Eight things you should know to have your pets ready for evacuation

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Darnell Cannady
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Army Capt. Tricia Culbertson, Military Working Dog Officer in charge of the Okinawan Veterinarian Activity, answers eight questions that Kadena pet owners should know about their pets regarding the Noncombatant Evacuation Operation process.

1. What are the requirements for pets in order to get off the island?

In a NEO environment, all our pets need to have a microchip. We recommend that everyone on the island come to our facility to get registered, and this is so we can make sure their pets have the proper microchip and are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Everybody should keep a copy of their pet's records at all times. If they go off base to get vaccination updates then they should come and bring a copy to us so we can update our systems. We recommended they keep three copies of any rabies certificate with the vet's signature as well as the most recent fantom result. The fantom is a blood test that measures their rabies vaccination levels; that test is required for pets to be on the island. Finally, any pets that are going to leave the island in an evacuation situation should have a rigid airline carrier or crate. The animal needs to be able to stand and turn around in that crate. Pet owners should buy crates in advance so they are not trying to get one during an actual emergency.

2. Do we have to provide any food, water or medication?

Yes, you will need two weeks of food and two weeks of supplies for the veterinary staff in case of evacuation. That applies to chronic medications for any sort of illnesses or diseases as well as heartworm, flea and tick prevention.

3. What contingency plans are there for the vet clinic when NEO happens?

During a NEO situation, our veterinary staff will set up a screening station and this will be at the emergency evacuation center early in the process. This way we can screen owners and their pets, make sure that their paperwork is up to date, make sure that pet has the proper microchip number, and assign that animal a NEO tracking system number that matches up with the owner's number.

4. What would you tell every family about contingency planning with pets?

We will have an animal processing station wherever there is an emergency evacuation center. However, that depends on what the Air Force announces when the emergency occurs and NEO has been activated. Owners will not have to bring their pet to our vet clinic. Instead, they come to the emergency evacuation center with their pet, the pet carrier, the NEO packet containing the pet's medical record, and a two-week supply of food. We will process them there and we will have transportation available to move the pet and the carrier to the temporary holding facility.

5. Is there a set number of pets that are allowed to leave the island?

Each household is allowed to have up to two registered pets in government housing, so in a NEO evacuation situation we can evacuate only two pets. This only applies to dogs and cats.  Unfortunately, we can't plan to evacuate animals like birds, reptiles, hamsters and gerbils. Typically, those more exotic species requires different housing and different husbandry that we won't have available. If you adopted more than two pets since coming to Okinawa then it is recommended that you have a backup plan for them to stay with someone else in the event of an emergency.  

6. Will I be with my pet the entire time when I evacuate?

Depending on the emergency, owners may need to leave the island before their pets, because personnel evacuation takes priority. We will set up a temporary holding facility or a kennel type environment where we house and care for your animal until their travel is set. Most likely, you will not be allowed to travel with your pet. If there is a protracted travel delay between owners and their pets, we will try to set up visitation time so people who are still on the island can come visit their animals during that waiting period. Once owners leave the island it may take either days or weeks, depending on the situation, for pets to follow.

7. Are there any size restrictions?

There are no size restrictions in terms of how large an animal can be for transportation, assuming it's a dog or a cat. The most important thing is to make sure the pet's crate is large enough. If you have a large breed dog, make sure they can stand up and turn around in that crate. Avoid size-related complications by purchasing crates once the animals are fully grown.

8. How do I know my pet will be safe?

Your pets will be kenneled at our temporary holding facility where we have veterinary-trained Air Force personnel who will properly handle and care for your pet, feed, medicate, clean up after them and there will always be a veterinary staff member on hand at any time to triage situations. If an animal needs to be seen we can help get them back to our veterinary hospital to be seen. We will have staff on hand that will be supporting all the caretakers while your pets are at the temporary holding facility.