It’s no secret that getting pets to the Island has become more difficult since airlines started cracking down on pets flying on longer flights. While it is definitely a lot of work, and sometimes costly, getting your furry friend to Okinawa with you is not impossible.
You have a few options, depending on how you will be traveling to Okinawa and we’ll lay each of them out for you later on, but first let’s review the import requirements for cats and dogs entering Japan.
Japan’s Animal Import Requirements
If flying commercially to Okinawa, you will need to provide advanced notice to the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) at least 40 days prior to your arrival. To do so, complete one or both of the following forms, depending on your pet.
- Dogs: Notification of Import Inspection of Dog
- Cats: Notification of Import of Animals under the Rabies Prevention Law
We’ll review this more later, but if you fly to Okinawa on the Patriot Express out of Seattle, you do not need to provide the advanced notice since you’ll arrive on Kadena Airbase rather than a Japanese port of entry.
International Microchip Confirmation
All dogs and cats being brought into Okinawa must be individually identified by an ISO compliant microchip. It is important to note that this is different than the microchip typically implanted by most U.S. veterinarians. When you go for your pet’s FAVN test (again, more on this in a bit), your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your current microchip is the one you’ll need.
Dogs and cats 91 days or older must be vaccinated at least twice with an approved rabies vaccine.
- The first vaccination must have been administered according to label recommendations
- The second vaccination must be current according to label recommendations AND have occured more than 31 days after the first vaccination and within the effective period of the first vaccination.
While this sounds confusing (because it is), your vet will be able to make sure your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date and in compliance with Japanese import requirements.
Rabies Antibody Levels Measurement
All dogs and cats coming to Okinawa must have their rabies antibody level evaluated once they’ve been vaccinated in accordance with the requirements we listed above.
The FAVN test must be done at one of two stateside laboratories approved by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan:
- Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory
- DOD Veterinary Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory
The easiest option for this test is to have it done at your base veterinary clinic since they have experience working with the approved DOD laboratory.
All dogs and cats coming into Japan are required to undergo a 180 day waiting period which starts the day their sample is collected for the rabies titer test.
Since the 180 day waiting period is not always possible from the time you find out you’re PCSing to Okinawa, your pet can spend the remaining time in quarantine once you arrive. If you live onbase, they can complete the quarantine at home, but if you’re offbase they will need to complete it in an AQS facility on or off base at your expense. The quarantine end date will be given to you at your initial vet appointment on Kadena which must take place within 72 hours of your arrival in Okinawa (more on that later).
Dogs and cats must be inspected by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian and confirmed free of clinical signs of infectious disease including rabies and leptospirosis prior to leaving for Japan. That confirmation is presented to the Japanese government via a Health Certificate which must be obtained no more than 10 days prior to ARRIVAL.
While you can go to any USDA Accredited Veterinarian, the easiest (and fastest) way to get your pet’s health certificate is to go through a military veterinarian. They typically have experience preparing the paperwork and do not need the APHIS endorsement. If you go to a civilian veterinarian, you’ll also need to make a trip to the nearest USDA office for the APHIS endorsement.
While not required, Japan does recommend the following immunizations and treatments before arriving for dogs and cats 91 days or older, 30 days prior to arrival in Japan:
- Dogs: Distemper, Contagious Hepatitis, Parvovirus infectious disease trivalent vaccine
- Cats: Feline viral rhinotracheitis, Feline calicivirus, Feline panleukopenia trivalent vaccine
- Parasite Treatment
- External Parasites: Treat with medicines effective against mites and fleas, and just before leaving have a clinical inspection to confirm that your pet is free from any external parasites
- Internal Parasites: Administer medicine effective against nematodes and tapeworms
The list of import requirements can appear daunting, but your base veterinary clinic will be a useful resource since they have pretty extensive experience dealing with making sure pets are able to enter foreign countries succesfully. We recommend making your initial vet appointment as soon as you find out you’re moving to Okinawa to make sure you have all the requirements fulfilled and to get your pet’s mandatory waiting period started.
Getting Your Pet(s) to Okinawa
Depending on your orders, timing, and a number of other factors often out of our control, you can either fly to Okinawa on the Patriot Express or on a commercial airline. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to your pet’s journey to Okinawa.
On the Patriot Express your pet can fly in the cabin or as cargo if space is available. If you fly commercial, you have the option to have your pet fly in cabin or cargo, or send them separately by using a pet shipping service.