Military Families’ four-legged counterparts take the stresses of military life in stride, but there are things people can do to make sure their furry Family members are well taken care of.
There are a host of factors to consider when taking on the responsibility of bringing a pet into the home, especially on a military installation, said Capt. Michael Gamble, Fort Huachuca Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge.
“An animal is a huge responsibility financially, physically and emotionally,” he said. “They require medical attention, exercise and lots of TLC [tender, loving care]. All pet owners and future pet owners must be responsible in taking care of their animals to ensure the health of not only their pets, but their entire Family and the Fort Huachuca community.”
People bringing pets on the installation are required to have their animals registered at the Fort Huachuca Veterinary Treatment Facility within 72 hours of arriving, and all pets are required to be micro-chipped and be current on their vaccinations, to include rabies, distemper combination and Leptospirosis vaccinations.
“This is to protect the Soldiers, their Families and their pets,” said Gamble.
Only cats, dogs and horses are allowed as pets on post, and there are certain breeds of dogs that are not allowed, specifically in the housing areas. These include pit bulls, bull terriers, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chows and wolf hybrids as well as crosses of any of the listed breeds.
Cats and dogs should receive their first rabies vaccination when they are 16 weeks old. They should receive a rabies booster one year from the initial vaccination and then every three years thereafter as long as they are not late in receiving the vaccination.
Horses kept on the installation are also required to have an annual rabies vaccination.
“Keeping your pet vaccinations current is important not only to keep your pet from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for the entire Family if your pet should be exposed to a rabid animal,” said Gamble.
Rabies can be transmitted through a bite or scratch from a rabid, warm-blooded animal, and the animals best known to spread the virus include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats.
General symptoms of rabies include sickness, having problems swallowing, having trouble moving, and in some cases, even paralysis, he said. Some animals may act mad — biting at everything and drooling excessively, and some animals may act timid or shy. A wild animal may move slowly and allow humans to get close while acting tame, but Gamble urges people to avoid any wild animals they encounter.
If people come across an animal they suspect has rabies, they should immediately report it to military police. Additionally, Gamble suggests people report all stray animals to local U. S. Department of Agriculture wildlife officers or military police in order to have them safely removed.
“The animal may be unvaccinated and could be infected with the disease,” he added.
“If you are bitten by any animal, have someone help you wash out the wound for five minutes with soap and seek immediate care from your physician,” said Gamble. “If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.”
Rabies is particularly dangerous because of its potential to be fatal to both humans and animals, he said. Rabies is 100 percent fatal in humans and this is largely misunderstood. The disease travels from the site of the bite or scratch and attacks the brain and spinal cord.
Because of diseases like rabies, the stray population must be controlled to prevent its spread, as well as the spread of other diseases.
Fort Huachuca officials warn people permanently departing from the installation to not abandon their animals.
“This allows the stray population to expand, and more animals will be exposed to wild, rabid animals, which will put Civilians, Soldiers, their Families and their pets at risk for the potential of being exposed to rabies through a bite or scratch,” said Gamble. “If it is known well in advance that they will be unable to take their pets to their next duty site, they should begin to start finding their pet a good home early.”
Furthermore, people shouldn’t allow their pets to roam, risking the chance of them getting lost or encountering wild animals, he said. Pets that are unsupervised are subject to be picked up by military police as strays.
Many people don’t realize how important it is to comply with the regulations regarding proper care and control of animals. Service members who fail to provide proper care for their pets are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 92; failure to abide a lawful order, for each violation. Specific citations can be given for violations including, but not limited to: failure to control an animal; failure to maintain vaccinations; failure to register an on post; and failure to provide proper care, among others.