by Paula Felps
For many people, a house just isn’t a home without a pet, and when you’re in the military, learning how to make a house feel like a home is an important to skill to have. Although a pet can be a fun addition to your family and a welcome companion, being in the military also means that you have more to consider when adopting a new family member into the fold.
Know the Regulations on Base
“Military families tend to relocate every few years,” says Beth Zimmerman, executive director of Pets for Patriots. “If a pet is part of that family, they need to avoid breeds that are prohibited on base, unless they plan to live off base.”
While living off base has its advantages, it’s not always possible, so Zimmerman suggests putting a lot of thought into all potential outcomes when considering which pet is right for your family.
If you already have pets and want more, then be aware that military bases set limits on the number of pets allowed in a family, although that number varies from one base to the next. She advises carefully reviewing those guidelines before making a long-term commitment.
Will your next move take you overseas? If so, how will your pet get there, and will quarantine be required? If you’re moving within the U.S., then it’s pretty simple, but you still want to plan ahead. “They need to consider the costs and logistics of pet transport,” Zimmerman says. It will be your responsibility to coordinate the move with the airline as well as footing the bill for your pet’s ticket.
Pets that travel overseas are required to have a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian. This may also be required in certain parts of the U.S., and many areas have microchip and vaccination requirements. Make sure that you’re prepared to keep up with these responsibilities. When you receive a PCS, immediately check on that area’s requirements to make sure you are in compliance.
Married military personnel living on base typically get a home or apartment, but single solders are sometimes assigned to barracks. In that case, a pet will not be allowed.
Long-term Care Options
If something happens that prevents you from taking your pet to your next assignment, then it’s crucial that you know in advance what to do. For example, if your pet is suffering from an illness or is considered too old to travel to another country, then you need some sort of contingency plan.
Zimmerman says that many organizations exist to help soldiers find temporary or foster homes for their pets while they are on deployment, but, unfortunately, “if someone is unable to take a pet with them when they PCS, the animal is typically surrendered to a shelter.” Having a contingency plan in place for your pet’s care can help avoid additional stress and heartache if this situation arises.
Making the Commitment
Whether you’re in the military or not, a pet is a lifetime commitment, but Zimmerman emphasizes the fact that military personnel face unique circumstances in pet ownership. Knowing all of your options and understanding the consequences for both you and your pet can help you make the right decisions.
“We encourage all service members to consider their circumstances seriously and to hold off on pet adoption until they can make that commitment,” she says. And, if you want some interaction with furry four-legged friends, she suggests fostering another service member’s pet or volunteering with a local shelter or rescue group.
Be sure to check out CORT for more tips on how to make your permanent change of station move go as smoothly as possible.