pet isn’t microchipped yet, you’ll need to get that done as well.
Here is a link to the Department of Agriculture checklist that details exactly what steps you need to take in order to bring your pet into Hawaii. I highly suggest you study it carefully and check off each box that applies to you and your furry buddy before you book your trip to Hawaii. It is going to take some time and money to get your pet onto the islands, but if you plan ahead, all that fun in the sun with your little fur-ball will be worth it!
Returning to Hawaii With Pets
One of the terms I learned about upon coming to Hawaii is ‘snowbirds’; they’re people who spend part of the year in Hawaii and part of the year back on the mainland. Often, Snowbirds will have pets that make the journey with them. If this is the case for you, then you need to know that you’ll still be subject to certain regulations about returning to Hawaii with your pets, even if you’ve already gone through the original red tape to get them to the island in the first place. In fact, the steps for getting a pet back into the state are pretty much identical to what would be required for bringing a pet into Hawaii for the first time. A full checklist can be found here.
Lastly, it is worth noting again that failing to follow the checklist could result in your pet being quarantined out of your care for up to 120 days before being allowed into the islands. I can’t stress this enough; make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row before you travel with your pet. A small expenditure of effort early on can save a world of trouble farther down the line.