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18th SFS asks pet owners to tighten the leash

Stray dogs and unwanted pets are being kept at the 18th Services Squadron’s Karing Kennels. Packs of strays have
been seen around the base and are the source of recent attacks on family pets and other community members.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin)

Stray dogs and unwanted pets are being kept at the 18th Services Squadron's Karing Kennels. In recent weeks there has been a surge of stray dogs captured and returned to owners by the 18th Security Forces Squadron.

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Security Forces Squadron has captured and returned to their owners more than 20 pets over the past several weeks. Many of these pets, to include cats, were not properly leashed, a punishable offense under 18th wing policy.

"The one thing all of these incidents had in common is that none of the captured animals were wearing a leash, or properly kenneled within their yards in accordance with base housing guidelines," said Master Sgt. Clayton Watson, 18th Security Forces Squadron flight operations superintendent. "All pet owners will be held accountable in accordance with 18th Wing Instruction 48-107, which is intended to protect people from free-roaming dogs."

According to the instruction, pet owners are required to register their animals with Kadena veterinary services and maintain control of their pets at all times.

"All pets living in military housing on Okinawa are required to be registered with the Okinawa Branch Veterinary Treatment Facility," said Army Capt. Katie S. Barry, a veterinarian with the Okinawa Branch Veterinary Service. "It's a walk-in appointment so you don't have to bring your pet with you, just bring the records. Also, you can register off base, but it's still required that pets be registered with us as well."

Captain Barry said all pets owned by SOFA-status members are required by 18th wing policy to have a microchip "If owners bring pets in for an appointment and we see that the pet isn't micro-chipped then we won't treat the animal. Instead, we would schedule a separate appointment for the micro-chipping. We can usually do this during puppy shots - any time after the animal is 12 weeks old is safe."

Packs of stray dogs have also been spotted around Kadena Air Base, a circumstance that concerns base officials and housing residents. These packs have been as large as 10 dogs or as few as three. Some of these dogs, commonly known as "Oki-mix," are dogs that were brought here from the United States and then abandoned by their owners.

Veterinary service officials said the best thing people can do to prevent encounters with stray animals is to make sure their pets are always on a leash.

"If you're out walking your dog, it's important to keep it on a leash and close to you at all times," Captain Barry said. "If a stray animal comes charging up and provokes a fight with your dog, don't get in the middle of it. Separating the animals can inflict injury upon you. If you have a small dog, just pick it up."

Owners are allowed to leave their pets outside as long as they are secured in a fenced-in area and have sufficient food, water and shelter for the duration of the owner's absence. Pets must also have adequate ventilation and should not be left unattended for more than 12 hours at a time. Gates must have a locking mechanism capable of preventing the animal from escaping or someone from gaining unauthorized access to the animal. By installing a fence, the pet owner has given the general public reasonable warning to stay clear of the fenced-in area. According to security forces, placing a stake in the ground and attaching a rope, chain or cable to pets is not considered sufficient warning to passers-by and the owner may be held liable if a pet is involved in an incident. Also, pets are not allowed in public facilities, gathering places, parks or at special events.

Security Forces officials warn pet owners that any animal left unsecured or outside a chain-link fence will be picked up by animal control and turned over to Karing Kennels. Any animal that presents a danger to the public will be impounded immediately at the owner's expense for a minimum of 10 days. All costs or fees incurred during the capture or impoundment will be the responsibility of the owner. Pet owners can face formal charges if they fail to control their animals.

According to the veterinary services, when pet owners decide they do not want to take their pet with them when they leave Okinawa, they should first try to place it in a new home. If they cannot find anyone to take their pet, they can turn their pet over to Karing Kennels or an off-base agency for adoption. Pet owners should be advised that there could be fees for turning in pets. Regardless of whether a pet is given to new owners or turned in for adoption, pet owners must de-register their pets prior to departing the island.

Security forces asks anyone witness to a group of stray dogs to please take note of their location and direction of travel, as well as the number of dogs in the pack, and report this information immediately to the security forces control center at 634-2475. Kadena members should not attempt to capture stray animals, but should simply report it directly to security forces.

For additional information on proper care and micro-chipping of pets, call veterinary services at 634-1362.