Pet care center provides home away from home for furry family members

  • Published
  • By Airman John D. Partlow
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Yokota Air Base has many services for its military members, but the pet care center here is available to take care of service members' four-legged companions.

The center cares for dogs and cats, offering services such as sheltering, adoption, quarantine and grooming.

"We receive animals that need to be boarded here and take care of them," said Joseph Wilkerson, an animal caretaker at the pet care center. "That involves feeding them, cleaning out their kennels each morning, exercising them out in our yard, and basically acting like a hotel attendant to the pet."

Most animals at the shelter are boarded because their families are traveling for vacations or deployments. The center also helps service members with their pets during a permanent change of station.

"We board and quarantine dogs and cats whose families are PCSing in and out," said Keiji Fujiwara, the pet care center manager. "Not worrying about animals helps lighten the load families go through when they move."

Recently, pet care center staff members have had to manage many stray cats left on base by PCSing service members, requiring the center to take care of the animals and find suitable adoption homes for them.

"I do wish that people would not abandon their pets when they PCS out," Fujiwara said. "Sometimes people leave their dog or cat and nothing good comes from that."

When an animal is brought in, the staff works closely with the veterinarian clinic to ensure that the stray meets health standards for putting the animal up for adoption. After the health screening, the adoption process begins.

"People can come in and take the pet to their home for a 'free trial,'" Wilkerson said. "It gives the families time to see if the pet and family are compatible in the home."

Once the family and pet get to know each other, the family can adopt the pet for good, saving the once-abandoned animal.

"It's not a desk job or a management position, but I take pride in (what I do)," Wilkerson said. "I feel good knowing I'm doing a good thing for these pets. It's a necessary job, and by helping the pets, we're helping other people too."