Ever since we received news that we are moving to Okinawa, I’ve learned that an OCONUS (Outside-the-CONtinental-United-States) PCS (Permanent Change of Station) can be a tricky business. Having pets complicates matters even further. I heard that our two fur-babies would be stuck in quarantine in Japan for 90 days after we arrived. Not liking the sound of this, I began to dig around for information about doing a PCS with pets. As I figure things out for our PCS, I plan to share my findings so that other spouses and military members can plan for their move efficiently.
The first topic I’ll be covering is how to prepare your pets before you even get your orders.
Start as soon as possible.
Any experienced military member or spouse will tell you that preparation is key to a successful PCS. Research all of the requirements you will need to fulfill in order to transport your pets to your new home. As soon as I knew we would be moving overseas, I began looking for information on how to get our dogs prepared for the move. I started about six months before our estimated departure date. The sooner you begin the process, the less likely it will be that you’ll have to quarantine your pets or leave them behind. Plus, it’ll be one less errand/piece of paperwork to stress over as your moving date draws near!
Learn what the requirements for pets are at your next duty station.
Make sure you understand what your responsibilities will be in order to fulfill those requirements. Since Japan is a rabies-free country, their requirements for pets mainly ensure that any animals entering the country are immune to rabies and are not carrying the disease. Here are the steps we have to take for our dogs:
- Both of our dogs had to have an international microchip. While both of our dogs were microchipped, one of them was not international. She had to get another one done. Your vet can check if your pet has the correct kind of chip.
- They had to have 2 rabies vaccinations within the year, at least 30 days apart.
- They had to get a FAVN (blood sample) drawn to test for immunity to rabies. This had to happen at least 180 days before our arrival to avoid quarantine
- We would have to submit Advanced Notification after receiving orders
- We would have to submit a Health Certificate within 10 days of arrival.
Make sure you have all of your pets’ records organized and on file.
Keep all of your pets’ paperwork together. Organize your files so that you can quickly find the records you need. You should also plan to bring your pets’ previous vaccination records with you to your next vet appointment. If you need to fulfill a rabies vaccination requirement like we do, check to see when your pets last got a rabies vaccination. If it was within the year, they will only need to get one additional vaccination instead of two. Make sure to bring your pets’ previous vaccination records and microchip information with you to your next vet appointment!
Take your pets to the vet on base.
You can get vaccinations and FAVN done at any veterinary office, but the veterinary staff on-base will know exactly what the protocol is for transporting your pets to your destination country. They will give you more detailed information about your pets’ PCS requirements, some of which may surprise you. At my first appointment, I found out that paperwork had to be filled in blue pen in order to be considered valid. My vet also told me we could actually do our “quarantine” at home so our dogs wouldn’t have to stay in the kennels in Japan!
Keep up with all of your vet appointments.
You may have to schedule multiple appointments, so make sure you note them in your calendar/phone/organizer-of-choice so you can get everything done on time. We had to make three vet appointments altogether: one for the microchip and first rabies vaccine, one for the second rabies vaccine, and one to have the FAVN drawn. Staying on top of our appointments ensured that we finished the process with plenty of time to do our at-home quarantine.
Create a schedule of what you need to do and when.
As well as staying on top of your appointments, keep track of the timelines for all other requirements. Our dogs’ quarantine did not officially start until we got a certificate from the vet’s office saying that their FAVN had passed. After you get this notice, the 180 day quarantine can begin. I made a note of the date we received this notification and saved the notice paper with our dogs’ other records. You can find a simplified timeline of the Okinawa PCS pet procedures here.
Make copies of everything.
This is something that rings true for any PCS in general. Before you pack your printer away, make at least three copies of your pets’ vaccination records, FAVN certificates, identifying information, and any other important documents you’ll need. Carry your copies with you as you travel and, if your pet is flying in cargo, attach copies to his kennel as well.
Don’t forget to follow up on any additional paperwork after you get orders.
Know what steps to take after you get orders, and put those things on your PCS to-do list. Since we haven’t gotten our orders yet, there are still a couple of steps that I listed above that we haven’t completed. You wouldn’t want all of your hard work and planning to go to waste because you forgot one piece of paperwork.
Good luck! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more tips on making your OCONUS move go smoothly.
Have you done an OCONUS PCS with pets and have additional advice? Are you planning to do one and have questions? Post in the comments below!
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