PCSing to Korea with Pets


My first overseas move was in the summer of 2010 and it broke my heart to leave behind half my family.  Yes, those family members are furry, four-legged, and wag their tail, but they are nonetheless important to me.  $5000 (ouch!) and 3 months later our dogs, Crash and Burn, were on their way to us. Upon arrival in Japan, we discovered the USDA certificates for them were not properly completed and they received six months of quarantine upon arrival.  Luckily, in Okinawa, pets can complete that six month sentence at home if the owners are assigned on-base quarters.

You could image my unease when we were given orders to Korea.

There is ample paperwork, appointments, and coordination to do to make the move happen. Dealing with the host nation customs regulations can also be a little tricky. The paperwork to move your pets from one country to another can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

You don’t have to do it alone.

Korea-- pets pcs first class pet--Koreaye.com

It might be inexpensive if you are assigned seats on the Patriot Express, or an air carrier that honors military orders and provides reduced rates to place pets in cargo as excess baggage.  But not all international moves are handled by military contracted airlift, and each airline has different rules. Unfortunately, SATO assigned me a commercial carrier which did not accommodate larger pets so I had to make unaccompanied arrangements.  I was at a loss. We didn’t have the same kind of support this time, but the same type of questions. How in the world was I going to do this if I wasn’t going to be there to receive them on arrival? To complicate matters, how was I getting them from Incheon Int’l to Yongsan AG? Wait. First, what do I need to get started?

First, call the vet. Even better call the vet at your gaining location to ensure you are fully informed of the inbound requirements. While your own vet will know the general immunization and health requirements for shipping your pets overseas, they may not know the specifics. For example, Korea recognizes Japan as a rabies-free country, but Hawaii does not. Since we moved from Japan to Korea, the rabies vaccination/testing was not required. If we had moved to Hawaii for example, we would have needed the FAVN and the six month lead time.

Next find an IPATA (International Pet and Animal Transportation Association) at your inbound location. The Yongsan Pet Care Center has information for a local company called The First Class Pet.  I chatted regularly with Gina Nam, the company’s Pet Travel consultant. She offers free advice on the shipping process for their prospective locations. Coming from Okinawa the requirements were very different from the US. She also helped me avoid holidays and long stays in holding areas during the planning process.  She guided me expertly and was extremely knowledgeable about the items I would need to make this smooth. She was also the final step in ensuring a smooth transition to Seoul.  But I will get to that in a bit.

There are certain timeline items, here they are in order:

More than 6 Months out:  If you are coming from the United States, you will need six months notice to do a pre-travel quarantine, prep for the FAVN test (rabies) and receive a completed USDA Certification. Most countries require this of other countries with known rabies infections such as the US.  The only lab authorized to perform this test is in Kansas, so be ready to be patient while your pet’s serum is sent there to be tested. It can take up to 3 weeks to get results back.

Next, find out if you are on military transport or commercial. If you are on commercial, see if you can get the information for the commercial carrier or SATO may be able to direct you to a local shipping company. You may have to wait until you are within the 10 day window of travel to make your pet’s reservation, and they may not be on the same flight as you, but there is a way to ensure their travel is comfortable.

Two weeks out: Call the vet and make an appointment to receive a health certificate. The appointment will not happen until at most 10 days prior to your departure because health certificates are only good for a 10-day window.

Within 10 days: This is where things really get moving. Verify the travel dates of your pets with the shipping company. They should give you a list of required item and documents and you may have to travel to their office with your animals to setup the shipment.  Usually this includes 3 copies of your orders or customs forms, the right size kennel, food, water and containers, etc. You will also need a few other documents. You will need to ensure you have a valid health certificate, and that your host nation quarantine office has validated your travel arrangements and approved your pets for travel. The certificate you receive from the quarantine office (or USDA in the States) is the one the shipping company will need (Note: out of Okinawa, that office is next to the international terminal at the Naha airport).


Day of Travel: Arrive several hours early like you would if you are flying out. The cargo company will need you to take your forms over to customs to get stamped prior to accepting your pets. They will also need to be weighed and inspected to ensure their kennels are acceptable. The cargo company will request payment at this time as well. The quarantine office health certificate, veterinary health certificates, three copies of orders, and customs forms will be secured to the kennels and delivered to the air carrier that accepted them as baggage.

Because my travel occurred on a weekend my dogs had to arrive before me.  Apparently, there is no customs service for unaccompanied baggage on the weekend at Incheon Int’l and I did not want Crash and Burn to sit in a holding area the entire weekend.  Since I was unable to be there to run them through customs myself, I hired The First Class Pet to assist me. Gina Nam not only helped ensure my paperwork was preapproved before I shipped my dogs, she took care of the entire customs process, she allowed my dogs to stay with her for the night before she delivered them to the Yong san Pet Care Center safe and sound.  And if you needed the icing…the pictures were taken by her as a way to reassure me of their well-being.  One of her associates met me the following Monday to receive payment, which I gladly paid for the amazing help I received!

Here are my dogs relaxing in Gina’s car after their long day of travel (note the leather seats):


More Resources:  

  • For more guidance on PCSing to (or from) Korea with your pet, this Facebook page is a wonderful resource:  Paws Across the Pen. It’s a closed group so ask for an invitation. Then look under their documents tab for the PCSing with Pets document.  They have links to different pet friendly airlines and their weight restrictions and much more.
  • To find out more about The First Class Pet (Member of IPATA), contact Gina Nam at:  gina@thefirstclasspet.com

Dir. +82-(0)70-4101-1169

Fax +82-(0)2-2663-1125

Cell +82-(0)10-8633-1125

Web www.thefirstclasspet.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/TFCPKorea

Address: 1F 1365-9 Gonghang-dong Gangseo-gu Seoul Korea


Safe travels!

5 thoughts on “PCSing to Korea with Pets

  1. Susan says:

    We ordered largest pet water dispenser that we could find, and tested it but it leaked a lot. I noticed that you have something like water bottle type? Does it work efficiently? I don’t want my lab to be thirsty for the 11 hours flight from Seattle to Korea in 2 weeks from now. Did you fed your dogs the normal amount as you would at home? I have bought potty training pads, and some other things.
    Any advices would be appreciated!


  2. Christine says:

    Hi Susan – I do not have pets here, so I asked a friend and this is what she said:
    “We flew United because of the their Pet Safe program. We were told not to feed them so many hours before the flight but I can’t remember how many. We didn’t provide any food because we were not instructed to. We heard horror stories that dogs stomachs expand during the flight and can burst so they are not to eat. There was no water bottle on the kennels. They had a water dish attached inside the front door of the kennel so that staff could pour in a little water. We lined the kennels with the thickest pee pads we could find- I think it was a Martha Stewart brand pad. My concern was that my dogs survive the flight so if they had to go without food for 20 hours, then so be it. The main thing is to contact the airline transporting the pet. The airline will give very specific instructions, which is what you will need to follow.”


  3. Melanie says:

    Hi Susan…I am on my way to korea next month and I am bringing my dogs…I would love to chat with you and get some first hand info…did your dog stay at youNgan pet center, how did they get there. Did you fly into incheon….my email is melscott27@yahoo.com


  4. Tiffany says:

    Great article, and very helpful! Thank you. I am wondering what the quarantine process was in Korea? I want to take our dogs really bad, but I worry about being apart from them for multiple months. I saw the process in Japan allowed you to keep your dogs with you, so I’m wondering if Korea allows for the same. I hope so!


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