Pause for Paws Before PCS
Making Moves With Your Pet
July 30, 2013 by David Khan
Coming home to the unconditional love of a cat or dog can brighten even the darkest of days at work. Those four-legged ‘kids’ are never at a loss for enthusiasm to greet you upon your return, whether you’ve been gone four days or four minutes. People with pets are typically healthier and happier than those without. The benefits of having a pet can be even more significant for many service members who might not otherwise have a lot of friends or family at a new duty station.
So what do you, as a service member, need to do to prepare your furry friend when it’s time to deploy or go through a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move? There are quite a number of requirements that have to be met to successfully execute a PCS with your pet. Those requirements increase exponentially if that move is overseas. Each host country may have unique requirements and limitations including breed, vaccinations, documentation and required time in quarantine. As a military ‘pet parent’, PREPARATION is the key to successfully transitioning to a new duty station or going on deployment.
It can take up to 6 months to get some requirements met—so plan early. Even before you’re in the window to negotiate for orders, it’s a good time start making sure you’re getting your best friend’s affairs in order to PCS. Since overseas requirements are typically the strictest, we will highlight those but it is good advice even if your PCS is domestic.
- Ensure your pet has an IOS-compliant microchip. This is actually a requirement that many overlook but will save you time, money and a lot of heartache in the long run. A significant advantage in having a micro-chipped pet is that it enables the recording of all vaccinations your pet receives.
- Get a rabies certificate and make sure that your pet’s microchip number is listed on the certificate (this isn’t something that is always done by default). This documentation is required by overseas duty stations and will help if you’re PCSing to a place like Japan which requires two rabies vaccines 30 days apart. Any delays or gaps can mean your pet could get quarantined which you will incur the costs.
- Check with your veterinarian about getting a health certificate and acclimation letter. These are typically specific to the country, so ensure that it’s for the correct location, and have been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health and Inspection office. This can be time consuming so don’t wait on getting this process rolling until the just days before your move.
- Check the USDA Plant and Animal Health and Inspection web site as you prepare for the PCS. It will have the most current information on requirements for getting your pet ready to be admitted into the country you are moving to. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/pet_travel/pet_travel.shtml
- Contact a sponsor or someone at the new command to ask about the particular requirements for pets at their location. Some of the best information can come from someone who has recently gone through the process.
Deployment & Distance
PCS moves aren’t the only time military pet owners need to think about the care of their animals. If you’re going on extended TAD or deploying for a longer period of time there are options for you, too.
Some service members may not have family or friends who are willing or able to take care of their pet while they are deployed. Thankfully there are some not-for-profit organizations that foster military pets for up to a year until their owners return. Those organizations include:
Sadly there are times where a service member can no longer take care of a beloved pet. If a family member or friend is unable to take them, rather than turning them over to an animal shelter where their future may be unknown, there are incredible organizations that connect homeless pets and veterans that would make a great difference not only to the life of your pet but will make a difference in the life of a veteran.
So regardless of your situation with your pet, the key to any successful transition with your furry friend is early preparation. Our pets bless us with unconditional love, regardless of the minutes or months we are apart. Because they give so much, we owe it to those little souls to ease their transitions during those moves and ensure they are there by your side for many happy years to come.