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    Welcome Aboard Yokosuka: Preparing to Bring Your Pets to Yokosuka

    A Pet With a Purpose

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Taranto | Interior Communications Electrician Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessy Cuellar, Defence...... read more read more

    YOKOSUKA, KANAGAWA, JAPAN

    01.23.2024

    Story by James Kimber 

    Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka

    All personnel planning to bring their pets during a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, must satisfy the Government of Japan’s import laws before their pet is allowed to leave a military base.

    The process can take as long as 180 days, so it’s critical to get a head start.

    “At first glance, it’s a complicated procedure,” Heather Carpenter said. Carpenter is a veterinarian administrative support assistant at the Yokosuka Veterinary Treatment Facility, or VTF, who also imported her own dog just a few months ago. She understands how daunting the process appears on paper. “But the Government of Japan and U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, have streamlined the process.”

    Carpenter was fortunate that she got the information as early as she did and that her dog’s health records were already up-to-date. “It takes time and several trips to the veterinarian, but the most complicated portion is just ensuring you have all of the correct documents and all shots are within the correct timeframe,” she said.

    YOKOSUKA VETERINARY TREATMENT FACILITY

    Yokosuka’s VTF is easy to miss. The facility is tucked away behind the Commander, Naval Forces Japan Fire and Rescue Services building and in the shadow of the construction site for the soon-to-be new Nile C. Kinnick High School. They share a building with the Yokosuka Navy Exchange Kennel, currently under renovation through June 2024, with a small parking lot and a handful of parallel parking spots.

    The detachment is part of the Veterinary Readiness Activity Japan and under the U.S. Army’s Public Health Command Pacific. While their primary mission is to care for CFAY Security’s Military Working Dogs and food health protection programs, they also provide some veterinary services for Yokosuka families and provide online resources for animal health and travel.

    This includes offering an avenue to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS.

    The APHIS website provides a drop-down menu of each country’s importation laws, including Japan. Japan’s page is operated by the Government of Japan to ensure the most current laws are discussed in English with the up-to-date procedures with illustrated guides of each international airport in Japan’s Animal Quarantine Service area, including Narita International, the country’s largest airport, and Haneda International in Tokyo.

    U.S. Army Capt. Torri Allen is a veterinarian and the Yokosuka VTF’s branch chief. Allen said it’s never too late to start the quarantine process, but every day that passes is another day that could potentially begin digging into unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.

    “Families usually say the FAVN is the most challenging part of the checklist. That’s when the quarantine starts,” Allen said.

    FAVN (pronounced Fagh-vin) is a rabies test formally known as the Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization and measures an animal’s immune system to the rabies vaccine. The blood draw’s results can take a few weeks to return.

    “The FAVN date is what the [Japanese government] health inspector looks at when determining if the animal requires additional quarantine time or if the animal is free to walk around the country,” Allen said.

    Japan is very strict on all animal imports, including pets. According to the National Library of Medicine, Japan’s last diagnosed case of rabies in an animal was in 1957 when an infected stray cat was captured. To ensure this record is maintained, Japanese Customs Officers strictly enforce all pets traveling into the country go through a quarantine process and receive the proper certifications of health.

    “The [Japanese government] health inspector will review the documents and assign a number of days to continue the quarantine process. It could be zero. It could be four days. It could be 84 days. The maximum is 180 days. The health inspector’s assessment is the decision. But if you’re flying into Narita or Haneda, you probably won’t be surprised by the decision,” Allen said.

    Allen said this is because Japan’s Animal Quarantine Service, or AQS, requires passengers who bring animals into Japan to submit health certification documents for pre-screening well in advance.

    The pre-screening process generally provides a recommendation if the animal requires additional quarantine, though the final decision is still up to the Japanese government health inspector at the airport. “We’ll let the family know what their quarantine options are after that’s complete,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Bryan Garcia, the non-commissioned officer in charge at the Yokosuka VTF.

    He continued saying there are several options for families assigned additional quarantine, but they all have the same foundation; the animal must stay on base somehow.

    For families who are assigned additional quarantine, “ideally, they’ll be assigned base housing. That will satisfy the requirement to finish the quarantine until our staff can verify it’s complete and it will cost the family nothing financially,” Garcia said.

    For families directed to move off base, the options become trickier or more expensive.

    “It’s possible for another family who does live on base to allow the pet to stay at their house, but the family must live in a base unit that authorizes that animal and the family cannot have any other pet in the house,” Carpenter said. Other options include paying out-of-pocket to place the animal in a military exchange kennel, VTF kennel if space is available, or staying in a pet-friendly room in base lodging, whether that’s the local Navy Lodge, Navy Gateway Inns & Suites or another military lodging option on a different base.

    “We recommend getting everything on the checklist done as early as possible. Do not put this off. I cannot help any family or pet expedite Japan’s requirements. The requirements are law,” Allen said. “We’re here to make the process as simple as possible and want to get the correct information to all pet owners the first time. Nobody likes finding out they were given the wrong information.”

    YOKOTA VETERINARY TREATMENT FACILITY

    Not all families traveling with pets will fly commercial. The Department of Defense-contracted Patriot Express, often referred to as The Rotator, can accommodate some families with pets.

    “Anyone flying into Yokota can get through the animal health certification screening process in as little as 15 minutes here,” said Geraldine Lopez. Lopez is the Veterinary Administrative Support Assistant at the Yokota VTF.

    Yokota’s screening time compares to Narita’s or Haneda’s expected three-hour animal screening process (not to mention additional time needed to go through Immigration). Families landing in Yokota can screen faster because, “we [the Yokota VTF] will review the documents and provide the assessment if a longer quarantine is needed at the air terminal,” Lopez said.

    The Yokota VTF has a desk inside the Air Mobility Command, or AMC, Passenger Air Terminal on Yokota Air Base. AMC crewmembers will offload pets with cargo and bring the animals to the veterinarian staff who visually check the animal’s health through their kennel and can provide water.

    “The terminal’s renovation finished a little more than a year ago, so if it’s too hot or too cold outside, the crewmembers can place the animals in a safe location indoors,” said U.S. Army Capt. Elizabeth Anthony, a veterinarian and Yokota VTF’s branch chief. “The rotator’s manifest will let us know how many pets we can expect.”

    Lopez said once the pets are inside the terminal, the onsite VTF staff will then be able to process the health certification paperwork.

    “We just need families to have all of their pet’s documents in hand, so it’s best to carry on the paperwork,” Lopez said.

    Similar to Yokosuka, the Yokota VTF is somewhat easy to miss. Located next to the air base’s high school, Yokota High School, and along the fence line tracing National Route 16, staff and visitors need to make the turn into the facility’s parking lot almost immediately after a speed bump. Depending on the length of the vehicle, maybe even while still on the speed bump.

    Also, like Yokosuka, the Yokota VTF also provides online resources to assist families traveling with pets.

    “I recommend looking at both [VTF] websites,” Anthony said. She continued saying both websites provide relevant information regardless of which airline or airport incoming personnel are assigned. “We can always help clarify or point families in the right direction,” Anthony said.

    Yokota also has some capability to board pets for quarantine, though it’s very difficult to get a spot as there are only eight kennels on the air base that meet the requirements. Due to Yokota’s minimal animal quarantine boarding capabilities, the Yokota VTF frequently suggests incoming personnel stagger their arrivals.

    “Another option families can consider is traveling at different times,” Anthony said noting the cost may be compensated through each service’s updated pet reimbursable expenses.

    Family members staying stateside for the remainder of their pet’s quarantine, or even extended family members caring for a pet until the quarantine period is complete, may be the path of least resistance for some families and still fulfill all of the obligations to satisfy the government’s animal import regulations.

    Anthony further recommends to use U.S. Army veterinarians if possible.

    “If there’s an issue with paperwork, an incorrect date, missing documents, we have access to the same database and can contact the stateside [Army-operated] clinic,” Anthony said. “A licensed, civilian veterinarian of course can certify the same documents, but if there’s an issue, then it’s up to the member to reach out to their civilian veterinarian to request the correction.”

    For more information, please visit the following websites and contact military veterinarians.

    • U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/pettravel-japan
    • Government of Japan Animal Quarantine Service: https://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/
    • Yokosuka Veterinary Treatment Facility: https://phcp.health.mil/Commands/Veterinary-Readiness-Activity-Japan/Yokosuka-Naval-Base/
    • Yokota Veterinary Treatment Facility: https://phcp.health.mil/Commands/Veterinary-Readiness-Activity-Japan/Yokota-Air-Base/

    Another Yokosuka-based resource available for guidance is Pets Are Worth Saving.

    PAWS Yokosuka is a 100-percent volunteer operated non-profit animal shelter sanctioned by CFAY. It’s recommended to read their blog post: PCSing with Pets to Yokosuka: Myth vs. Reality. PAWS volunteers can also help locate up-to-date resources and correct points-of-contact to minimize stress.

    PAWS is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PAWSYOKOSUKA and on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paws_yokosuka/

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 01.23.2024
    Date Posted: 01.24.2024 02:24
    Story ID: 462236
    Location: YOKOSUKA, KANAGAWA, JP

    Web Views: 225
    Downloads: 1

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