Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PCSing to Okinawa with Pets

Alright, so when we were first told we might be going to Japan the first thing I thought about was Boomer, our dog. He's like my baby and I absolutely have to have him with me (again, base housing is a whole different issue). I started researching information about the process to get him to Japan. It seems like a lot, mostly because of the amount of wordage I read and because of the fact that Japan is VERY strict about the procedure. However, if you take the time to familiarize yourself with what is going on, it is much easier than you initially expect.

I'm not going to bog this down with a wordy explaination for everything, but rather give you an outline of the process (this is MY experience only with my dog flying on a commercial flight...birds and such other creatures are foreign to me!) of getting your animal to Japan. I will, however, include links to sites that have been helpful to me. Educate yourself and make sure you know and are comfortable with what is going on- don't rely on anyone else entirely!

1. Housing: As soon as you find out you will be moving, contact the Kadena Housing Office (if moving to Okinawa). They aren't much help as far as reassuring you about pet-friendly housing, but they will give you some forms to fill out to send in with your orders so you can be placed on the wait list.

2. Veterinarian: Make it easy on yourself and do this work with a military veterinarian. They generally know more about the process, have the correct paperwork, and are less expensive. Our civilian vet actually told us to go through the veterinarian on base, because it is cheaper and less of a hassle for him. Trust me, this way is much easier.

3. Vaccinations: Follow this process STRICTLY!
     -Microchip (ISO-compatible, HomeAgain works)- any rabies vaccines given before this is implanted do not count. Keep the stub with the microchip number on it.
     -1st Rabies Vaccination (inactivated)- can be done at the same time as the microchip.
     -2nd Rabies Vaccination (inactivated)- 31 days after the first rabies vaccination.
     -FAVN/Blood Test- Per AQS "on or after the 2nd rabies vaccination". For younger pups it is suggested to wait 15 days to allow the antibodies to develop in the dog's system. You will receive the test results in the mail (takes about 3 weeks).

4. Quarantine: Japan has a 180 day quarantine for all imported animals. This period starts once the lab receives the FAVN sample for testing. Before you start freaking out, remember that if you are living on a military base, this quarantine can be completed at home in base housing as long as the pet has no contact with other animals, is taken out only to use the bathroom on a leash, and visits the vet monthly for an exam.

5. Notification for Import: After you have completed the vaccination process, received the FAVN test results, and have your travel arrangements, you must submit a form no more than 40 days in advance notifying Japan of the pet import. Since we are military, AQS will be flexible on the advanced notification.
     -They will send YOU an Approval of Import Inspection of Animals form. Keep it!

6. Health Certificate: No more than 10 days (I would say no more than a week, because you lose a day traveling to Japan) before you arrive, you need to get a health certificate from the vet. Military vets will have this forms and know what to give you!

7. Certificate of Exporting Country (Forms A and C): Make an appointment with USDA in your state to certify/stamp all of these papers before leaving the country. The top part of Form C, page 3 is to be filled out by your vet. This is a general health exam and statement that your dog doesn't show signs of rabies or Leptospirosis.

8. Import Inspection: This is done upon ARRIVAL to Japan. Fill out the Application for Import Inspection form before you get there.

9. Pet Quarantine/Exam Certificate (MDJ Form 270): For military members doing quarantine ON-BASE. Fill this out before you get to Japan-this is your ticket to leaving the airport with your pet.

10. Scan and Email all documents to your first port of entry in Japan (we arrived at the Tokyo Narita Airport). Ask for verification that you have everything and are not missing anything. They will email you back with an "ok" if everything looks good.

And Voila! Assuming you follow all of the steps in the correct order, you should have no problem getting your pet to Japan. Many websites say that Japan discourages importing animals less than 1 year old (see the bottom of the checklist link), but so far we haven't run into any issues with Boomer only being 8 months old. If you are trying to import a 30 day old puppy you might run into some problems.

As of right now we are still on step 3. Boomer goes to the vet on Ft. Lewis/McChord on the 27th for his 2nd Rabies vaccine and again on January 10th for his FAVN test. We should get official orders this week. I will let everyone know how the travel arrangements go!
I will also update everyone as soon as I find out more about the housing situation!

Required Documents for PCSing with Pets: http://www.usarj.army.mil/organization/vet/r_doc.aspx
*Pet Processing Checklist: http://www.usarj.army.mil/organization/vet/PetChecklist.pdf
Japan Animal Quarantine Service: http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/animal/dog/index.html

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