Tips and resources for making a PCS move with your pet.
When it comes to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, your pet is your responsibility. You will need to meet requirements — and pay any fees — for documentation, immunization, and pet entry at your next duty station. But your relocation office can help you find the information you need for your move. Your military travel office can help you make reservations for air transport. If you are moving overseas, your sponsor can also help you make arrangements for shipment of your pet.
If you decide to move your pet, the following information can make the transition to a new home safer and easier.
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Before you leave
It’s best to start planning as soon as you receive orders. If you will be sending your pet by air, contact a carrier early to make sure that there’s space available for animals on the date and time you want. Try to book a direct flight so your pet won’t spend a lot of time waiting in a cargo hold. Keep in mind that some commercial airlines don’t allow pets during summer and winter months when temperatures can be extreme.
The following tips can help you get your pet ready to move:
- Take your pet to the veterinarian three months before the move, if possible. This visit will give you time to address any health problems that your veterinarian may discover during the exam. Make sure all vaccinations are current and that your pet is healthy. Be sure to take the following steps:
- Get a copy of your pet’s veterinary records to take with you and ask your veterinarian if he or she can recommend a vet in your new community.
- Ask your veterinarian for a rabies certificate. The certificate must be issued at least 30 days before departure. Make sure your dog’s or cat’s rabies tag is affixed to its collar.
- Make an appointment to get your pet’s health certificate. The health certificate must be issued within 10 days of departure.
- Ask if your pet should be sedated during the move, especially if it will be traveling by airplane. Your veterinarian can give you enough medication to try it out before moving day to see how your pet reacts.
- If your pet is on any medication, be sure to have an ample supply for the move. This way you can be sure not to run out of medication before you have a chance to visit a new vet.
- Become informed about animal laws and regulations at your next location. Most states require pets to have an interstate health certificate. Hawaii and some foreign countries have quarantine periods. Certain countries prohibit dog breeds that are considered aggressive.
- If your pet will require kenneling when you arrive at your new duty station, make arrangements well in advance. Coordinate the schedule with your sponsor, if you have one.
- Try to keep your pet’s routine as regular as possible. Your pet may sense something is going on and become nervous in the days leading up to the move, especially if familiar objects are packed away. Sticking to regular walks, play times, and feeding times will help keep your pet calm and reassured.
- Keep your pet at a friend’s house or at a kennel on moving day. If that’s not possible, put your pet in a quiet, safe place such as the bathroom with the door closed. This will reduce the risk that your pet will become frightened and run away, or hide in a box about to be put on the truck.
- If your pet will be staying with you in a hotel or temporary military quarters, call ahead to make sure the facility accepts pets.
- Provide identification for your pet. Mark the outside of the carrier with your name, destination address, and a phone number where you can be contacted. Make sure your pet’s tag has the same contact information. Also, attach copies of the health, rabies, and import certificates (when required). And remember to include your pet’s name so that attendants can talk to it.
- Record your pet’s size, weight, and identifying markings, and take color photographs of it. Keep these with you during the move in case you become separated.
- Carry a copy of your pet’s documents with you, including vaccination certificates, health certificates, and import certificates when required.
- Mark your animal carrier with the words "Live Animal." Make sure the carrier is well ventilated and large enough to allow your pet to stand up and move around.
- Feed your pet four to six hours before the trip. If you are traveling with a dog, give it plenty of exercise before leaving.
- Make sure pet carriers or cages are secure and won’t tip over during travel.
- Keep some favorite toys or a blanket with your pet. Being able to smell some of its favorite, familiar things may help reduce stress. It can also be a good idea to put a T-shirt or other piece of clothing recently worn by you or another of your pet’s owners in the animal carrier.
- Have supplies on hand for cleanups. Bring paper towels, a sponge, or pre-moistened towels. For dogs, be sure to bring a "pooper scooper" and plastic bags for disposing of waste. For cats, have a litter box handy.
- If you have exotic or unusual pets, ask your local pet store or your veterinarian for more detailed moving instructions.
Moving your pet by air
Air Mobility Command (AMC)
DoD regulations allow pet owners traveling in PCS status to book two pets per family (dogs and cats only) with them on AMC flights. Waivers are required for more than two pets. AMC does not impose seasonal restrictions on pet travel.
AMC’s rules for pet travel are very specific. For example, owners must provide a hard-shell U.S. approved International Air Transport Association (IATA) kennel. Contact your military travel office for information.
Requirements vary by carrier. Some airlines allow small dogs or cats to accompany owners in the passenger cabin, as long as they are in a carrier that fits under the seat. Airlines may impose additional charges for pets in the passenger cabin.
Be aware that airlines usually won’t allow animals to travel in the cargo hold when it’s too hot or cold outside. In most cases your veterinarian can give authorization that your pet is healthy enough to fly at slightly higher or lower temperatures. Check with your veterinarian and the airlines.
Moving your pet by car
If your pet will be riding in the car with you, be sure to have proof of rabies vaccination and a current health certificate available when crossing state or international borders.
Here are some ways to help your animal feel more comfortable in the car:
- Groom your pet before the trip with a bath, combing, and nail trimming.
- Be sure to bring along some favorite toys and dishes.
- If you need to feed your pet during the trip, take along water and bland food from your old home. Different food and water can give your pet an upset stomach. Try to arrange your travel and feeding times so that your pet isn’t traveling on a full stomach.
- Keep your animal contained or leashed at all times. Keep your dog on a leash when bringing it outside to relieve itself during the trip. Pets can become confused in strange places and may run off.
- Avoid temperature extremes for all pets. Don’t leave pets alone in the car for more than a few minutes. Use a sturdy, insulated carrier to help regulate the temperature when you’re traveling. If you’re traveling with a bird, keep the cage covered but well ventilated.
- Provide plenty of fresh water. Small caged animals, such as gerbils and hamsters, can become dehydrated easily. Make sure your small animals have water at all times. For dogs and cats, provide fresh water at each stop, if traveling by car.
After you arrive
As soon as you and your family are in your new home, start getting your pet back into its routine. Regular meal times, exercise, and play times will help your pet feel more at home. Also, try the following:
- Confine pets to a single room while unpacking and setting up your new home. Cats especially may become nervous in new surroundings and will feel more secure if kept in a room with their food and water dishes, bedding, and litter box.
- Give your pet something familiar from your old home. An old blanket, a T-shirt of yours, or anything else that carries the scent of your former home will help your pet feel more secure.
- Keep your cat indoors until you are settled in. If you have an outdoor cat, give it at least several weeks to become used to its new surroundings before letting it outside.
- Walk your dog around your new home and neighborhood. Allow your dog to become familiar with its new territory.
- Make an appointment with your pet’s new veterinarian. Your vet will be a good source of information about local pet laws and will be able to tell you where to find the closest 24-hour emergency pet clinic.
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