New arrivals in Japan adjust to period without pets
June 23, 2008
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — WANTED: a place to quarantine "Itsy Bear." Small Pomeranian puppy accustomed to bed privileges, treats and toys. Heavy petting, no problem.
Itsy arrived in Japan last week. He’s small in stature but big on visitors — his family, the Castanedas, schlep treats and toys from Yokosuka’s Navy Lodge once, sometimes twice a day to the small kennel where the dog is quarantined.
Seeing Itsy caged all day is "tearing up" Geni Castaneda, she said last week, and the USS George Washington spouse is already looking for an alternative.
According to Japanese law, all incoming animals must be quarantined for 180 days to prevent the spread of rabies. The process can be started before arrival, which means the in-country quarantine might last from 12 hours up to the full six months, said Shijiro Koto, Yokosuka’s veterinarian.
"He (Itsy) has never been exposed to anything like this," Castaneda said. "He sleeps on our bed and gets waited on. He’s a member of the family."
Luckily, the family has options — even more options than pet-loving Japanese families — as status of forces agreement personnel enjoy a slightly longer leash when it comes to Japanese quarantine laws.
SOFA personnel can quarantine pets on American military bases, either in approved base housing or in base kennels. Japanese families must use designated off-base facilities, which can cost up to $8,000 for the full 180-day quarantine.
But like the Castanedas, most new families stay in the pet-free Navy Lodge while awaiting placement in base housing. This means time in the Yokosuka kennel, which costs between $12.50 and $18.50 a day, depending on the animal. The kennel and the veterinary offices are undergoing renovation and are strapped for space.
However, families in approved on-base housing can volunteer to quarantine pets for families in this situation, said Navy Exchange Service operations manager Mike McGriff.
"The animals will be better off in that condition, and we’re hearing that folks already coming in are getting housing and can quarantine their pets themselves," McGriff said.
The Navy Exchange runs the base’s kennel program, which has 35 small cages for dogs and cats and eight cages for larger dogs.
NEX officials were worried this wouldn’t be enough for the influx of 200 to 300 new families arriving with the George Washington, McGriff said, but fewer families are traveling with their Fidos and felines than the officials expected.
"We thought there was going to be a boatload of pets," McGriff said. "Now our estimate is less than 50 animals. This was a great relief."
Those interested in volunteering to quarantine animals, or those looking for volunteers, can contact Angela Lemay at the Fleet and Family Support Center at DSN 243-7935.