September 25, 2014 – Pets are a big part of the lives of military members and civilians alike. Many soldiers who live on base or near military facilities with their spouses and children have dogs, cats, and other pets and count these furry companions as full-fledged family members. These animals give us unconditional love, and the bond between family members and our animals are strong. They bring our children comfort and help adults with the stress and demands that the military sometimes puts on them while serving in the armed forces.
However, as a soldier you do face one challenge that others perhaps do not encounter during your tenure as a pet owner. Because you might have to deploy and move quite often during your service, you should find ways to make these moves as comfortable and peaceful as possible for your pet. You can keep your family’s companion happy and continue to enjoy the perks of pet ownership when you remember these strategies during your next relocation.
# 1: Some Pets can be Easily Stressed
The first pet ownership strategy you should use during your military service would be to choose pets for your family that can withstand being moved often. Dogs and cats may be antsy during the actual move; however, they get used to their new surroundings and typically rebound with few complications. It’s also best to talk to your regular veterinarian before the move to find out the best way to move the breeds you have with minimal stress.
Some smaller pets are easier and less expensive to physically move if you find that you are having to change locations a lot. If you choose an exotic pet like a parrot, rabbit or chinchilla, though, keep in mind that they are easily distressed, and it is a good idea to have a talk with an exotic veterinarian, so that you can find out how to minimize their stress and not endanger them. Even more, some exotic pets are so fragile that they can die during transport or shortly thereafter. Each animal has different moving requirements, so this type of vet will be the best one to turn to for advice on properly moving that little “critter” that your children can’t live without. Keep in mind before making a commitment to purchase an exotic animal, that exotic vets are harder to find than regular vets, no matter wherever you live.
Stressed animals are more likely to bite or act defensively, too. Some breeds of cats and dogs will be more prone to being nervous and will be highly unsettled after a move. Some breeds of tarantulas, a popular household spider pet, are even known to throw poisonous hair darts or give a particularly painful spider bite when they are distressed!
Additionally, even the most docile of exotic pet can bite out of fear, stress, and frustration. Your children’s mild-mannered small animal may bite you or your children when you try to pick it up to soothe it. Let the animal have some undisturbed time without being handled for a couple of days so that they can absorb the move and their new surroundings.
# 2: Make Your Pet Easy to Find
Thousands of military pets are lost each year during moves. Before you relocate to a new base, you should make your pet easy to find in case it gets lost. Many military members now microchip their cats, dogs, and other furry friends as a safeguard in case they get away. Micro chipping is an inexpensive way to improve your chances of finding your animal friend if it gets lost during the move.
If you cannot afford micro chipping or if it is not available in your current location, you can invest in a tag for your animal’s collar. Most big box stores offer tag engraving. A tag with your name, phone number, and other pertinent information can help people find you if they encounter your lost little friend.
# 3: Give Your Pet Adequate Space
Even if your happy-go-lucky dog loves car rides around your immediate area, it may stress out during a ride on a plane or in a truck. You can minimize your animal’s distress by providing it a safe area in which to ride during the move. You’ll want to get a crate that is big enough for your pet’s size or a carrier that has air vents and is made out of soft material to make it the most comfortable for them.
Providing a space in the van or car where they can lay down can give your pet the space it needs to decompress during transport, and even allows them to sleep until you arrive at your destination. Be sure that they are on a leash or harness that is attached to the seatbelt correctly, so that they stay safe and secure during the ride, though.
It’s also a good idea whether your pet is traveling by air or car to acclimate them to their crate before the big trip. That will cut down on a lot of their apprehension. Tips for acclimating them to their crate can be downloaded from pet travel.com and is titled, Preparing Your Pet and Its Crate for Travel.
# 4: Prepare for the Moving Costs
There are many moving costs that the military helps families pay, but that doesn’t include the cost it takes to move pets, the cost of which can be quite substantial. There are military options for moving a pet, such as Air Mobility Command that you can contact to find out about exact requirements. The pet is limited to a total of 99 pounds, and that includes the carrier. The owner shoulders the burden of the cost which can vary, but is about $80/pet for up to 70 pounds, and $160/ pet for those between 71 and 99 pounds.
Many families who can’t afford to move their pets often surrender them to shelters because they believe they can’t afford the relocating costs and don’t think there is another place they can turn to for help. It’s best to budget in the cost of moving an animal if you know you are going to be moving a lot before purchasing them.
Sometimes even the best-laid plans are subject to change, though, and things come up that may put you in a different economic situation. If this happens to you, that are still options to financing the move for your pet. SPCA International has stepped in and started to help military families move their four-legged family members. The program has even helped people move their pets from overseas to the United States. You can find out more about Operation Military pets by going to www.spcai.org/militarypets. You can also apply for financial aid at spcai.org.
# 5: Be Mindful of Restrictions
To avoid any issues with moving your pet to a new home, it is important to know about any restrictions placed on them. There are certain posts in the United States, such as Hawaii that have very strict regulations and have a quarantine period for bringing your dogs and cats there.
Some countries even ban certain types of animals and require a quarantine period, too. There are also breed specific laws at some posts you live in — many dog breeds that are heavily regulated include Pit Bulls and Wolf Hybrids. The new place you are moving to may even limit the amount of pets you can have living with your family. Be sure to keep your cats and dogs up to date on any required vaccines, also. That will keep them happy and healthy, and you avoid any problems with the place you will be moving to.
Despite serving in the military, you still have the option of owning a pet. You can take along your furry family member and continue to enjoy being a pet owner after each move by remembering these animal-friendly relocation tips. There are also options if you find yourself struggling financially to shoulder the cost it takes to move your bigger animals. These strategies will minimize the likelihood that your companion will come to harm, act aggressively, or get lost each time that you deploy or move to a new base.
Writer Holly Chavez is the daughter of a Marine, and her family moved quite often. One time after moving, her brother’s tarantula became quite cross and kicked up her back legs and sprayed her brother with hairs that irritated his nose and eyes for a few days. She’d never done that before!
Source: Flickr user Jodie Wilson – Butters in the Car