Myth #1: It is easier and cheaper to PCS with pets OUT of Japan once you’ve arrived.
Reality: While the United States has less strict entry requirements than Japan in terms of import regulations, it is very difficult to PCS OUT of Japan with pets. Here is why:
Commercial airlines are resistant to accepting animals as cargo (especially during the heat embargo months. Animals can only be flown in cargo during non-heat embargo months which vary by airline (roughly May - Sept).
You should check the heat embargo conditions for your airline to understand how it will impact your flight. Don’t forget to check the entire route, especially connecting flights.
AMC flights share 10 animal spots for all bases in Japan per flight. This means that Yokosuka Naval Base has 2 pet spots per flight.
If your animal does not fit cabin requirements (see airline for size restrictions), you must send via cargo or pet shipper. Even rabbits can cost between $2k and $10K.
Each airline also has unique breed restrictions. Snub noses also face flying restrictions that vary by the airline (roughly between May - Oct).
Myth #2: The Navy will book my pet on my flight with me as long as the pet is on my orders.
Reality: You are responsible for your pet’s costs, tickets and logistics even when PCSing for the Navy or flying on AMC. You can not assume that admin teams will book your pet with your family's plane tickets, so make sure you take action for your pet yourself. Here are ways that we recommend you confirm your pet’s travel:
Check import restrictions and requirements your destination has. Many countries require new vaccines or tests that your departure country might not. Some even have restrictions on breeds. The best practice is to start at least 6 months before traveling.
Don’t forget to check airline size and animal restrictions to ensure your pet will fit in the cabin. If they do not fit, speak directly with the airline to determine your options.
Test out the size of your carrier as soon as possible to ensure your pet can stand up and turn around comfortably. You WILL be turned away at check in if they do not fit.
Start crate training even if your dog has already flown to Japan. They may have been traumatized by the last PCS and require a refreshed training. If your dog tries to break the crate due to anxiety or they appear distressed, airlines will refuse to take them.
In some cases, you will need a seamless crate or an impact crate, even if your dog does not display anxiety. Some breeds are required to have those crates at all times.
Make sure to talk to any admin teams supporting you with flight bookings and always speak to the airline yourself as a best practice to ensure your pet is on your ticket.
Myth #3: If I am living on base, my pets do not need to fulfill Japanese quarantine requirements.
Reality: Your pet will be required to have had a FAVN test at least 180 days before your arrival in Yokosuka. As part of our SOFA agreements:
SOFA-owned pets that have completed their 180 days can be released from further quarantine IF they have the necessary paperwork.
If it has been less than 180 days, your pet will need to remain on base and quarantined from other pets until the period has been completed.
If you are asked to live off-base, you will need to find a long term pet sitter on base who can help you fulfill the requirement.
Myth #4: There is an animal shelter on the Yokosuka Naval Base that is funded by CFAY where I can drop my pet if I decide that I can’t PCS with them or care for them.
Reality: PAWS is a nonprofit and 100% volunteer organization. PAWS is not CFAY funded and relies on the CFAY community to make donations and participate in our fundraisers. PAWS asks for a surrender fee that varies based on the animal, their medical condition, and the urgency with which they are surrendered. If you are thinking about surrendering a pet, please try to plan ahead so that PAWS is able to work with you to make the experience easier and more smooth for your pet.
You can learn more on our website here.
Myth #5: Anyone can own a pet on the CFAY base.
Reality: Townhomes and all towers (below the 3rd floor) have pet-approved units. Sakura heights and Izumo heights are testing out dogs on all floors, however they have weight limits for the 4th floor and above. There are no exotic animals allowed in housing and there is a two-pet policy.
You will need to:
Ensure your pet is included in your orders and that the VTF and housing are aware.
If you adopt or purchase a pet while living in Japan, you MUST register them and make sure they have a microchip registered with VTF.
You must have a valid ownership document registered with the VTF so that the Navy knows of your animal. This is for emergency purposes (among other reasons) in the case that we are evacuated and your pet needs to be reunited with you.
If you live off base and you are considering a pet, check your lease and discuss with the agent. Some housing agencies do not allow pets and those that do will often request a pet deposit upfront (a month fee or so).
Myth #6: Military families don't need to go to Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) at Narita or Haneda airport.
Reality: Every SOFA family still needs to make an appointment at AQS if you are PCSing on a commercial flight. The Navy will not do this for you. Japan’s website will always have the latest information.
Myth #7: PCS costs will be fully refunded for moving pets.
Reality: As of August 2023, there is no Navy-funded program which refunds PCS costs related to moving a pet. There is a policy that is currently in process and due to be approved early 2024. At this time, language only indicates that owners may qualify to receive up to $2,000 in PCS costs related to animals. You should plan to pay at least $3,000 to move each animal in both directions if you are planning to bring your pet to Japan.