MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Service members going through a permanent change of station often face the problem of not knowing how to take their pets with them.
According to Army Capt. Rhonda L. Holt, Veterinary Corps Chief here, quite a few pets get left behind.
A common problem for servicemembers changing duty stations is not knowing how far in advance to book flight space for their pets.
“If you know you are going to conduct a permanent change of station you need to plan at least six months in advance, working with the airlines and travel office,” said Holt. “As soon as you get your orders, let them know you have a pet so plans can be made for your pet to travel with you.”
Getting pets on the plane is difficult due to lack of space.
“The Patriot Express only allows two pets in the cargo space per flight,” said Holt. “As far as paperwork goes, if you are flying back to the states, it’s easy. All you need is a health certificate that myself or the civilian vet can provide,” said Holt. “If I am unavailable to do it here, I am also the vet in Sasebo and you can get the certificate there.”
Travelers can also fly their pets out commercially, but other documents are needed.
“If the animals are flying commercial then not only will the animals need a health certificate, but also a Japanese export form,” said Krista Starnes, the veterinary clinic office manager. “Get to the airport early because Japanese customs will do a check on the animal. The health certificate is only good for 10 days after Captain Holt signs off on it, so put your pet on your orders quickly.”
For pets left behind, a much grimmer story is written. The veterinary office here will only keep animals for 72 hours before they must humanely euthanize them.
“The Provost Marshal’s Office often turns in pets we have records for and were just left behind,” said Holt. “We try to contact the owners, but are often unsuccessful.”
“The animals PMO brings in, we do not have to care for,” said Holt. “We do so voluntarily.”
The space in the vet’s office is strictly limited.
Given the recent construction here, the vets are expecting a complete overhaul of their facilities, allowing for better accommodations and facilities to care for animals. This, however, does not change the fact pets are being left behind.
If an owner is unable to bring their pet with them, they can surrender the pet to a friend or someone willing to adopt them.
The only thing one needs to do is go to the vet’s office with the one to whom the pet is being transferred and sign the pet over, said Holt.
With multiple options to ensure a safe future for one’s pet, abandoning a pet is inexcusable. Being a pet owner carries the responsibility of tending to a living, breathing animal.
Yuko used to have a family, was once cared and loved for.
Preparing for your PCS will keep pets like Yuko from being forced to live out the last 72 hours of their life in a cage.