By Melissa Renahan, Military Spouse and Writer
Animals have served roles in the history of military. From dolphins to cats to most notably dogs. In fact, Sarge of SargesList was modeled after a dog that was decorated for his bravery in WWII, Sergeant Stubby.
While they’ve played a role in the military, their starring role is in our hearts. When it’s time to plan for your PCS, the to-do list can get to be pages long, but did you remember to include your furry, four-legged family member’s travel on that list? Depending on where you are headed, CONUS or OCONUS, the stipulations can vary, not to mention the method of travel. In this article, we give tips on travel as well as lessons learned and links to organizations that can help foster or adopt your beloved friend. If you plan accordingly, your pet move could go smoother.
“At Ramstein, pets will arrive at the Frankfurt Airport which is about an hour away. If you have more than one pet, there’s a chance they will get here on different dates. We didn’t know this so my husband had to go back a different day to pick up the other pets. The first time he went, only 1 dog & 1 cat was there, they told him to go back in 2 days. He did and the other dog & cat were there by that time. Yes, we babysat 4 pets for them, we’re awesome but it’s not going to happen again, LOL!!!” Facebook Fan
So clearly, if you can drive there, you’re moving CONUS. You will need to make sure that you have food and water supplies for pets as well as people and that any lodging you use along the way will accept the pets. The best option here is to map out your drives each day and book hotels ahead of time, that way there is no last minute ‘oh no, we’ll have to drive 50 more miles’ to find a bed for you and Fido. There are also plenty of online resources to help you find a pet-friendly hotel, like www.petswelcome.com, www.pet-friendly-hotels.net or www.dogfriendly.com – but make sure to call ahead to confirm and to secure a room!
“Drury Inns were GREAT during our PCS in February this year!! They are mainly in the midwest but I highly recommend them. No pet fee, breakfast and afternoon ‘snacks’ included, very affordable, indoor pools, workout rooms, etc. https://www.druryhotels.com” Facebook Fan
Prior to the move, visit your vet and make sure that all vaccinations are up-to- date, that you have a copy of the pet’s health records and that your pet is fit to travel with you. Also, take your pet on some shorter, local car rides to get them used to the car…as well as to gauge how they will behave. If the animal is prone to being anxious in the car, a vet will typically prescribe low-grade tranquilizers to use during the trip.
If you are flying, but it is CONUS, you can (usually) transport your dog or cat on the same plane you’ll be boarding. Depending on size, the pet can be transported in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or unaccompanied cargo. Costs differ for each method and are also at the discretion of each airline. Once you have arranged for your pup or kitty to fly with you, make contact with the airline 24-48 hours prior to your departure to ensure that there is still room for your pet and to assure the airline your pet is healthy; a sick pet can be turned away.
Before your dog or cat may get a ticket to fly though be sure to have a certificate of health from your vet and that all shots are current. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that animals going on a plane not be given tranquilizers, though in certain, special cases they may.
You also need to consider what your pet will be traveling in.
“You need to over estimate the size kennel you need for your pets when flying. When we PCS’d from Italy to the States, Italy was fine with the size kennel we had…but German officials were not and forced us to miss our plane on the layover to get larger kennels,” said one SargesList Facebook fan. “It was just me with my elementary aged son and two dogs…with only four hours until the next flight. So, we had to pay the price of the kennels they sold at the airport; it was a nightmare of stress and financial burden.”
No doubt about it, OCONUS travel is the roughest kind of PCS, let alone moving your pets there. There are vaccination requirements to be met, different levels of quarantine and unfortunately certain countries and areas don’t accept every breed of dog, bird or even some entire types of animals.
“We had to wait on the cats,” explained Kim Adams, who moved to Oahu when her fiancé got stationed at Schofield Barracks. “They needed 30 days of quarantine and we had to rearrange our timeline to make sure it happened.”
So do your research and call ahead to the relocation assistance program at the new duty station to get a handle on the pet regulations they have in place. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/ for a list of the regulations where you’re heading.
There are also many services that will relocate your pet for you, like www.happytailstravel.com/military.php (they offer military discounts!), www.actionpetexpress.com (it is veteran-owned!). These companies will courier your beloved pet safely door-to-door, which may be worth the cost for your peace of mind.
The Toughest Decision
If there is no way that you can bring your pet with you on a PCS, you will have to find it a new home at your current duty station. If there are no friends or family to adopt Fido, check with the local rescue organizations, like the Humane Society or even breed-specific ones, and see what they recommend. Otherwise, there are some neat organizations that help military members foster or adopt their pet out. Pets for Patriots connect Vets with Pets and NetPets are two organizations to consider as well as Guardian Angels for a Soldier’s Pet.
Sites like www.petfinder.com, www.adoptapet.com can also provide you with a place to post a pet ad, or use www.sargeslist.com to really get local and find someone at the base you’re leaving who will love your pet and be a great new owner.
What have you experienced in your PCS with pets? Any advice or lessons learned that you would like to share?
Wishing you a smooth pet PCS,
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