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 their pet along, as well as 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 by your veterinarian to be too sick or too old to make the trip, your best option is to consider rehoming it responsibly well in advance of your departure.

PCS Travel With Your Pet

PCSing is like moving from one town to another if the next duty station is within the United States. On-base housing generally imposes a two-pet limit.

Breed-specific legislation, or BSL, prohibits ownership of certain breeds of dogs within a given municipality. Your particular branch or service or base will have its own restrictions. Even if your duty station permits certain types of dogs, the municipality in which it resides might not. In those circumstances, you could not legally take your pet off base. Know before you go.

Hawaii requires quarantine and an extensive list of vaccinations so that diseases are not imported to the island.

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

To enter Europe, your pet will need proper veterinary documentation and paperwork. There is no quarantine period, with the exception of Ireland and Sweden.

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

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

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

Single soldiers are often assigned a room in one of the barracks on base. With some exceptions, a house or apartment is provided, in which case the permissions for pet ownership are the same as that for married soldiers.

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

If You Have to Leave Your Pet Behind

Friends and family are not always the best option to provide long-term care for your pet when you PCS.

Many of the questions you need to ask if you are PCSing are the same as those that apply if you are deploying, including whether your parents or pals are up to the task.

Nonprofit deployment boarding organizations are usually not a long-term solution either. As their names suggest, they assist primarily in deployment situations as well as in cases of hardship or emergency.

However, some of these organizations 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.

Typically pets must be fixed and vaccinated prior to being accepted into foster care and may require microchip as well. Pets for Patriots partners with two nationally operating deployment boarding organizations, Dogs On Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet.

Finding Your Pet a New Home

The last option is the heartbreaking decision to rehome your pet. At times this is the most responsible choice to make if you are unable to give your dog or cat a stable life.

Beware the friend who will take your pet "off your hands," the elderly parent who feels obliged to take in your oversized dog or the lure of online classifieds. Rarely do these offers end well for your pet.

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PCS Pets