Animal caretaker Mariko Yokozawa pets Tyson, a chocolate Labrador, at the Pet Boarding Facility on Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Animal caretaker Mariko Yokozawa pets Tyson, a chocolate Labrador, at the Pet Boarding Facility on Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Vince Little / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — With the busy permanent-change-of-station season at hand, the U.S. military wants to make the process of shipping a pet as painless as possible.

At Yokota, where many pet owners use Patriot Express flights to move their dogs and cats to and from the States, officials are reminding people about their responsibilities and existing limitations.

According to Gary Reynolds, chief of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Traffic Management Flight, base travelers move about 150 pets a year out of Yokota and Narita International Airport, including roughly 20 per month between May and September, considered the peak time for PCS. No statistics are kept for inbound animals.

“Some travelers or pet owners believe the government pays to ship their pets,” Reynolds said. “It’s our job to try and inform people that they are responsible for making and paying for arrangements to move their pets.”

Air Mobility Command policy and commercial airlines have requirements for details such as cage size, weight and movement during extreme heat. Airlines Delta and United are the only carriers that offer government-employee, overseas pet movement during the summer, according to the Traffic Management Flight. If the temperature exceeds 85 degrees at departure time, pets will not be allowed to travel and servicemembers must make arrangements for another flight.

There are currently 10 pet spaces available on the weekly Patriot Express flight from Yokota to Seattle. Reynolds said pet owners should contact the Traffic Management Flight’s Passenger Travel Section up to 60 days before their departure month due to the limited slots per flight. When completing travel requests, proper documentation from the veterinary clinic must be provided prior to booking a pet reservation, he added.

On the Patriot Express, only two pets per family are authorized and they must be cats or dogs, he said. On commercial air, there are no restrictions on the types or number of pets — provided space is available. But servicemembers must comply with state and federal laws regarding importation.

Passenger airlines have a weight restriction of 100 pounds per animal or cage, Reynolds said. The limit is 150 pounds on Patriot Express flights.

“For very large dogs, members may have to ship them as commercial air cargo, which can be very expensive,” he said.

Small pets under some circumstances may accompany travelers in the cabin sections of commercial airliners or the Patriot Express.

Pets are not permitted to stay in base lodging ahead of a move, officials said. Yokota’s Pet Boarding Facility is an option, but space is extremely limited. Daily charges are $10 for cats and $12 for dogs and a minimum five-day notice is required.

For more information about pet travel rules during a PCS, contact Yokota’s Passenger Travel Section at DSN 225-9812.

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