Pets … PCSing with our four-legged family members

The terms ‘pet parents’ and ‘fur babies’ are familiar to everyone and pets are often considered ‘part of the family.’

Moving can be stressful for the human members of your family, but it can be even more so for our four-legged family members.

While the service member, spouse and children are excited about an upcoming move, looking forward to exploring different areas of the United States or foreign countries, making a PCS move can be traumatic for pets.

Your first reaction is probably ‘my pets are going with me.’ However, there are a lot of things to consider before you make that decision.

If you are a ‘pet parent’ and receive orders, the first thing you should do is contact your local Transportation Management Office.

If you are moving from one CONUS base to another, you may feel you can just load Fido in the car and head to your new duty station.

However, many states have different licensing and quarantine requirements, some communities may have breed restrictions, and you will need to find out what health documents you will need.

Throw into the mix that once you arrive, housing may not be readily available and you (and your family) may have to live in the TLF for a while, or find an off-base apartment which could have pet restrictions.

You need to contact your new base as early as possible and find out if the TLF allows pets, and if not, will a statement of non-availability be issued? If the TLF allows pets, you’re okay — if not, and a statement of non-availability will NOT be issued, any temporary accommodation you need will be your own expense.

The key is to know before you go, and do your research. The DOD-sponsored militaryonesource.mil can give you resources and information.

Now if you are PCSing to Alaska, there’s a different set of challenges.

If traveling by air, some airlines restrict pet shipment due to extreme temperatures. Most will not fly a pet if the temperature is more than 85 degrees or less than 20 degrees at any point in the trip. These temperature variances cover most of the year in Alaska, so be sure to call the airline in advance.

If you decide to travel by privately owned vehicle, you will be required to present shot records and health certificates at the Canadian border.

And if you decide to take the ferry, the Alaska Marine Highway System does allow pets on board — but each pet must have a health certificate within 30 days of travel, a fee of $35 is charged per animal, and animals must remain on the card deck.

PCSing to Hawaii with pets brings a whole new set of considerations and requirements.

Hawaii is a rabies-free state and in order to maintain that status, there are strict rules on bringing pets to the islands, and some length of quarantine will probably be necessary. More information can be found at https://hdoa.hawaii.gov/ai/files/2019/08/aqsbrochure-08.2019.pdf.

In some instances, while the cost of air travel is covered by the service member, the cost of quarantine may be reimbursed by the government. As stated before, the best advice is to check with your local TMO as soon as possible.

International travel

There are more things to consider if you are PCSing overseas.

The first thing you need to do is see what kind of overseas tour you are going on. Is it a limited time unaccompanied tour? Is it a 2- or 3-year command sponsored overseas tour? Or is it non-command sponsored but you want to take your family (at your own expense) with you?

If you have orders for an unaccompanied tour you will NOT be able to take your pet(s) with you. Why you may ask? Because you are more than likely going to be living in the dorms or barracks and pets are not allowed.

It you are heading overseas for an accompanied tour, you need to research the requirements and laws for bringing pets into the country you are moving to.

U.S. military members serve in a foreign country under a Status of Forces Agreement. This is an agreement negotiated by the U.S. government and the host nation that covers all aspects of living and working in said country as a member of the U.S. military.

In some countries, the SOFA also covers pets, in some it does not.

Some countries will also require a period of quarantine for arriving pets as long as six months, and oftentimes the service member will be required to pay for it.

Again, check with TMO to find out what you need to do if you want to take your pet overseas with you.

Remember, when traveling by air, whether on a commercially scheduled flight, or on a Patriot Express flight, the cost will be paid for by the service member. A Patriot Express flight is a commercial airline contracted by DOD to fly military members to specific destinations. The two U.S. airports that Patriot Express flights leave from are Baltimore/Washington International (for flights to Europe) , and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (for flights to Asia).

Please remember, that if you are flying with pets, they will more than likely need to be in an approved carrier, loaded in the hold, and will only be allowed out once you have reached your destination. Some smaller animals can fly in the cabin — but must be in an approved carrier, must be stowed under the seat in front of you, and are not allowed out of the carrier while on the flight. You will also need to make sure that there is enough food and water for the duration of the flight, that your pet can stand up, turn around and lay down with normal posture, and cannot weigh more than 150 pounds (pet and carrier combined).

For more information on traveling with pets on a Patriot Express flight, visit https://www.amc.af.mil/AMC-Travel-Site/AMC-Pet-Travel-Page/

My pet will not be PCSing with me!

If your pet will not be traveling with you, there are, again, a lot of things to think about.

  • If heading for an unaccompanied tour, and your family is not going with you, your pet(s) can stay with the family until you return. Many times, Airmen on an unaccompanied tour will have a guaranteed follow-on assignment (they know where they are going when they return to the United States) so you can relocate your family, and your pet, to your next duty station.
  • Family: You can ask your family to look after your pet until you return. You should, however, make sure that your family members are able to look after your pet. A young puppy that needs lots of walks may not be a good match for elderly parents who don’t get out much.
  • Friends: Not an ideal option, unless you trust them implicitly! If you know the person who will look after your pet well, this may be an option. But be aware, your friends’ situation may well change (they may also get PCS orders), and are not able to take care of your pet. And you should communicate ahead of time whether this will be a temporary or permanent re-homing of your pet.
  • Adoption: Throughout the United States, there are many ‘pure’ breed societies that will facilitate an adoption, and have strict standards to follow including home visits, suitability assessments, etc. And some bases have pet adoption organizations that may help facilitate an adoption.

The one thing you should NOT do is abandon your pet. You wouldn’t leave your young child behind to fend for itself and you should NOT leave your pet to fend for itself.

But — before you make any decisions, check with TMO!

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