The military pays for many moving costs, but it doesn't pay to move your pets. The cost for pet transportation can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on how far the transport is and the size of the animal. Consequently, animal shelters near military bases throughout the country report high surrender rates when military families can’t afford to relocate their dog or cat.
Losing a pet this way can tear a military family apart. That is why SPCA International started Operation Military Pets. It provides financial assistance for pet relocation costs so military families can stay together. All branches of the military can qualify for these grants, whether being relocated within the United States or anywhere in the world.
Military families are already taking advantage of the program. Karen, an Army defense logistics coordinator in Iraq, was faced with leaving behind her cat, Zeke. Her long deployment had kept her away from her husband and daughter in Spotsylvania, Va. Zeke the cat kept her company and made her feel loved in the harsh environment of Baghdad.
Karen wanted to send Zeke home to her daughter so that she and her family could give Zeke a safe, long life. Karen also wanted her daughter to have a piece of her to hug until she returned to the United States. SPCA International stepped in and flew Zeke to Virginia in 2012, and now all the members of this family are reunited.
When a military family stationed in South Korea got word they were being sent back to the United States, their first reaction was pure joy. However, when the family started to look into the cost of flying their two dogs, Dash and Link, back with them, the excitement quickly faded.
The cost to ship the dogs was more than they could afford. They learned the military provided no financial assistance for relocating beloved pets belonging to active service members. The family turned to SPCA International and asked if there was anything we could do to help.
Knowing how important these dogs were to the family, SPCA International was able to take immediate action. Today, Dash and Link are where they belong -- with their family in Texas.
For all of us, a pet is not just an animal; they are a part of our family. They are great companions during the best times and the most difficult times. Children often turn to their dog or cat to laugh at their antics for comfort when they are sad, to snuggle up with on a cold night or as just a playmate.
For U.S. military families this bond is just as strong -- especially with the demands serving in our armed forces often requires. The unconditional love of a dog or cat becomes even more important as our military families make these sacrifices to ensure our freedom.
To read more heartwarming stories, learn more about Operation Military Pets, or apply for financial aid, please visit spcai.org.
-- J.D. Winston is the executive director of SPCA International.