PCSing From Okinawa With Pets

Having just gone through this process myself, I was delighted to receive this submission from Barbara.  She nailed the details and the experience! We have a number of posts about bringing animals to Oki, but this will give you the in’s & out’s of getting them back home.  I’ll add in a few notes throughout… –Joelle



In preparation for PCSing back to the States with my two dogs, I called the Kadena Vet Clinic on a Thursday, 17 days before departure. Unfortunately, they were booked for the next two weeks, and I was told to call back on Monday when the schedule opened for the week we were flying. I asked what happened if they had no opening. They said they would squeeze me in. I asked them if they couldn’t squeeze me in the week prior to that, and they said no. So I called first thing Monday morning, and sat on hold until I had to go. It took three phone calls to get through, but I made an appointment for the afternoon of April 19th. Our flight was scheduled for the 21st.

LESSON LEARNED:  Call Kadena Vet on the MONDAY two weeks before the 10 day pre-flight window begins. Be prepared to sit on hold for a long time.

We got to the vet and they asked if the dogs had any problems (no) and if they had rabies tags (yes). They checked the shot record and scanned the microchip, but didn’t do anything else and didn’t look at the crate at all (I didn’t even take it inside). I didn’t get them kennel cough because we were not boarding them and it isn’t required for flight. If you do, it has to be done 3 days prior to the flight. Kadena Vet gave me a signed rabies certificate, certificate of health, and letter of acclimation that said they were healthy for travel, but shouldn’t be outside 45-85 degrees for more than 20 minutes. Took about 30 minutes total.  (Current rabies vaccine must be administered 30 days prior to PCSing.  When I had tried to book an appointment for vaccines I found it was nearly impossible on base, so went off base to Noah Animal Hospital.  They were lovely and she got all the required paperwork, shots and even snacks and an adorable dog tag!)

Stopped to make 5 copies of everything plus orders and then headed straight for Naha Quarantine Office. They give you a map at the vet, but they couldn’t tell me exactly where the building was, and the map isn’t great. I wandered around until someone pointed me in the right direction. Park at the International Terminal. Walk around to the right side (as you face it) of that building. You’ll see another building set back a little bit. There’s a bit of Kanji, but no English to identify the building. Once you get really close, you’ll see a very small sign on the door that says animal quarantine. Walk in the building and make a left. It is the next door on the right. There are signs in the building. I took the animals in their crates. This office scanned their microchips and stamped all 5 copies of the vet papers. They looked at the letter of acclimation like they didn’t know what it was, but stamped it anyway. They put a green tag that said ‘Quarantined’ on each crate, but didn’t inspect the crate at all. About 5 minutes total.  (I made all my xerox copies at the USO on Kadena.  When we went to Naha, a guy at the front door stopped us from bringing the crate in — so no one even saw it.)

Next stop was the airport on fly day. They didn’t inspect the crates or animals. The main thing was that I wasn’t allowed to have any food or water in the trays. A gerbil-type water bottle was okay, though my pug never did figure out how to use it. They didn’t look at any of the paperwork either. My luggage was checked to DC, my final destination, but the dogs were only checked to the next stop, Tokyo. Cost for two small dogs (I think based on weight – total 25 lbs) was 9000 Yen (about $90).  (My cost was about the same but I calculated that if I’d had a large dog, it would have been over $300, but I think there is a limit to the weight a dog can be and still fly as baggage.  Must go as cargo over a certain size.)

Arrived in Tokyo. Had to pick up the dogs at baggage claim which means exiting security, rechecking them, going through security again, and processing through immigration.  (Go to arrivals instead of international transfer when debarking the plane – they had a sign with my name on it to remind me). At baggage claim, there is a small counter that said animal pickup. They brought them right away, and had a cart I could use to get them to the check-in one floor up. Since I only had about an hour, it was a rush. I had to ask another passenger to let me cut in line at immigration or I probably would have missed my flight with the animals already checked in. Since I was already rushed, I didn’t have time to take the dogs outside for a short walk/water/bathroom.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you have an extended layover in connecting airports. About 3 hours is probably about right. The travel agent doesn’t know enough to do this for you.  (We had 3 hours and with 3 kids in tow, we only sat at the gate for about 15 minutes — so be sure to have enough time!)

At the Tokyo airport, they did inspect the crates. They are required to have bolts with nuts holding the two halves the crates together. Fortunately, I read this somewhere and was ready, but I think they wouldn’t have let me flown if that wasn’t the case. The bolts were obvious on one crate because I had to drill holes for them. On the other crate, they fit underneath the plastic clips, so I had to show them to the agent. They also said I had to have a food and water dish, which my Chihuahua had managed to dislodge by then. Just clipped it back on and good to go. (Looked everywhere for these so if you lost the one that came with your crate, order a replacement online – we had to make a homemade one from findings at the 100 yen store).  (I had lost the water dish somewhere between the Shogun Inn and Tokyo, so I panicked!  But the check-in woman didn’t miss a beat, reached behind the counter and brought out 2 dishes that she attached and pointed us to the closest water fountain to fill them before turning the crate back in at the oversize baggage counter.  Classic Japanese customer service — but I wouldn’t recommend going without the dishes!)

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure your crate meets all requirements before your flight starts because they don’t inspect until mid-way and then it would be too late to fix. Crate had to have metal screws holding two halves together, food/water dish on door, and ‘live animals’ sticker (can buy at PetBox near grooming office).  (I think we got the Live Animals sticker from someone during the whole process…?? Barbara was definitely better prepared than me!)

Cost in Toyko was about $400 for both dogs. Also had to fill out a new tag for their crates that said last time they were fed and watered, and signed to say it was done within the last 4 hours (not true in case of food since the vet recommends you not feed them – and they don’t eat every 4 hours anyway). After checking them in, rolled them over to the Oversized Baggage Office for drop-off, and headed to the gate.  On the plane after takeoff, I asked them if I was supposed to get something that verified they were on the flight. The attendant checked – yes, I was and yes, they had gotten on the plane. Never actually saw a piece of paper. Hadn’t seen one on the first flight either, but I don’t think the Japanese flights do that.

Arrived at Dulles airport in D
C. Animals were parked in a random location in baggage claim. No one was there, and no one checked to make sure I actually owned the animals before I picked them up. Someone had given them some water by then, and it managed to spill all over their blankets. Think they were fit to burst, so they didn’t drink any. Went to customs, and had to go through line ‘A’ for agriculture. They said I needed to give them all of the dog food since I couldn’t bring it in the country. Stupid me told them I had some in my bag too, so they threw away my PetBox expensive dog food that wasn’t even open along with the food I had in the baggie on the crate. They said they could give them a handful then, but since the dogs hadn’t gone to the bathroom in about 15 hours, didn’t want them to explode. They didn’t check any of the vet paperwork either – so I still have 4 copies of everything (the Naha office did keep one copy). No one ever checked the rabies tags either since I had their collars in my bag the whole way.  (Exactly my experience — after all the hullabaloo of paperwork and hoops it was crazy to have no one care at all on the other end.)

Walked them outside the airport. Both went number 1 and 2. Then headed to my sister’s place about 15 minutes away. There they both went 1 and 2 again and 1 again and again and again. Now day two, they didn’t number 2 after breakfast. Think it will take a day or two to get their systems back to normal, and they’re whining much more than normal. All in all a long trip, and glad it is over. They are really no worse for wear, but wouldn’t try that with an older dog. Glad to be home!



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  3. HELLOS at have a quick question. I wasn’t wondering if anyone has psced back to the US with a perm other then a cat or dog. I been trying to contact the quarantine offices with questions burn haven’t been able to get an hold of them yet. I have two sugar gliders that I can’t stand to leave behind. I have gotten a permit and exemption for port of entry for the US. But am having issues figuring out if I need anything other then a health certificate to export them out of Japan. Thanks for the help in a advance

  4. I will be going to Okinawa end of next month : a bit confuse with what is required . I have a 10 month old Yorkie he has already received his rabie shot is April of this year and was microchipped in May of this year. Our orders say that after microchipped dog needs to have 2 rabie shots and do a titer blood draw FAVT. I am aware that we need to have rabie certificate along with health certificate days prior for us to fly out .. How would I go about my dog – he got his first rabie in April but microchipped in May would I just need to get one more rabie shot or would I have to do 2 rabie shots. Which is impossible due to us leaving next month. Just feedback would be appreciated .did any have to do FAVT titer for rabie on their dog ? Before travel.

  5. I came from us to Okiwana and carried my dogs on (small chihuahuas) one has anxiety and had to be sedated she could not feed during travel process and given only small amounts of water in between flights (she also gets car sick something our vet is very aware of so maybe that also affected her not being fed.) My printed me multiple copies of the letter stating she could not eat and recommended I staple one to her carry on case best advice ever! It was right there every single time I was asked for most of the time I just pointed and the person asking looked for themselves ( my husband was already in Japan I was flying by myself with 4 kids and 2 dogs I barely made it!). Also someone super helpful at a counter in Washington wrote out the vets directions in Japanese as well. Single most helpful thing I had because our dogs were checked a million times over maybe because we were carrying them I’m not sure.

  6. At the risk of being redundant, I am PCSing and going through Osaka. So, I leave Naha, go to Osaka, then to San Francisco. I’m worried about the time in Osaka. After I get off the plane when I land in Osaka, I pick up my pets and check them back in? Then I have to go through Animal Quarantine? Where will I check them in at? Will this all be in the same building or am I going to need to take several buses?

    • At the risk of sounding like I am giving you a generic answer, I am going to say it really depends on the airline and if you will be switching carriers during your trip. I remember paying the 70 dollar excess baggage fee to have my dog ride in his carrier with the cargo. Since I stayed with star alliance (ANA, UNITED) the whole way, that was the only time I had to pay. I am not sure about an AMC flight, but they have a pretty good facebook page with contact numbers. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/AMCKadena

  7. Great post. Love how detailed this is. I have a question, what if you have two stops? For example I have one stop in Tokyo and one in Houston(final destination is Tulsa). Do I have to pick up my dogs at baggage claim in Houston and check them in to Tulsa too? Thank you!

    • I went through this ordeal when leaving Okinawa in 2009. You will have to pick up your pet wherever your point of entry/customs stop in the states is. Usually it is Chicago, Seattle or some major city. In your case it probably will be Houston. The dog will usually be in the special baggage area. You also have to keep an eye out for your kennel as it is not out of the question for the baggage people to just drop your dog off unattended in the kennel next to any other weird luggage.

  8. Ok, I have a dilemna…..we have a 10 year old German Shepard that weighs about 95 pounds that is to be put in a 42 pound crate and sent back stateside. We made sure he was on our orders, flight info, etc. I called the United Airline Petsafe and was told there was a 110 pound weight limit!! So, the not so helpful lady told me she would email me info (phone numbers with no explanation is what I recieved from her)! I then email her back asking for any and everything I would need to get our dog on our flight….she told me to “change flights” which we absolutley cannot do. My husband got orders and we are to pack out and fly out in less than 1 month….so because of this we HAVE to fly commercial. I only have a little over 3 weeks left and everything else has fallen into place except this…..WHAT DO I DO??? Please help….any ideas?

    PS All shots, health cert, are good to go….

  9. Can anyone confirm a question I have about ANA (All Nipon Airways)?

    I booked my flight through United and was able to get a confirmation number from them for my cat on all of my flights except for the flight from Oki to Narita. United instructed me to call ANA. When I called ANA I spoke to the person at Domestic booking and was told for my flight from Oki to Narita I did not need a reservation for my cat, just to bring him to the check in counter.

    Is this correct?

  10. I just moved back to California six months after living in Okinawa for 5 years. I have a shih tzu that I brought back with me through commercial flight. I’m planning on coming back to Okinawa in June to try to bring back my dogs little sister that was just born in March 2014. I know the pet policy through United says at least 10 weeks to travel. How old do they have to be to get their rabies vaccination? Do I need to have orders for me to take the puppy back with me? Will they charge around the same price through commercial? Any info will be appreciated. Thanks!

  11. Editor’s Note: Due to technical difficulties this comment was not saved on our server. We are re-publishing it now to continue the conversation on this post.

    From Amy on 9/17/13:
    “FYI, Kadena vet clinic will make appointments more than a few weeks out for the health certs. Just made one today for the end of October, and a friend recently made one for December. ”

  12. Just wanted to let you know Jen everything went smoothly. I think the only thing that you just need to work around is the times and picking up your animal at the kennels and getting them down to Naha and back to the kennels. At Naha all they did was stamp all the paperwork. Kadena vet clinic was great at explaining everything. I have heard horror stories on people waiting all day to get their animals seen. My advice is make appointments 3 weeks in advance, I think that was the soonest I was able to make their appointments. That way your in and your out. They give you everything you need to take down to Naha and you need to take a copy of orders, ID card, pet confirmation for the airlines, the pets and the crate. We were in and out within 10 minutes. They stamp the papers, check microchips on the animals and give a tag to place on the crate. Good luck with your travels!

    • Great! Thank you for the update – already made an appt with Kadena last week and we’re set for a health cert 4 days prior to leaving. Best of luck traveling back with your fur babies & thank you for keeping me posted, I appreciate it!

  13. Has anyone heard anything about having their dog registered off base *before you can fly your dog out? My friend PCSd almost 2yrs ago and I vaguely remember her telling me she had to register her dog in Yomitan before she could ship him back. Thanks!

    • You are suppose to register your dog with the city office in that city you live in when you live off base. However, when we moved off base 2 years ago in Onna I called and no one spoke English and my housing agency had no clue what I was talking about, so I never did. We fly out this Monday the 3rd out of Naha and tomorrow we go for the health certificates and Saturday down to Naha at the quarantine office to get them all checked in. I have not heard about flying out having to do that, considering people living on base isn’t required to do that at all.

      • Awesome! Thanks for the info! We leave in a few weeks and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to do that. Also, I am assuming from your previous post that you *did find out that you have to go to Naha for quarantine check in?

        • Yep! They don’t make this process easy considering we have to rely on other people to take us around, especially asking them to drive from one base to other just to get the animals, than to Naha and back to put animals in the kennels than back to another base! The life of us military folks! Good luck with your trip! If anything new pops up I’ll post to give heads up!

  14. A lot has changed since we moved here 3 years ago with our pets from stateside with AMC. Now getting to return flying out through Naha. Just wanted to get some other input and what they have been told. My husband called this morning and they told him he didn’t need to make any special trips down there before our flight and the day of just make sure we have what we need to check on through, considering our pets are considered baggage they are already confirmed on the flight. He also called I think it was United because we fly into San Francisco all we need is to make sure we have their health certificates within the 10 day window of us flying.
    Well that doesn’t seem to stressful… However, I have read a lot and heard throughout the past few years people having to take several copies of their orders, along with their animals and creates down to Naha a few days prior and get them all stamped and checked to make sure the creates are airline safe and whatever else needed to be done.
    So my question is for anyone dong this recently, has the process changed, is what my husband told true or was the person he spoke with not familiar with the pet travel process? Any experience would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  15. Please contact United directly. tel 800.575.3335 petsafe@united.com
    They tend to change their mind quite often.
    Lufthansa would be my choice. They fly from several U.S.cities and go to both:
    Narita and Osaka. LH requires a pet shipper to do the booking. I will do this for
    you at NO cost. You, or anyone else, can then take dog to the airport.. Where is
    the dog shipping from? Don’t panic. This will NOT be so difficult.
    Best Regards, Jerry Mishler Action Pet Express

    • Thanks for that information. I will contact them tonight. We are trying to get my bulldog from Okinawa to Yuma, AZ. However, if it’s too hot in Yuma, I just want her to get to the States (Seattle, San Diego, or Minneapolis) and I’ll find other arrangements to get her to Yuma. I will check on Lufthansa as well. Do you have an email address so I contact you with any other questions?

      • Dear SRJ
        Sorry. Thought you were trying to get the dog FROM CONUS to Naha…. It is
        more difficult to get dog TO CONUS due to fact that you MUST use a pet
        shipper or some other form of cargo handler or forwarder. This is of course thanks to TSA who does NOT trust you to ship your own pets….. Do try to bring dog with you as excess baggage. Much cheaper and they clear customs with you. Still can do this yourself as opposed to having to use a pet shipper. Sadly the pet shippers in Tokyo are so VERY expensive. Have you contacted Mary at Camp Canine? This could be your best way. She can get pets to Los Angeles, where you would not have a temp problem. Do you have any family member or friends who could drive dog from LAX or San Diego to Yuma? UA goes to both LAX and San Diego. LH goes to LAX….
        Not sure if this paper will allow my info: http://www.actionpetexpress.com and
        info@actionpetexpress.com Otherwise, juse search for us on the internet.
        Best of luck…. Jerry

  16. We just went to Smooth Move last week on Foster and were told that all American airlines (Delta and United especially) do not fly English bulldogs no matter what. I checked the airline websites and found this to be true. The only two options are the AMC flight or a foreign carrier all the way (expensive). We’ve had our bulldog for almost the entire 3 years we have been here and are very sad that we might have to give her away. We are still waiting to hear about which flight we are on, but we should find out this week. I’m really hoping that we get a spot on the AMC flight. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. Oh, we fly at the end of April.

  17. @Beth: Did they provide you with a hard carrier for the first flight or did you have to bring both?

    I have so many questions. Ha! Why does it have to be so hard?! The original poster mentioned a Letter of Acclimation. Does Noah’s Vet Clinic give that out as well or is it even required?

  18. In 2009 I flew with my two dogs, two cats and a wonderful friend that helped me get the family to my retirement home in South Carolina. My dogs were shi tzu and many of the carriers have restrictions on flat nosed dogs. Be sure you tell them you are PCSing. Delta made an exception for me to travel in June. Also make sure to get housing prior to your flight well in advance. Nothing was available for us but at the last minute I was able to get into Eagles Lodge. The dogs were in hard carriers for the whole trip. The cats had to have hard carriers into Narita, but then were switched to Sherpa bags and rode in the cabin with us. Yes six carriers and luggage. I could not get a flight from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach that would take us so I rented an SUV and drove here. It is a hassle but it is well worth it. So many pets are just dumped when people PCS it is heartbreaking and they do not fair well. Please take the time and save up to cover the expense for their travel. You will be glad to have their love and affection at your new destination.

  19. Hopefully you all should know by this time that United WILL ship pets from CONUS
    via San Francisco to Osaka. This way you can avoid Tokyo and the VERY expensive
    IPATA pet shippers. United will then make the necessary transfers to ANA on to
    Naha. Some agents at PetSafe may still tell you this is not possible. Do NOT
    accept this answer. We here at Action Pet Express have the necessary emails from
    United verifying that this plan is indeed in effect….
    You should be able to book with United yourself. If they want a pet shipper to do
    the booking, we will do this for you at no charge….
    The return to CONUS, as cargo, is still a major problem. Camp Canine is probably
    still the best answer. NO one in CONUS can do this for you. Wish I could..
    Regards, Jerry

  20. I am flying out of Oki in two days and have everything ready to go for my two dogs who will be flying as checked baggage. I will be flying by myself with a 3mo old and two dogs(can you say circus!) we denied the ticket I was issued because it was United with awful layovers and would have cost us about 900 just for the dogs. I bought a one way delta ticket that was cheap so the dogs could fly Delta as it is like half price with way better flights. We will have one stop in Tokyo then home in Minneapolis but I’m totally stressing about stopping in Tokyo.
    Can someone guide me through the process from wheels down in Tokyo through getting your dog over to the other terminal and rechecked in. I will be flying JAL then Delta and I know I have to switch terminals. Normally you take the shuttle bus to the other terminal but with two dogs how do I get to the other terminal and how long does it take? Someone told me it was quite a hike but couldn’t really tell me much more. Can anyone guide me without confusing me more. I was going to request help in Tokyo but want to be prepared just in case!
    Thanks in Advance

  21. After loads of stress and bugging people I have managed to get my french bulldog in the cabin with me for an AMC flight back to the states in September. I’ve read the older comments on here stating that soft carriers are not allowed in cabin, however after more than one phone call to AMC to confirm they say YES you can use soft carriers. Has anyone already done this, or does anyone have any friends who have? I’ve found one soft carrier at the local BX and i just fear they will not approve it. Does anyone have any suggestions on brands/where to get a decent carrier for in-cabin travel???????

  22. we are PCSing from Oki to NC in Sept. 2012. I just contacted Shogun inn to reserve a room with pets. They said that rooms with pets are not available for the days I asked and that since I am an Army, they can’t issue me a letter of non-availability. They do have a room available, but no rooms with pets. I’d have to put my pets in the kennel. My friend who did stay at Shogun inn with pets for PCS move suggested me to keep calling Shogun in for a room with pets… I don’t know anybody who would take care of our cats while we stay in Shogun inn and I am definitely trying to stay away from the kennels since our cats literally lost half of their weight while they stayed at Karing Kennel when we PCSed into Oki. Any suggestions?

  23. Are any forms other than the health and rabies certificates required to fly back to the US? there is a form on the Japan AQS website for exporting animals from Japan but I’m not sure if that applies.

  24. Thanks for the infomation. Getting ready to PCS back to CONUS. Good to know it’s not has hard as some say. You have one lucky little pooch (or pooches) there to go through so much trouble for them. Too many Americans abandon their pets instead of taking them back to the states. I just adopted a mini dachshund from the Okinawa kennel called Ozato’s. So many of their strays, which are gassed after 5 days in the facility, have American microchips. So sad. They would just rather abandom them than go through the trouble of getting them flown home. Good on you and everyone in this stream for taking your pets back to the states. On another note….for the last post in the stream…..I think the Patriot Express will fly animals during the summer months. Not exactly sure, give them a call. Good luck to all!

  25. We are trying to find any information about flying our dog back to the states during the summer months. We’re going to SeaTac airport so the weather there is going to be substantially different than here once we arrive. Our dog is considered to be a restricted breed (American Pit Bull) though, he doesn’t seem to have a short nose to me! My concern is that even though we are flying into a totally different environment, will they keep us from flying out with him? Should we try to send him early? Has anyone had any experience with this? The Pet embargo has me panicking a bit that we’re going to have to leave him here until we can bring him to us in September!

  26. Suzanne- If you haven’t had any help with shipping your dogs, please contact Mary Seward-Yamada. She’s the owner of Camp Canine, and has been helping folks ship pets for a while now. She is likely very knowledgeable even with the newer regulations. Email: campcanine@gmail.com
    Phone: 090-7586-4001
    Best of luck!

  27. Does anyone have info on whether (now that all of United/Continental’s policies have changed) you can (when PCSing on military orders) fly cats under the seats still, or do you HAVE to do cargo for them? Their press release where they said they are making an exception for military families on orders wasn’t clear on this. I called the Cargo department and they had no idea. United’s call volume lately has been over 60 min. wait . Thanks in advance!

    • You can fly small pets in-cabin with United. However, in order to pay for the pet ($125.00 one way), the humans have to be ticketed. Currently, we have reservations for our flight from Osaka to CONUS. I am in the process of e-mailing the Passenger Transportation Office for the USMC about when we will get ticketed, in order for us to call United and pay for the in-cabin pet. United Reservations (1-800-396-1751) is the number to call once you are ticketed.

  28. Just FYI for anyone PCSing from Okinawa to Guam with pets… TMO will only book you on the OKA-GUM direct flight, and you can’t take “circuitous travel” through mainland Japan (has to be another country besides US or JP). That flight is not yet set up for taking pets either as “Excess Baggage” for military on PCS orders, or as Cargo in their PetSafe program. Since they can’t do it, and you can’t change your flights to go through mainland, the only option is to use a pet shipper, or book your own flight through mainland and not get reimbursed. It’s over $2000 for either option when you factor in excess paggage or PetSafe cargo fee. If you hire PetSafe to do everything they won’t fly your pet directly to Guam, meaning you aren’t going from rabies-free-rabies free and you’ll end up with 120 days of kennel time on the back end.

    Continental are supposed to be working on getting their folks in Naha trained for the paperwork for Guam, but very little information is coming from their folks on when. I did get 1 lady to admit they had put the requirement in in Feb for the training and that they had a suspense of 20-something March 2012, but nothing else.

  29. If you have a reservation with connecting flights, but they are all the same airline and under one flight purchase, you only have to pay once. Typically you pay once from Oki to the states and then again from your point of entry, to your home. It’s about $200 per dog from Oki to Seattle. You will need a rabies certificate, not sure about an actual tag. Yes, you take the animals, in their crate, to the airport the day before. You do not have to quarantine them when leaving. We just brought two animals back to the states. It was waaay easier going home than bringing them to Oki.

  30. Okay so if you are taking your cat on the patriot express to Seattle (final destination, so no commercial travel is needed) what do you have to do and what do you need? I am finding tons of info for dogs but not clear enough info for a cat. Thanks!

  31. I had my yorkie get her rabies today. They gave me her rabies certificate. Do I have to get a rabies tag as well to PCS? Can I get that on base? We live off-base, but are pcs’ing so soon that I do not want to have to register her with our town office for 30 days and the 14 we have left in this appartment.

  32. Just to let everyone know: You are NOT ALLOWED to take your pet out of the kennel when you get to Tokyo. They do not have a space for pets to go “potty” or anything like that. They just have to suffer through it. Luckily I have a Shiba Inu who would rather run out in traffic than pee in his own kennel so he stayed dry all the way to the states (which was about 20 hours!).

  33. There is no quarantine when leaving Okinawa and heading back to the United States. That is only for pets arriving in Japan.

    You will have to pay the airlines for the pet space. For example, if you fly commercial on ANA from Okinawa to Tokyo and then United from Tokyo to the states, you would have to pay both ANA and United since they are separate entities.

  34. My husband and I aren’t PCS’ing until Jan 2013, but we’re looking into adopting a dog in the next couple months. Reading this info has helped. We’re worried about PCS’ing out of Okinawa with a dog (my Aunt and Uncle did it 5 yrs ago with 2 small dogs and have horror stories). I’m hoping that in the past 5 years things have become easier. However, I still have a couple questions.
    1. For the quarantine…do you have to quarantine your pet in a kennel, or can you just quarantine it at home/hotel before leaving? Or does the lady from Camp Canine deal directly with that?
    2. The cost of the crate and pet for the airlines. When we flew out here we had 3 connecting flights from where we left to Okinawa. Will we have to pay EACH FLIGHT for the pet, or is it just the one time in Tokyo, and then one time once we reach CONUS? Thanks so much for your help! 🙂

  35. Question- we get our dogs rabies shot in October of every year, does it really have to be 30 days before leaving or do you just have to show proof that everything is uptodate. Do you have to have blankets in the kennel and can you put a chew toy in there? thanks so much PCS is in mid April 2012, just trying to be prepared when we leave OKI

  36. Get him a solid crate for Okinawa-Narita/Haneda/the US and then carry a soft sided crate for the rest of the time. It’s horribly unsafe for your pet to be in a soft sided crate and be under the plane, so they won’t allow it. MAKE SURE YOU GET A CRATE THAT -SCREWS TOGETHER-. Not one with clips or twists on the side! It must have a screw that comes in the bottom and a wingnut up top!

  37. I’m getting ready to pcs back to NC and have been trying to find info on flying with my cat as a carry-on. I’ve read that you can’t do that on flights from Okinawa but I can have him as a carry-on on my other flights. Is this true and am I allowed to have him in a soft-shelled bag checking him in at Naha? If I plan to put him in a soft bag, do I take him in that to the quarantine office at Naha when they stamp the paperwork?

  38. Base housing does not have fences already put up. If it’s something you’d like to get, you can either buy them from another family leaving the island or buy one out in town and have one put up. You will first need to get approval from the housing inspectors office by filling out their form and creating a drawing with dimensions on it to give to them first. Fences need to be taken down before you exit military housing. Hope this helps:)

  39. Heather, I cannot suggest any more firmly that you just contact Mary at Camp Canine to be certain about things. She’s always happy to field questions for pet owners that make taking their pets home a priority. However, yes, I believe you do have to take them up to Naha. But contact her first!

  40. “I took the animals in their crates. This office scanned their microchips and stamped all 5 copies of the vet papers. They looked at the letter of acclimation like they didn’t know what it was, but stamped it anyway. They put a green tag that said ‘Quarantined’ on each crate, but didn’t inspect the crate at all. About 5 minutes total.”

    So before your flight date, you HAVE to take your pets, in their crates, to the Quarantine office in Naha? And do they actually quarantine the animals, or do you take them back home with you? We’re PCSing out this August, and I ask because I have an 80 lb German Shepherd with stranger (and car!) issues. Since we got him, 2 years ago, I’ve been hoarding and agonizing over all the information about PCSing out with pets that I can find. Thank you SO much for this post!

  41. I PCS on Nov 6 and my 2 bulldogs are on the AMC flight to Seattle. We are staying the night and fly from Seattle to Atlanta on the 7th. My question is what is the best airline for bulldogs. And what is the process for flying out of Seattle with pets. Price is not a big deal. Thanks for the help.

    • Todd,
      I noticed you posted this a few years back now. I am actually looking into an assignment in Camp Zama, Japan. I have an English Bulldog. I was curious, if you did travel with your dogs, with which airline and how did it go? I would like to PCS with her rather than leave her with family for 3 years.

  42. When you pcs with a pet on a military sponsored flight, you are not charged for the travel expenses. If you fly commercially, the military does not cover the cost of your pet pcsing with you. Also, we paid for quarantine/boarding expenses out of pocket. We were given the typical money that a family receives when pcsing, but none of it was designated as pet-related. Basically, if pcsing with your pet is important to you, you are agreeing to pay for any vet care, travel expenses (if flying commerically), and boarding fees associated with it.

  43. @Gwen – the site you mention above says quarantine costs are covered (which is great) but that transportation fees are not covered. Are you finding something different to be true? Were you pet flight and boarding costs covered?

  44. We had just got here in June and brought both our dog and cat. Both of which were put on my husbands orders. You are authrozied up to $550 in travel expenses for your animals. Which include boarding fees, and any cost obtained due to PCSing. Since we traveled from the states through AMC we still had to pay a certain fee for each animal. Just the boarding on Kadena for a week was almost a couple of hundred dollars. So it doesn’t take much to reach that $550 max. Once your spouse checks in and does the travel claim, mention this to the clerk. We already received out money back, part of our travel claim. I provided the site for reference.

  45. @Elizabeth…the military will not pay for any pet fees or tickets if flying commercial. It’s unfortunately all out of pocket and not reimbursable. When we flew we had to reserve the spot for the on the flights as well although someone else had told us it would be done for us. I have no idea about the military flights though. I have never been on one of those but I hear that their seats fill up quickly which is why we went commercial.

  46. I thought I heard somewhere along the vine that if we can get our pets on our orders, then the military will get a ticket for the animals. I think I heard up to two (2) pets. How much truth is that? Does anyone know? Also, how different will the info be if we stay overseas, like our next duty station could be Germany. Thanks for any info!

  47. Regarding the pet crate… one of mine only had the plastic clips too, so I drilled holes through the two sides and put a nut and bolt through (3 on each side). That made the airline clerk happy. On my other crate the holes for bolts were actually underneath the plastic clips. They took very short bolts, but the PX has a home assortment of nuts and bolts for a couple bucks. One is bound to work. When I bought my crates they said they were approved for airline travel. I wasn’t about to shell out more bucks just because the rules had changed!

  48. Also you can always take your cat or dog(if small enough) as a carry on. I brought my cat as my carry from SFO and didnt pay a dime, United does not pay attention to your carry on and the it was 40 dollars to fly him on ANA which he had to go with baggage and since I was told in the begining he could be my carry on for ANA did not have a carrior just a squishy dog bag ANA gave me a crate to use at no extra cost. If I didnt now have 2 cats when it comes time to go home I would definitly take them as my carry on but Im hoping I can atleast have them in the same crate to keep each other calm.

  49. You can call the airline directly with your reservation numbers and they can tell you approximately (based on the weight and dimension info you provided when you made the reservations for the pet) how much you will be charged. Note that each leg with a different carrier will be a different price. For example, I am flying from here to Narita and then onto Honolulu…I have to pay ANA for the first leg and then pay United for the second leg.

  50. http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/qanda/dogcatqaex.html#2-1

    “Q: Is it possible to take a dog (cat) animal out of Japan when it has not been immunized against rabies, or when it has only been immunized very recently?

    A:If the dog (cat) has undergone export quarantine at the Animal Quarantine Service, it can be taken abroad regardless of whether or not it is immunized against rabies, or regardless of how many days have passed since it received the vaccination. (Please note that annual rabies vaccinations are compulsory in Japan). However, depending on which country you are traveling to, rabies vaccinations may be obligatory, or there may be a set number of days which must have passed since immunization took place. Please be sure to check entry conditions of the country you are traveling to with the foreign embassy in Japan(外部リンク), or with the responsible animal quarantine authority.”

    We had just PCS from the states in June. This is our 3rd time here, but first traveling with pets. I wanted to provide this website because it lists many of question and answers, whether arriving or leaving the island. I know arriving through Kadena, we didn’t have to do as much paperwork with notifications and such as if we would have needed to if arriving in Naha or another port. We traveled from Indiana all the way with crates that just had the snaps as well. Will diffiantly remember that when traveling back stateside. I just hope it’s not much of a hassel going as it was coming.

  51. I’ve checked the USDA site (et al) for pet import requirements and nowhere can I find that a microchip is required for import into the US. I understand that it was required to bring an animal into Japan from the US, and I do fully understand why one is required in pets of SOFA status personnel, but if I am trying to take the dog out of the country via a commercial carrier, it doesn’t seem to be neccessary (unless I try to get my health certificate from the base). Just like rabies vaccinations (my dogs have not had a *rabies* shot since we got here) – Kadena Clinic told me the vaccinations are “required by the Japanese government” but we’re in a rabies-free country. The US import requirement from a rabies-free country is that the animal be vaccinated within 10 days of arrival into the US or within 4 days of arrival at its final destination within the US.

  52. @ Corinne…all dogs and cats will need to have the microchip in order to leave the island. Before you leave and make that final vet appt they’ll give you paperwork that you’ll need (along with your microchip info) to take to the Naha airport quarantine facility so they can approve your pet to fly out of Japan.

  53. Does anyone know if the microchip is required for export? We’ve acquired a dog while stationed here and haven’t had him chipped as of yet (our dog brought from the states is chipped already). I’m clear on the shots and health certificate, just wondering if he can travel without the chip.

  54. I just want to point out that United DOES NOT ACCEPT GIANT KENNELS FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH VERY BIG DOGGIES. OR Kennels over 150 pounds with the dog in it. Some of you guys with labs would be surprised.

    Talk to Delta. They’ll do anything for a buck. =D

  55. What if your orders were given last minute and you had less than 30 days to get your cat vaccinated for rabies? Would that prevent me from flying with her? Also, if the temperature gets too hot and they won’t fly your pet, what happens to your pet? Do they make you wait with your pet till it’s cool enough and put you on another flight?

  56. My dogs are not on the restricted breed list. However, I was reading the United guidelines and it says this:
    “Extreme weather guidelines will apply, preventing cargo shipment of any live animal when the temperature is forecast to exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit at any point in the animal’s journey.”

    I’ve heard from people that our dogs could be refused to fly due to temperature, but I’ve never actually heard of this happening to anyone who is PCSing from Oki. Have any of you heard of this happening? This is my biggest concern right now, especially since we are flying late July.

      • Hi Aubry,
        we are trying to find out the same information LEAVING Oki. during the summer months and our dog is on a restricted list as well (even though in my opinion he doesn’t have a short nose at all!) Please please keep me posted if you find anything out!! And I will do the same for you!

  57. Steph,
    It’s by crate size, I think. So check on the website of the airline you are flying. They should list their prices for international flights per crate size. And we paid in Tokyo with a credit card.

  58. We are PCSing on Sunday. We were also told that I could just walk in to KAB vet clinic (which truly is hideous) with orders and get a healthy animal certificate. But after hearing from other friends that they received their healthy animal cert from Noah animal clinic, I made an appointment there. Today is that day. SO far, Noah has been amazing and WELL WORTH the extra cost you may pay to get the certs. YOu can get them quickly UNLIKE Kadena.

    Here’s my question though, how do you find out how much you are going to have to pay to leave Tokyo with your pet? We have a cat and I can’t find info anywhere that says how much we will pay to get him out of Japan. And how do you pay? Card, Yen??? Does anyone know?

  59. We just PCS’d out last weekend. We used the PCS service at Camp Canine as well as boarded our dog and cat there. It really took some of the stress out of the PCS. Mary picked up our pets at Kadena Gate 2 on the day we moved into the West Pac. She boarded them, had all their vet visits/paperwork and quarantine visit done, and delivered them to the airport with their crates on the day that we left out of Naha. I would definitely recommend looking at this option if you have pets. It alleviated having to have multiple vehicles to get kids, luggage and pets to the airport. The only downside is that for some reason the Kadena vet clinic would not give me a copy of our pets medical records until they received a copy of the health certificate of the off base vet. Because Mary took care of all the paperwork, we didn’t get it until the airport, and would have had no car to go to the clinic even if we had received the certificate prior to the airport.

  60. Like I said, you need to contact them (KAB Vet) a month out because they are very busy and you can’t show up just a few days out from the PCS and get a health cert like you used to. When I left here the first time, we were just told to call a day or so before we wanted to fly and they would get the health cert done…I don’t believe that is the case right now with them working out of the temp facility. I met a customer at Noah that told me he was there to get a health cert because they were flying that week and KAB’s vet had told them there was no way they would be able to get them in before their flight. I am not sure how much he had to pay but at least it is an option for people if they can’t get in to KAB.

    The key is that people need to make sure they find exactly the documentation that applies to their individual case because I have found that getting an animal to Hawaii is more costly and a bit more detailed that even bringing them here.

  61. It is not a month out to receive a health certificate from the vet on Kadena, especially since they are only good for 10 days. The clinic asks that you try and call a month out so they can be more accommodating with scheduling, since with a PCS people have a lot of checking out to do. If you are PCSing with orders, the vet clinic on base must see you but it may be on a walk-in basis which could mean a wait. You can go off-base for a health certificate but some places charge up to 5000 yen where on base it is free with orders.

    To go back to the CONUS, all shots must be done at least 30 days prior to flying. Bordatella is also a good idea for the dogs just in case they have to be in a kennel anywhere in your travels.

    The quarantine for Hawaii is only 120 days which starts from the date the lab receives the FAVN blood sample, unlike Japan which is 180 days and starts the day the sample was drawn. Hawaii is very specific so definitely check with the vet clinic on base for all of the specifics.

  62. My understanding right now is that it is a month out to get a health cert from the vet on KAB so don’t wait until the last minute to call them…I do not know if you can get health certs off base or not…but I have to say that all my experiences with Noah Animal Hospital have been awesome and I prefer to take my cat there rather than using the vet on KAB at this point.

    As far as I know, cats and dogs need to be current on their shots…30 days before flying for rabies but I am not sure it matters as much on the others…

    Hawaii on the other hand is a different matter…and you should get the links from the KAB vet’s office on the specific sites for Hawaii because it is completely different from going to CONUS, and much more difficult than it ever was to bring my cat here. Fortunately, even without orders, we knew where we were going next so I was able to do her FAVN draw in January and will already have her cleared their 180 day quarantine before we even get there.

  63. We just arrived to Fl a few days ago from Oki with our cat. It was such an easier process out than it was into Okinawa with him. We flew in through Atlanta and the police at the checkpoint had me skip going into customs altogether (he asked…you don’t really have any pet food do you (wink, wink)? Then he told me to put the cat on my other arm (which I was too cluelessly tired to even understand why) to walk past customs and go directly to our gate. We still missed the flight (I’m assuming that it was normal there b/c the process was so easy to re-book the flight). We also got to keep our cat in the cabin on every flight minus the flight out from Okinawa. He was in a collapsable soft-sided carrier. I wrapped the bottom of it with puppy pads to be safe and he didn’t even use them bless his little heart:) So, 33 hours of travel time and we are back here safe and sound. These past 3 years have been quite a journey and we will always think of Okinawa as home.

  64. I just PCS’d with my dogs back to the States too. I think what you said about having a long layover in Tokyo is really important. Our flight out of Naha was delayed because of the long line through international connecting flights, and by the time we got to Narita we only had 20 mins to get our baggage, our dogs, and recheck in. The lady who worked behind the counter didn’t even check our dog crates because we had to rush to get them on the plane since our gate was getting ready to close.

    We flew to Seattle and they didn’t make us throw away our dog food that was attached to the crates, so I guess it just depends on where you go through customs with that.

    I’d also recommend trying to get flights with the fewest layovers possible. After Seattle, we still had two more stops in the States so I felt really bad for my dogs. Good post!

  65. Are dog and cat regulations for export different for the rabies vaccination requirements? Each website I checked just said “dog” must have received the vaccine 30 days prior to entry, but the Japan site did not specifically mention cats. I did find a brief blurb on the usda site (below) that there isn’t a vaccine regulation for cats… is this right??


  66. It wasnt mentioned here, but during the summer months (June- September)theres a no fly ban for certain breeds. Call the airlines well in advance to make sure you wont have any problems- we found out too late, and were unable to bring our Boxer to Okinawa last June.

  67. Mandy — if you look on the website of the airline you are flying (United for most of us) — it will give details on the requirements for the kennels. Every site I’ve seen says NO to the snap handles… so, I’m not sure I’d chance it if you are flying commercial. But definitely look on Okinawa Yard Sales if you are needing to buy another — I got one there for $30.

  68. where can the requirement about kennels with screws be found? One of the kennels I have has the screws, but the other has handle things that snap over the lip.

    Both kennels were used to bring my cats into Japan 2 years ago with no problems, and I’d rather not pay $$ for another kennel when I have a perfectly fine one right now.

  69. I agree with Kristy…we had extremely short notice orders. My husband flew out a month 1/2 before me…I was able to get on another rotator and after all the stressing out I did with getting our two pets ready to go everything went super smooth. Totally recommend flying via the rotator with pets. The only thing that that was really a pain in the butt was quarantine time. All depends when your FAVN tests were. Your pets more than likely have to be quarantined & they have to stay on base. We are living off base and were told that we could either put them in Karing Kennels or have someone that already lives on base sponsor them. Come on now…we were brand new to the island, so who do we know to take in our pets? Nobody…& Karing Kennels can run up to $150 a week per pet…we just kept them at our place and made sure they got to the once a month check in & everything is great. Finally done with quarantine after 3 months!

  70. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! We are PCSing in July and I’m FREAKING out about bringing the dogs on a commercial flight (we were also told that the doggie spots were full on the rotator). This info is so helpful.

    Also – Joelle, we miss you here in Oki!

  71. Oh, and another thought is that it was actually cheaper in the long run to fly commercial. The Patriot Express is cheap for the dogs — $92, I think. But as soon as you land, all domestic flights with dogs (regardless of size) on United are $250. So unless your new duty assignment is in Seattle, you’ll pay a lot for the dog on the next flight. Our total cost for our dog (commercial) was $310.

  72. Kristy — for me, the rotator was not an option because our orders came so late that by the time we tried to book space on the Patriot Express, there were no “dog spaces” left. My understanding is that there are only a few dogs allowed per flight and if you are flying during a high PCS season AT ALL (though we left in mid-April) there is little chance of getting a dog space unless you are able to book the flight well in advance. As soon as we gave our dates to the powers that be they said, “Oh, you have a dog? Well, then you’ll fly commercial.”

  73. Was it your choice to fly commercial out of Oki? We had a very good experience on the rotator into Kadena (we’re air force) with our dog. Not having to deal with the local government at all was nice, it was all military handled. We hope to be able to get on the rotator out in 3 years and have the same positive experience of not having to deal with the local government at all.

  74. This was great info! We didn’t bring our dog here with us because we had so much confusing/awful info. We have adopted a dog her on Okinawa and plan to do whatever it takes to get her back with us. It sounds like a pain but very helpful info. Thanks!