OCONUS Moves with Your Pet

Moving Overseas with a Pet

By Karina Gafford
Jan. 2013 published Feb 2014

208Congratulations on receiving orders for an overseas PCS! Though the process may seem daunting, the steps to ensuring that your furry family members can join you in your new adventure are relatively easy to follow, so once you have finished the flurry of excited phone calls to family, pick up the phone again and call the Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) on base to inform them of your orders. As the process of moving overseas can often take as long as six months, make it a priority to make the earliest possible appointment with your VTF. If you follow these steps below, you can make PCS’ing with pets a breeze!
Make sure your dog sniffs his friends goodbye, because once you have completed your first visit to the vet to prepare for a PCS (assuming that he has received his rabies test on this visit), your trips to the dog park are over. Quarantine, fortunately, does not mean that your unfortunate pet must remain in solitary confinement for the duration, but it does mean that your pet can only play with humans and his fellow pets in confinement. Traveling to Japan, for example, requires a 180 day quarantine. Hawaii, meanwhile, requires a 120 day quarantine. Guam, similarly, has a 120 day quarantine period; however, if 90 days of the quarantine period have been met, then pets can meet the final 30 day quarantine period in boarding upon arrival. Anderson Air Force Base has kennels to help meet this requirement, as do many other OCONUS bases, such as Kadena AB in Okinawa, but reservations are strongly encouraged, particularly during busy PCS seasons. Pets who fly directly into Guam from certain other OCONUS locations, such as Japan, do not have to meet the stringent quarantine restrictions. The UK, surprisingly, does not require a documented quarantine period, providing that all other immunization and rabies conditions have been met. 
Even if your pet already has a registered microchip, you will need to produce a copy of the microchip record in addition to confirming that the receiving country will have the ability to read your pet’s microchip. As not all microchips are the same, some countries will not have the technology to read your pet’s specific microchip, and they will need to be able to read the microchip upon arrival; otherwise, you pet will not be permitted to enter the country. To avoid this catastrophe (after immunizations, multiple vet trips, months of quarantining, and an international flight, it will seem like a catastrophe!), make sure to contact the vet at your overseas base to confirm the type of chip required. In Europe, for instance, the microchip must be compatible with a Standard 11784/11785 reader. If your pet’s microchip is not compatible with their reader, you can choose to purchase your own universal microchip reader at a cost of several hundred dollars, or you can choose to have a second microchip inserted into your pet for a more budget friendly $20 or so.
Prior to beginning the immunization process, make sure to microchip your pet. Under Army regulations, and also under the regulations of some countries, such as Japan, any immunizations administered to your pet prior to inserting the microchip can be considered invalid.  Guam mandates a Canine Distemper Combo and Bordetella update within 180 days; the two tests generally cost less than $20 each on base. While most countries do not mandate specific immunizations beyond a rabies vaccine, the VTF will encourage you to remain up-to-date on your pet’s regular immunization schedule.
Well, you did expect that you had to prove your pet is rabies free, right? Fortunately, this test is one of the least expensive parts of preparing for a PCS with your pet. At Joint Base Fort-Myer Henderson Hall, for example, the fee for a rabies screening is only $10.  Even if your pet is technically current on this vaccination, many countries require the administration of this test within the one year period prior to departure; however, the test cannot be administered within one month of arriving in the country.   Each country, however, has its own specific requirements. England only requires that pets receive their final rabies vaccination 21 days prior to arriving in the country; whereas, Guam requires 120 days prior to arrival.
Guam, Hawaii, Japan, and Korea all require Fluorescent Antibody Viral Neutralization (FAVN) Test to determine the level of anti-bodies present in your pet. As with the rabies test, this test is also around $10, and is required 30 days after the rabies shot.
Final Health Check
The final health check is performed within ten days of the flight out of the country. This health check serves as a record of good health to ensure a pet’s approval for flight. Military families may choose to complete this health check at either a vet on base or a civilian vet. Choosing to use the base vet for the final health check helps military families avoid the more onerous process of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. However, it is imperative that the health check is signed by an Active Duty vet.  The UK and Japan, however, also require a tapeworm test administered within one to five days of arrival, and Japan also requires a flea and tick application, too.  
Arrival in Country
For information about traveling with your pet, make sure to read our blog on "Transporting Your Pet Overseas." When traveling, make sure to carry both the originals of your pet’s test records as well as two additional copies for customs and the VTF on base. If your pet is arriving into a commercial airport in a foreign nation, make sure to check with TMO regarding the regulations for notifying the country to expect to administer a microchip test. This step is usually unnecessary when flying into a military base; however, it is probably a good idea to contact the base vet to inform them of your impending arrival, particularly if you will require boarding to complete your pet’s quarantine requirement. Also, you will need to register your pet at the VTF. Most bases, such as Aviano AB in Italy, permit registration within 30 days of arrival in the country.  
While the steps listed above provide the general order of steps for a successful OCONUS PCS with pets, the key to a successful military move with your pets rests in your communication with your CONUS VTF and OCONUS VTF. Best wishes for a successful move!