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PCS-ing with Your Pet

PCS with dog in crate

If you have a dog, cat or other furry friend in the family, figuring out what to do with them when you deploy or move can be time consuming and complicated. Whether you’re taking them with you or leaving them behind, you need to start planning early.

Here are some tips for what you can do when stuck in three difficult situations.

If you’re deploying, training or can’t take care of your pet short-term:

Family and friends will sometimes take care of your animals, but they can’t always, or they might not be the right fit. Many organizations provide support through volunteer services to board military pets in foster homes. Here are a few organizations that do that:

Pets for Patriots
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet
Pact for Animals
Loving Paws Inc.

If you get PCS orders and can bring your pet:

Permanent change of station orders can be issued abruptly. Regardless of where you’re going, be sure to microchip, photograph and get an ID tag for your pet before you go.

If you’re moving in the U.S.:
Contact the state you’re moving to so you can learn their pet importation rules. Make sure to have up-to-date vaccination and health papers.
If you’re moving to Hawaii, contact the Animal Quarantine Station for an information packet about their strict quarantine laws.
If you have to ship your pet, know the regulations.

If you’re moving outside the U.S.:
Contact the consulate or embassy of the country to which you’re moving to find out the specific regulations they have for bringing pets into the country.

For international moves most pets will need:

  • An International Standards Organization-compatible microchip (this can be read by most scanners).
  • Proof of rabies vaccination with the microchip’s number on it.
  • A health certificate that’s endorsed by your state’s Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service office. If you can’t physically get to the office, your veterinarian may have to send for the endorsement.

Some pets will also need:

  • A Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization (FAVN) blood test
  • An import form
  • Flea and tick preventative
  • Dewormer

These things are time-consuming, and your pet might be in quarantine for a while. It also might be costly, but there are opportunities for pet relocation financial assistance.

If you’re flying:

  • Research airline instructions, prices and procedures for pets before you settle on one.
  • Before you book, check to see if veterinary airline employees work weekends. If they don’t, book a weekday flight.
  • Pick a flight that’s nonstop or only has one layover. Try to keep the entire trip to less than 12 hours.
  • Many pets have to ride in cargo holds that aren’t temperature-regulated. Your pet will need an acclimation letter that specifies the temperatures that are safe for them.
  • Buy a crate that meets your airline’s specifications, and give your pet time to get used to it. Have your name, your pet’s name and your new address clearly marked on the crate, and have water bowls and food attached and accessible.
  • Verify your pet is listed for the flight at the airport, and be sure to mention it to a crew member once you’re on board, even though they’re probably aware.

Get more travel tips at Military One Source.

If you have to relinquish your pet for good:

If you just can’t keep your pet and have to give them up, know it takes time to find a new home that’s right for them. To prepare, take them on one last veterinary trip for a check-up, vaccinations and to make sure they’re spayed/neutered.

First, try to find friends, family or co-workers to take care of your pet. Ask them to ask around, too, so you know your pet will go to someone trustworthy. Dog trainers and walkers might know of good homes, too.

If you can’t find anyone you know personally, advertise around your neighborhood or through a reputable online website like Petfinder.

  • Be sure to screen candidates carefully to make sure they’re a good fit and don’t have malicious intent. DON’T advertise that your animal is free – that’s just asking for trouble.
  • Come up with important questions to ask potential adopters. Here are some good examples.
  • Be sure to share all of your pet’s behaviors, good or bad, including what they have problems with, whether they work well with kids and other pets, what their endearing qualities are, etc.

Contact rescue groups who can find a foster parent to take your pet. This way, you know your pet is going to be in good hands. If you have a purebred pet, or close to it, contact a breed rescue organization to see if they’ll foster it or let you post its adoption information on their website.

If those options don’t work, research animal shelters thoroughly. Visit the kennels, meet the staff and familiarize yourself with their policies. Do they have a big play area for dogs to run? How often do pets get one-on-one time with people?

While no-kill shelters might sound like the best bet, consider whether your pet will be able to deal with the possibility of living their life in a cramped kennel.

If you feel uneasy about an adoption applicant or a shelter, go with your gut and make a different decision.

If your animal has ever been aggressive:

If your pet has bitten or nipped at someone, get a professional behavioral evaluation before giving them away. Also, check state and local laws about the liability that comes with giving a pet away that has a history of aggression.

Lastly, never let your pet into the wild! The chances of their survival are slim, and if they’re not spayed/neutered, it will likely just lead to more unwanted animals being born.

Good luck to you and your pet!

For more military family news and advice, visit the Spousebuzz blog.

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