Got pets? With permanent change of station season in full swing, it’s important to plan ahead to make the transition safe and comfortable for pets as well as people. Here are some tips for moving with your pet via airplane, plus some ideas for how to make a move go more smoothly for furry friends.
- What’s covered and what’s not? For uniformed service members, the Department of Defense Travel Management Office says pet quarantine fees, if applicable, can be reimbursed up to $500 per PCS move. No reimbursement is allowed for transportation of a pet, although pets are allowed on Air Mobility Command, or AMC, travel, if the uniformed service member or civilian employee is in PCS travel status.
- What kind and how many? Base housing frequently limits the number of pets to two, and many bases have their own restrictions when it comes to breed types. DogsBite.org has a list of breed policies at several military bases here (https://www.dogsbite.org/legislating-dangerous-dogs-military-bases.php). Rottweilers and pit bulls are the most commonly banned, but wolf hybrids, chows, Doberman pinschers, Akitas and American bulldogs are often on the banned list.
- In good health: Most airlines require a recent health certificate for traveling pets. Pets must be up to date on vaccinations before travel, and some veterinarians require a 10-day waiting period after vaccinations before conducting a health certificate exam to ensure that the pet has no adverse reactions to the vaccinations. It’s important to plan ahead for vaccinations, but ensure that the health certificate is current — most are only valid for 10 days from the date of issue. If the PCS is overseas, check https://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/animal/index.htm for quarantine information. Also, many airlines refuse to carry some breeds, either due to health concerns for the pet (such as pug-nosed dogs, which may have breathing problems on a plane) or for travelers and handlers.
- Geared up: Be sure to get a carrier that allows your pet to stand and sit straight, turn around comfortably and to lie down naturally. A good rule of thumb — with your dog or cat standing tall, measure from nose to the base of their tail and add 2 to 4 inches to determine the proper length. Next, measure from the top of their head to the floor when the dog or cat is in a seated position and add 2 to 4 inches. Most airlines require food and water dishes (affixed to the kennel but accessible from outside) to be available and food taped to the top of the kennel in case the flight is delayed.
- Check in early, and locally: Airline regulations vary for transporting pets, and regulations within the carrier may vary according to the size of the cargo bay on the actual plane you will be traveling on. Contact the airline early in the process to verify that the planes you will be traveling on will accept your pet’s kennel.
- Be weather wise: Many PCS moves happen in summer, and most airlines only allow pets to be transported at certain temperatures. While it’s no fun for any airline traveler to be stuck on hot tarmac during a delay, it can be life-threatening for animals. Not moving in summer? Temperatures that are too cold can be a problem too. Find out what your airline’s restrictions are, and keep an eye on the forecast. It might be necessary to adjust your pet’s travel times or find a local kennel to board him or her until the temperature is pet-friendly.
- Traveling separately? Several companies (including some that are veteran-owned) cater to military families moving between bases. Many offer military discounts. Some, like Action Pet Express (https://actionpetexpress.com) specialize in finding solutions to difficult pet travel issues, particularly for military families moving overseas.
- Making a prepared landing: Finding a rental property that can accommodate your family’s needs as well as your pet can be a challenge, and to have one already set up when you arrive with your pet can be an even larger challenge. Some families find it easier to have their pet stay with a friend or relative until they find a home then send for the pets. If your family needs to stay in a hotel near base until your next home is ready, rest assured that hotels near bases tend to be pet-friendly.
- Finding other solutions: Are you unable to bring your pet along because the cost of PCSing it is too high? The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International runs Operation Military Pets (https://www.spcai.org/get-involved/military-support/operation-military-pets/), which aims to keep military families together by providing financial assistance for pet relocation costs. An application is available at that website. Sadly, some pets are unable to travel with their family for reasons beyond cost. A pet in poor health, for example, or a cold-weather pet whose family was transferred to a hot, humid area. In those cases, several organizations exist to help re-home pets from military families. Some will even help find foster care for pets while families search for a situation that will accommodate their whole family. If finding a home that accommodates your pet is just not possible, check with your local veterinarian for tips on reputable shelters or rescue organizations.