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PCS and Your Pet

Pets of service members process through the line Sept. 27, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski/Air Force
Pets of service members process through the line Sept. 27, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski/Air Force

A lot happens when a service member receives PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders, including what to do with the family pet. PCSers need to know the steps to bring them along, and what alternatives exist to responsibly rehome their loving four-legged family member.

Married or Single: It Matters

If you're married, your dependents are included in PCS orders and everyone moves together. Pets can be included, provided the family notifies the proper military offices and makes arrangements for travel plans, especially flight reservations. The service member is responsible for all coordination with the airline, including paying for the pet's ticket. While it can be stressful, there are ways to make it easier to travel with pets.

Often a service member's home at the next duty station isn't immediately available when he or she moves. As a result, the family may have to spend a transitional period at a hotel, finalizing paperwork or waiting for their home to be ready. Hotels on or near bases tend to be pet friendly; many military personnel have pets and it's simply good business to accommodate them.

Pets traveling overseas and often within the United States require a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian. If your pet is determined to be too sick or old to make the trip, your best option is to consider rehoming it responsibly well before you leave.

Traveling with Your Pet

-- If the next duty station is within the United States, PCSing is like moving from one town to another. On-post housing generally impose a two-pet limit.

-- Breed specific legislation, or BSL, prohibits ownership of certain breeds of dogs within a given municipality. Restrictions vary by branch of service and base.  Even if your base permits certain types of dogs, the municipality in which it resides might not. Know before you go.

-- If Hawaii is the destination, there is quarantine involved and a list of shots, microchip policy and paperwork to provide.

-- Check with the destination base, Department of Agriculture and consulate of the destination country when moving overseas for any specific pet health, transport and quarantine issues that may apply to your pet.

-- To enter Europe, the pet has to be accompanied by the proper veterinary documentation and paperwork. There is no quarantine period required, with the exception of United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden.

- If going to Guam, Japan or Korea, pets are required to have all their documentation, paperwork and shots. There is a quarantine period as well.

-- Ask the base veterinarian. In many cases, the base veterinarian at your current duty station will be able to provide helpful information and pre-travel tips.

Unmarried military personnel have a different set of circumstances to navigate.

Often, a single soldier will be assigned a room in one of the barracks on base. With some exceptions, sometimes related to the soldier's rank, a house or apartment is provided, in which case the information is the same as that for married soldiers.

However, service members living in the barracks are not allowed to have pets.

While it's counterintuitive, friends and family are not always the best option to provide multi-year care for your pet when you PCS. Many of the same questions you need to ask if you deploy are the same as those that apply if you're PCSing, including whether your parents or pals are up to the task.

Not-for-profit military pet foster organizations are typically not a long-term solution either; they're set up to assist in deployment situations. However, some do offer short-term fostering for service members who PCS out of the country, but whose pets are unable to travel at the same time due to weather conditions or quarantine. These foster arrangements can last up to six months.

Most pet fostering groups require that a pet be fixed prior to accepting it into foster, in addition to verification that it is up to date on shots and, in some cases, microchipped. Reputable organizations include:

Finding Your Pet a New Home

The last option is the heartbreaking decision to rehome your pet, which at times is the most responsible thing to do. Here are the best ways to find your four-legged family member a new home:

-- Ask your local veterinary clinic; they often have useful information about reputable rescues and shelters in the community, or might know another client who would be interested to adopt your pet.

-- If your pet is purebred, research breed specific rescue groups in and beyond your area. Since they are less numerous than traditional shelters and all-breed rescues, be prepared to travel up to a few hours from your home to find one that's committed to your pet's particular breed.

-- Surrender your dog or cat to a no-kill shelter. Be aware that these types of organizations tend to be choosier about which pets they accept. However, if a no-kill accepts your pet, it commits to keeping it as long as needed to find a proper home.

-- Talk to your local shelter, rescue or humane society. Even though the majority of animal welfare organizations in the country are open admission, they can assess your pet's adoptability before you choose to surrender. In addition, many are increasingly aware of the plight of military families and may have special programs designed to address pets and PCS.


Pets for Patriots

About Pets for Patriots
Pets for Patriots, Inc., is a registered 501(c)(3) charity that helps service and veteran members of the United States military honorably adopt adult and at-risk shelter pets. Its mission is to consistently give the gifts of fidelity, joy and companionship to both pet and person.  Pets for Patriots is one of the only organizations in the country dedicated to both homeless pets and military personnel at any stage of their careers and from all armed forces. The charity is a proud member of the Army AW2 Wounded Warrior Program national community support network, a national partner of the Real Warriors Campaign and is listed by the National Resource Directory for ill and wounded veterans. Visit Pets for Patriots online today and Be A Pet's Hero(TM).

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