Having a pet as a part of your military family is wonderful! It has been proven that having a pet lowers stress, increases endorphins, is great for children, and provides companionship – especially during deployments. Whether you are currently a pet owner, or are thinking about getting a pet, there are several things you need to know. Pet regulations will vary depending on location, and listed below are a 5 of the basic need to know points about having a pet in the military.
1. Vaccines: You must stay up to date on your pet’s vaccinations and have the documentation to prove it. If you do not have a copy of this information, call the vet’s office or clinic where your pet was vaccinated and get a copy. This is your responsibility to keep this information handy. If you live on post, you will need to register your pets and if you do not have this documentation, you might have to vaccinate your pet again, which can cost you money.
2. Micro–chipping: If you live in on post, it is required that you have your pet micro-chipped and you must have the documentation to prove it – this is also a part of the registration process. Even if you do not live on post, it is a great idea to have your pet micro-chipped in case your pet goes missing, or if you decide to live on post at the next duty station. Also, keep your contact information up to date with the micro-chip company as well a recent photo of your pet.
3. Restrictions: If you live on post, you will need to be aware of Breed-specific legislation (BSL) which bans certain breeds, varying by location, that can or might include: Pit Bulls, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Chows and Wolf Hybrids. You will also be limited to the amount of pets you can have living with you. So if you are considering getting a dog and you live on post, keep breed restrictions in mind. If you plan on renting a home, many rental companies have the same BSL policy in place, so be sure to read the fine print.
4. PCS’ing: As mentioned above, keep records of all vaccinations and micro-chipping, as you will need this at your new duty station, and to clear your current duty station, depending on where you’re stationed and if you live on post. If you receive orders to PCS OCONUS, which also includes Hawaii and Alaska, you will have a whole other set of things you will have to go through to include quarantine requirements, additional documentation from your vet, and air travel for your pet. Air travel can be especially scary for those with high risk breeds. I went through this panic with my two dogs because they are considered “high risk” from a health standpoint due to their flat face and how it impacts their ability to breath. If you find out your family is heading overseas, do your research and begin the process as soon as you can, as there is a lot of work involved and it can be time consuming. And most likely, you will run into a few hiccups along the way. Be sure to have an extra copy of your pet’s medical history and a supply of any special medication they might need as well.
5. Resources for finding a home for your pet: If your circumstances have changed and you can longer care for your pet for whatever reason, there are organizations that can assist you. If you take away just one piece of information today, let it be this – NEVER EVER list your pet on Craigslist. It’s a mean, sick world out there and pet abusers prey on Craigslist posts. You might think you are placing your pet in a great home with a great person and then find out that your pet was beaten, tortured, or severely neglected. If you are unable to place your pet with someone that you know personally, try reaching out to organizations that specialize in finding permanent or temporary homes. This is especially helpful if you have an OCONUS assignment or deployment. Dogs on Deployment is a wonderful resource and was founded by a dual service military couple that actually faced the issue of needing to find temporary placement for their pet while one member was deployed and the other member was away at training. They help to find homes for dogs, cats, birds, horses – just about any type of animal. Another great resource is Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. There are several organizations out there to help, so if you need help, ask for it!
These are only a few of the things you should be aware of when owning a pet, or when you consider getting a pet in the military. Try your best to stay on top of pet regulations and of any changes so that you have ample time to best handle your specific situation.
As for me, I am a huge animal advocate and volunteer my time and efforts to help animals with my local shelter, the ASPCA, and several rescue organizations – I almost see it as a personal mission in my life. I have no biased feelings towards any animal or breed type, but the world around us has different viewpoints and these are things we have to work around. All it takes is a little bit of planning, a good amount of patience, and a lot of love.
Remember, don’t shop – adopt! And please spay or neuter your pet.
Angelique is a proud Army wife and happily married to her husband, Ray. After being PCS’ed from one side of the country to the other, Ft. Bragg, NC, is currently home. She has a degree in Counseling and a career background in Corporate Human Resources. She is an advocate for animal rights and enjoys supporting military and environmental causes. She is an accomplished flute player of 23 years and in her spare time she enjoys crafting, decorating, genealogy, travelling, watching horrible B rated movies, and is obsessed with anything pertaining to Disney. She and Ray are the proud pet parents of two dogs, Maddie and Ringo.
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