PCSing overseas with pets

by Emily Alvarenga
Stripes Europe

As something the military doesn’t pay for, it can be a dauting task to prepare for an overseas PCS when you’ve got pets. But don’t worry, with just a little planning and preparation it can be done!

Step 1: Every country has different rules and regulations, so first things first, look up the specifics for your destination country. Usually, there are certain immunizations your pets are required to get as well as a health certificate verifying that your pet is fit to fly. Some European countries like the U.K. even require a quarantine, so it’s best to find out right away what you’re going to be dealing with. And although the military won’t reimburse you for the cost of relocating your pet, they understand that the quarantine process can be pricey, so they do reimburse up to $550 for active-duty moving to a country where quarantine is mandatory. It’s best to contact your new installation as well as your destination country’s consulate to get all the up-to-date information you need.

Step 2: Now’s the time to start researching which airline is going to be the most cost-effective to fly your pets. The military allows you to choose which airline you fly with to your overseas destination, so you can actually be on the same flight as your pet, which is typically the cheapest option. Most airlines provide an awesome military discount (so don’t forget to ask), but prices will still vary from airline to airline depending on the size of your pet and how many animals will be flying. Not all pets can be taken as a carry on or as luggage, some bigger animals will be required to fly as cargo. Also, since options are limited these days as few airlines accept pets on-board, it is important to figure out right away which airline will be best for your situation.

Step 3: Take your pet to the vet! Making sure right off the bat that your pet is healthy and is current on all the immunizations required for travel can save you time and money in the long run as some vaccines are required to be given months in advance. Always check with your installation’s vetenarian but many host-nation vets will also most likely be familiar with PCSing animals and have information for you.

Step 4: Now that you’ve chosen your airline and made sure your pet is ready to travel, it’s time to ask for some help. SPCA International started the Operation Military Pets program so that pets and their families can PCS by offering grants of $500 or $1,000 to help with the hefty relocation costs. The application is open from the 1st until the 7th of each month and they ask that you submit your application within three months of your projected travel date. All you’ve got to do is submit the quote you received from the airline, tell them your story and send in some photos of you and your pet – it’s that simple!

Step 5: After you’ve chosen your airline, you can now find out exactly what their requirements are for your pet to travel. Typically, you’ll need to buy a crate, food and water bowls, and absorbent material for the crate. Each airline has different requirements, but it is customary that your pet will need to comfortably be able to sit, stand and lay down without touching any side of the crate (even their ears). This means that if you’ve got a larger animal, you will need a larger crate. Crates can be pretty expensive, so looking for used crates on sale or waiting until stores have sales can save you a lot.

Step 6: You’re almost there! All that’s left to do is book everything. Often you won’t immediately be ready to move into a house after moving to your new duty station and will have to spend some time at a hotel. Thankfully, most hotels on or around installations tend to be pet-friendly, but it’s best to book as soon as you know your travel dates to ensure that all the pet-friendly rooms aren’t filled up when you arrive. If your pet is going to be quarantined, there are many companies that assist with that at your destination country. Do some research and read some reviews to figure out where you’d feel comfortable leaving your pet.

Step 7: Finally, it’s time for the move. You’ve done all the prep work, so don’t stress. It’s time to enjoy your new adventure with your furry companions!

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