A guide For Military and non-Military
All of this information is current as of May 1st, 2013. Often the rules involving importing to Japan change every 6 months or so. Refer to Japan's Animal Quarantine Service (or the U.S. Army Veterinary Service Japan for military) as your second source of information.
After all the time and effort I spent attempting to find the correct information to make this move happen for us, I wanted to share what worked for us so that maybe your experience will be a little bit easier. Hopefully this helps!
Information & Resources
Phone Numbers, Yokosuka Japan (Military Only)
These are numbers when calling from a commercial line within Japan. To call from a DSN phone in Japan, replace "046-816" with "243".
On Base Kennel - 046-816-4530
On Base Vet - 048-816-6820
Navy Lodge - 048-816-6708
Here is a timeline of events in the order in which they should occur.
10-7 Months Prior to Departure
- Microchipped with record of microchip date. Keep record for later.
- 1st rabies vaccination with vet signed rabies certificate. Keep certificate with paperwork that you will need later on.
After 31 Days
- 2nd rabies vaccination with vet signed rabies certificate. Keep for later.
- FAVN blood sample drawn. Vet sends sample off to Kansas State University. Have returned FAVN “rabies clear” original paperwork, will have a white raised sticker.
- From date of blood draw, 180 day quarantine countdown begins.
180 Day Quarantine
- Quarantine of cat. No interaction with other non-quarantined pets and must remain indoors during entire period.
40 Days from Departure
- Contact port of entry for advanced notification. This is notrequired if you are flying onto a military base such as Yokota. Is required if you are flying military but are landing at a commercial airport such as Narita.
12 Days from Departure
- Contact via email your areas USDA office to notify them of your departure. This will help expedite the next process of mailing them your time sensitive paperwork.
10 Days from Departure
- An APHIS/USDA certified vet will need to fill out forms A & C (printable from AQS or Army Vet websites). To fill these out the doctor will need to examine each cat and sign the forms certifying that they are healthy.
- Sign completed form A.
- Make two photocopies of all forms to be sent to USDA (listed below) as well as one extra copy of each rabies certificate, form 7001, and military orders if applicable. One copy set to be attached to your cat’s crate, second set to keep and used as needed.
- Overnight via FedEx or UPS original paperwork for USDA. Mail all original forms A, C, USDA form 7001, FAVN stickered original (or can have faxed from Kansas State), and rabies vaccinations (2 or more). Include a return shipping envelope. I would suggest overnighting it back as well.
48 Hours Prior to Departure
- Take cat to vet and have your doctor write a letter stating that they are in good health. Frontline is also suggested to be applied to your cat at this point as well.
Day of Departure
- Call the airline and make/confirm your pet reservations if required by the carrier.
- Ziplock and tape to cat crate/cage your copies of forms A, C, 7001, FAVN, & rabies certificates. Write your name in marker on outside of Ziplock. Include a copy of your orders if you are military.
- Arrive at airport. Keep all your paperwork accessible. The extra rabies certificates and form 7001 is for the person at the counter. They will add the “live animal” stickers to your crate.
- TSA will visually inspect your cat’s crate there at the check-in counter. You will be asked to remove your cat and hold it while they remove any and all contents and inspect the inside. Both of our cats are very calm to hold in public places but if yours needs a harness be sure to have that handy. Don’t try and touch the crate when putting your cat back as our TSA agent asked us not to and seemed very touchy on the subject.
- Once you have arrived your cat will need to go through one more step before you are free to leave the airport. For arrival at a military base, this was done by Air Force personnel and was very quick and easy. For commercial airports, expect a delay for the Japanese customs/quarantine inspector to check all your documentation.
- Pre-arrange for pickup if you are military. The shuttle buses that run from Yokota to the Yokosuka Navy base do not allow pets and taxis are expensive. I would suggest having someone from your command or your sponsor come and pick you up.
- If you are traveling to a military base such as Yokosuka you will need to make arrangements for your pet to stay in the kennel there on base until an appointment can be made to see the vet and have them checked out and released. This is regardless of if your pet is still under a quarantine or not. The Navy Lodge can arrange temporary overnight accommodations for your pet if the kennel is closed by the time you arrive.
- (Military) Within 72 hours of arrival in country you will need to notify the vet of your arrival. We actually did this on the day prior to our arrival, but your experience may be different.
Buying and preparing a cat crate for cargo
Refer to the USDA/IATA requirements of transporting pets via air cargo (PDF link). Also be aware of the requirements of the airline in which you will be flying. They are not all the same.
We used, and I would recommend, the “Grreat Choice” crates that can be purchased from Petsmart. The X-Small and Small sizes fit our cats perfectly. They handled two cargo flights without a scratch and are quite rugged. They conform to the air travel regulations, have the metal hardware (door and fasteners), top and bottom opening latches, and openings or vents on all 4 sides. When you make your pet reservation with the airline, be sure to have the cage dimensions available as well as weight (with the pet inside). Another option would be this Petmate "Ultra Vari" kennel, for pets up to 15 pounds.
To pad the inside I already had puppy pads but anything like this will work, absorbent on one side and sealed on the other. I layered the bottom with about 4 of these and then added a blanket (towel I was ok with throwing out if it came to it) for that extra padding. Don’t bother taping anything down as the TSA will just rip it back out again during the inspection. For food and water I was able to find at Petco a Dog Crate & Kennel Cup as well as a Small Dog Quart Water Bottle that is meant to be used for puppies. One for a hamster or guinea pig would work as well. It wasn’t planned at first but what ended up working well was placing the water bottle (which attaches on the outside of the crate and traveled without any complains from TSA or removal and breakage) right over the empty food bowl. During all the jostling a little water did drip out and into the bowl which they were able to drink if they didn’t figure out how to use it. I only filled the bottles up about half way.