Servicemembers moving into on-base housing on Okinawa after April 1 will be limited to two pets because of overwhelmed base veterinary services, according to a memo from the Kadena housing department.

Current base residents with three or more pets will be allowed to keep them all, but they must register the animals with the Kadena Air Base Veterinary Clinic, the memo stated.

The focus is on dogs and cats and will not affect smaller animals such as hamsters and gerbils, an Air Force spokeswoman said.

The policy change, which applies to all Okinawa base housing, was made based on recommendations from a clinic working group.

“Some patrons were not able to gain access to the clinic for their one pet as other patrons had registered as many as five pets,” said Air Force spokeswoman Patricia Miyagi. “We have a significant number of stray pets on Okinawa and we hope this new policy will also help to reduce the numbers of strays.”

The Kadena veterinary clinic is the only military veterinary clinic on the island and has more than 13,000 pets registered, Miyagi said.

There are 54 off-base veterinary clinics located on Okinawa’s main island, according to a local Japanese phone book. Most clinics have English-speaking veterinarians, although prices can be considerably higher than at the Kadena clinic, depending on services.

It was unclear at press time how the new policy will affect the Okinawa American Animal Rescue Society, whose members take stray pets into their homes while attempting to find new owners. A member said Friday that she planned to speak with base housing officials concerning the group’s status.

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