PCSing from US to Okinawa with a Dog On the Patriot Express


Editor’s note: Courtney PCS’d from San Diego to Okinawa with a dog, traveling on the military flight commonly referred to as the “Patriot Express.” She has some helpful hints for those who will be attempting to do the same this season.

We started our process about nine months before we left the US. The first thing I did was call our base veterinarian and make an appointment to start the process. At our first appointment we got our dog microchipped and she received her first rabies shot. Our dog already had an Avid microchip, but because it was not recognized internationally, we re-microchipped her with the company Home Again.

PCSing with Pets l Okinawa HaiAfter the first rabies shot we made another appointment for her to get the second rabies shot, which must be given at least 31 days after the first rabies vaccine. Two weeks after the second rabies vaccine I made another appointment for her to have the FAVN test done. The FAVN is a blood draw that needs to be taken and sent off to a lab. When you receive the FAVN results back, your quarantine starts. To come to Japan, we had to do a 180-day quarantine. We did not have to send an advanced notification 40 days prior to arrival because we flew AMC from Seattle.

A few days before we left, we made another appointment to go and pick up her health certificate. The certificate has to be done within 10 days of arriving on-island. If the health certificate is done by a military veterinarian, it does not require a USDA Endorsement, as long as all requirements are met through the military veterinarian. Our vet gave us a few copies of all the paperwork we needed.

Once we received our orders we called the AMC terminal to find out what kind of kennel requirements we needed to meet. The kennel needed to be big enough for the pet to lay down and to stand up and turn around. We bought nuts and bolts to secure the kennel top and bottom together. We had also read that we would need to zip-tie the door, so we bought zip-ties. We were never asked to zip-tie the door. However, we thought it was better to have it and not need it than to be stuck at the airport and not be able to get them.

I also read that we would need to use puppy pads and have a water bowl that hooks on the kennel. We bought these items as a “just in case” precaution, but again, we were never asked for them. Still, I was glad to be prepared because there was no way I was going to get to the airport and have anybody tell me that we couldn’t take our dog because we didn’t have X, Y, or Z.

90 days prior to our requested departure date (actually, I made my husband start asking TMO to check flight availability about 85 days prior), we were able to confirm places for ourselves and our pet on the AMC flight. I never felt so relieve! TMO booked our flight from San Diego to Seattle; we then called the airline and booked our dog. We had no problems.

When the day finally arrived, we showed up to the airport in San Diego and we were on our way. It was a very easy process with Alaskan Airlines. I was very nervous but they took great care or her. We got a hotel room in Seattle because we had a nine-hour layover and we wanted her to be able to stretch her legs. We also wanted to get a little sleep! We stayed at the Red Lion; it was clean, and they had a free shuttle to and from the airport.

We left the hotel around midnight because I had heard it was quite a process to get checked in. We got in line with all the families and the airline workers came and inspected her kennel, took the paperwork they needed and had us place her up by the check-in counter. We remained in line and checked our bags, then got our tickets. At about 4:00 a.m., we took her out of the kennel to go potty one last time before we went through security.

At our first stop, in Yokota, we were allowed to let her out to potty, and we gave her some water and a little food. At our second stop, in Iwakuni, we were allowed to get her out again to potty.

Once we arrived at Kadena, our dog was waiting for us by the baggage claim. There was a nice woman there to hand out a bag of treats for her. We were finally on our way to the Shogun Inn on Kadena.

The room was small. It was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom layout with a small kitchen (refrigerator, microwave, stove, some silverware, dishes, pots, pans, etc.) There are four in our family so our children had to sleep on a pull-out couch. They did not provide extra pillows or sheets, but luckily I had some or our sheets and blankets in our luggage. We went and bought pillows at the BX. I did not ask the front desk; I just took care of it since I had the stuff with us.

If you cannot get a pet-friendly room there, you can kennel your dog at Karing Kennels. It is also located on Kadena. Within 72 business hours of arriving on-island, your pet will have to be seen by the Kadena Veterinary Clinic. Monday morning I took our dog to the clinic. They did a quick physical exam on her and checked her paperwork. We did not have to pay for this. We found that our previous vet did NOT include her microchip numbers on her rabies vaccine paperwork, and we would need to complete another 180-day quarantine. Great. It was not a huge deal just a little inconvenient. Please make sure you check that on your paperwork.

My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you are organized and that you stay on top of the process. Don’t rely on anybody else to remember to check flights or paperwork. We were always calling and checking on things to make sure they were being done.

I’m including some links that I used when I was trying to figure out what to do or what to expect:






  1. I have a question to the type of microchip. I was told Avid microchips are okay for Japan but not for England. My dog has had an Avid chip since we purchased him from the breeder and vet said that was fine. Went ahead and did rabies and FAVN test. Is this information incorrect? I did some research and as far as I can tell it is accepted.


    Can anyone confirm this? Seems like we get different answers all the time. Thanks!

  2. Is your dog on special food? They sale a few brands at the BX and PX including Blue Buffalo, IAMS, Purina, etc. The Kadena Vet Clinic does sale heart guard and frontline but you can also carry these on or attach them to the top of your dogs crate in a zip lock bag.

  3. I am PCSing at the end of Oct and I was wondering how to get my pet’s food to Oki? DMO is telling me that I can NOT ship it in my express or HHG shipments b/c of customs regulations. Can I take it in my personal luggage aboard the AMC flight? Can I mail it over?

    Also, does the VTF provide flea and heart worm meds for sale? Can I bring those in my luggage or am I going to find them missing when I get to Oki b/c someone took them out. My animals ARE my kids and I want to make this transition as smooth as possible for them.

    If ANYONE can give me some advice on how to handle this, it would be great. Thanks.

  4. I have a clarifying question or two: I am wondering about “home quarantine”. By the time I PCS this June I will have completed the Home Again Micro-Chip, the 2 rabies certificates and the FAVN. The 180 day quarantine period starts mid-May for my dogs, but I leave in early June. Their quarantine period ends approximately mid-November. I obviously want to take my pupps with me. Can I take them with me in June or will I have to leave them at home while they complete their quarantine period? I appreciate any help regarding this matter.

    • If you live in on base housing while in Japan you will be able to quarantine your pets in your on base home for the remainder of their quarantine period. If you live in off base housing then your pets will have to stay in an approved quarantine facility for the remainder of their quarantine period. Hope that helps!

  5. We had an Avid microchip 1st, we were asked to get a Home Again microchip by our vet so it would be recognized in Japan. I don’t know what policy was before we got here. Our quarantine was complete before we left the states due to the rabies paperwork not stating our dogs microchip number we had to complete another 180 day quarantine. The vet did scan her microchip with no problems. I am just stating what we were told by the Kadena Vet when we got here.

    • Just an FYI for anyone coming to Japan with a pet: The Microchip information MUST be listed on the 2 Rabies Certificates, the FAVN, and Health Certificate, otherwise the Government of Japan will reject ALL documentation and your pet will be given a 180 quarantine period from the date you arrive on island regardless of what you completed in the states. And you must also have the paperwork showing proof of when your pet was Microchipped.

  6. I am a little confused about how you describe having to quarantine your dog again because your previous vet failed to put both microchip numbers in with your paperwork? That sounds a little off to me. The only time I was told that we would have to quarantine our dog is if we didn’t meet the 180 days of quarantine after the FAVN test was done. Luckily we new a year in advance that we were coming to Okinawa so we were able to meet the required quarantine days. I flew to Okinawa on a commercial flight from Florida to Okinawa with my dog. My dog was giving a Home again microchip the year we adopted her and when it came time to move to Okinawa we were told that Home Again was fine and that we didn’t have to give her an Avid microchip. They did however say that if we were making a stop somewhere in Europe than we might have had to give her AVID but we weren’t so it was not a big deal. Did this policy change? I arrived in Okinawa in 2011 so maybe the policy did change. If that was the case where no microchip numbers were ever added to your pets medical paperwork couldn’t the vet just scan your dog to see the microchip number? It sounds odd that you had to quarantine your dog for another 180 days simply because your previous vet didn’t register any microchip numbers.

    • Hi I noticed that you stated that you flew from Florida to Okinawa and we are in Tampa FL now and have orders to Okinawa this June. Can you tell me what airlines did you fly into Okinawa and what was your experience with your pet on those flights?