PCSing with PetsUpdated: October 19, 2020
What do military members need to know most about PCSing with pets? There are five important areas you need to consider long before your permanent change of station orders are cut. Don’t plan your move without reviewing these areas.
#5: Not All PCS Moves Allow The Same Things, Including Pets
It’s easy to assume that the conditions of your last permanent change of station move are standard operating procedure. But this is definitely NOT the case where pets are concerned.
The simple act of transporting your pet to the new base can be complicated by whether they will allow your pet to stay with you in a temporary lodging facility on base. The complicating factor here is that not all facilities have the same pet policy. Even those that do allow or even encourage pets may have limited space available depending on PCS season and other factors.
Temporary Lodging Allowances, Travel Pay, and Your Pet
The temporary lodging issue can be a bigger problem for some service members than simply having to find off-base accommodations that are pet-friendly.
Why? Because your gaining base may not necessarily approve of a statement of non-availability for on-base temporary lodging because you have a pet with no room for it on base. That means any off-base or off-post lodging must be paid for at the service member’s expense rather than being reimbursed as part of authorized travel pay.
The most important thing to do in such cases is to contact the gaining base to find out whether pets are allowed at the lodging facility. Ask whether or not you are authorized a statement of non-availability if you can’t get a room on post because of your pet issues.
The focus of the conversation in this section is on stateside-to-stateside moves. Bringing a pet with you overseas requires all of the above. Additionally, the process is further complicated by host country regulations for bringing animals into the country.
#4: Air Travel with Pets Is Complicated
Air travel of any kind, domestic or international, can be very hard on your pet. In most cases, you will be separated. The animal will be in whatever cage or carrier you have provided in cramped quarters in a special cargo area of the aircraft.
There may or may not be other animals being transported and this environment is considered high-stress for many (if not all) breeds. Temperature controls may not be entirely adequate. Noise, vibrations, and other problems can further stress the animals transported in this way.
It is sad to point out, but not all animals may survive air travel where international destinations are concerned. The prolonged time spent in such stressful conditions is not advisable for pets with weak constitutions or those who have had surgeries recently.
Get The Best Pet Carrier Possible for Air Travel
Those who want to PCS with their pets should take pains not to skimp on the travel kennel or other pet-appropriate container. Do not purchase something that does not have an International Air Transport Association rating or is not “International Air Transport Association approved.” It’s advisable to try booking non-stop flights to minimize the amount of time you’ll be separated from your pet whether flying domestically or internationally.
#3: Overseas Travel with Pets Requires Some Research on Host Nation Regulations
Even with a Status of Forces Agreement that permits military members to bypass some rules or regulations associated with travel or life in the host country, some laws must be followed by all visitors. Importing animals is one of those circumstances. The rules will vary greatly depending on the destination on your PCS orders.
For example, transporting pets to Britain may face having their pets restricted in a quarantine period where the animals must be confined to ensure there is no evidence of rabies or other problems. Britain requires dogs to get certain tapeworm treatments five days prior to entry unless certain conditions are met.
Websites discussing travel with pets to Britain actually use the phrase “pet passport” which could be interpreted to be documentation of all required shots, microchips, etc. The pet passport concept is something intended to help animals travel from country to country without going through a quarantine period.
At the time of this writing, pet passport requirements have yet to be standardized on an international basis, according to several sources.
But some countries may require one regardless. It’s all up to the rules of the host nation you are PCSing to and it’s best to consult the gaining base to learn what may be needed. Your first call may be best placed with the base Legal Office or Judge Advocate General. These offices are specifically open to assist with legal matters including host nation requirements for newcomers.
#2: Certain Kinds of Pets May Not Be Permitted
Not all pet owners are cat or dog owners. Exotic pets, especially those who have been obtained while stationed overseas, may or may not be admitted into the country (including the United States). Some cases include when shot records and other requirements have been met.
If you are trying to bring back exotic pets from an overseas location, you may find that some states specifically prohibit some animals while others do not. Hominids, game animals, some types of snakes, and other animals are prohibited state-by-state in varying degrees, but some creatures may be banned in all 50 states.
Banned Animals versus Permit-Required Pets
“Banned” is not the same as “permit required.” If you try to ship such a creature without a permit, you will get the same results as if a ban were in place. Birds, for example, coming from any area affected with Bird Flu issues may require a permit even if it’s a common, domesticated pet bird like a parakeet.
That’s according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which adds that the licensing authority to bring in “processed or unprocessed avian products” resides with the United States Department of Agriculture, not Customs. An import permit may be required for you to bring a bird into the United States.
Animals that require permits to own in one state may not have the same restrictions in another. You’ll have a bigger worry getting your pet through U.S. Customs first. Check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection official site to see what the current restrictions (subject to change) might be at PCS time.
#1 When You Should Not Bring Your Pet Overseas with You
Some assignments are better than others. If you are getting a permanent change of station move to a base where mission demands will keep you away from home for a significant portion of time, it is best to evaluate your ability to care for your pet and how much help you will have to do so. It’s never ideal to re-home a cat or dog. But sometimes it’s the better option due to mission demands or even the physical location of the base.
An Excellent Example of When to Reconsider Bringing Your Pet to A New Base
At one time, American military members could be assigned to Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. This facility closed in 2006, but in 2017 there were plans to revisit the area and re-establish an American military presence there.
Keflavik has a challenging climate for any pet that is not housebroken or requires outdoor walks. Winters there commonly feature winds at or above 50 knots, complete with sideways snowstorms, and lots of precipitation.
For dogs, this environment is not ideal and for busy service members even less so when having to take their animals outdoors in such conditions. Plenty of research and consideration should be given to transporting an animal to a climate such as this including how willing or even able people are to be outside in such conditions to walk their dogs.
Other countries may provide different complications for pets. Some host nations have problems with pollution, air quality, and even cultural issues with certain kinds of animals. Your host nation’s cultural traditions may involve attitudes toward certain kinds of pets that Americans don’t understand or find unusual. Learning about these issues and coping with them in an open-minded way is part of the multicultural experience of being assigned overseas.
But if you aren’t used to these folkways or cultural traditions, it may be quite an adjustment period to get used to and is something to consider when making plans to PCS with your pet.