If like myself, you are also are planning on moving to Japan with your dogs, you should know that there's a lot of preparation involved! It will take you at least 9 months of preparation to move your dog to Japan.
There are three primary considerations when moving to Japan with your dog(s) that I'll cover here:
Japan has certain entry requirements for bringing your dog into the country. Your dog must meet all of these requirements before going to Japan.
An ISO-compatible microchip is simply a microchip that can be read by an ISO-compatible scanner. Microchips operate on different radio frequencies and are assigned a unique 10 or 15 digit ID number. In Japan (as well as most of the EU) the 15-digit ISO-compatible chip is what import personelle will be scanning for.
You can check if your dogs microchip is ISO compatible by buying a microchip scanner and checking your dog at home. Start by scanning your dogs neck and shoulderblades, which is closest to where the chip was implanted. But beware, microchips can move over time, and it's not uncommon for them to travel as far as your dogs elbow or leg! Scan your dogs entire body carefully to see if your chip is compatible.
You'll need to visit your veterinarian to get your dog vaccinated for rabies. Two rabies vaccines must be administered, at least 30 days apart, and then tested before your dog can enter Japan. Because of Japan's small, isolated size, it's very important that rabies not enter the country, so these precautions must be taken.
It will take at least 30 days to get the vaccines, because of the mandatory waiting period in between vaccinations. After your dog has recieved both vaccines, you will need a rabies antibody test to ensure that the vaccines are working.
After your dog has recieved 2 rabies vaccines, he'll need a RFFIT test. A rabies antibody test — professionally known as the Rapid Fluorescent Foci Inhibition Test (RFFIT) — measures the ability of a rabies-specific antibody in your dogs blood, able to neutralize a rabies virus and stop an infection from spreading.
The results of this test must be greater than or equal to 0.5 IU/ml, and will be valid for 2 years. No USDA endorsement is needed to move to Japan, but the labwork must be original documents from one of two approved laboratories:
The turnaround time to get results for this test is about 4 weeks.
After your dog has been vaccinated and received a passing score on his rabies antibody test, you must wait an addition 180 days (around 6 months) before traveling to Japan.
You should start preparing your documents 1-2 months prior to your entry to Japan. Different documents have different expiration dates. If the document has a short expiry period, get that document closer to the date of your departure so that it will be valid as long as possible.
After your dog has been vaccinated, passed his rabies antibody test, and waited 180 days before traveling to Japan, you can acquire a health certificate for your dog from a veterinarian. Health certificates take little more than a visit to your vets office for a checkup and some information about your stay, such as:
Your veterinarian will verify your dog is in good health and up to date on his vaccines, then issue a health certificate that is typically valid for 30 days. You must obtain one health certificate for your dog before traveling. The following health certificates are all accepted in Japan:
If you're active duty military traveling with a non-military working dog, you should use APHIS Form 7001, Japan's Export Health Ceritificate (Form C), or MDJ 2209 when choosing a health certificate for your dog.
Bring proof of your dogs rabies vaccine as issued by your veterinarian, with any original stickers/receipts/barcodes left intact on the document. All documents should be originals, not copies, and should be signed by the veterinarians original ink to ensure authenticity.
You do NOT need to submit your documents to the USDA for endorsement to travel to Japan. However, if you'll be traveling to other countries that require endorsement, you'll simply need to find an Endorsement Office near you.
Not every state has an endorsement office. For example, my home state of Nevada must use the Sacramento, CA endorsement office. Unless you're traveling to a place that requires USDA endorsement, it is not reccomended to get your health certificates/rabies vaccines endorsed by the USDA.