Your overseas orders guarantee everyone can get there – except your furry family members.
If you luck into a space on military transport or can pay out of pocket for commercial pet flights or a pet travel service, getting a pet OCONUS can be as easy as swiping a credit card.
But what about military families that simply can’t afford to pay to move their pets overseas?
Luckily, there are a few resources to help you move your pets overseas or arrange for their care stateside.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International should be your first stop on the journey to get Fido overseas. This organization offers a grant program, Operation Military Pets, that can help offset some or all of your pet transport costs.
To qualify, you must provide 6 photos of your family and pet to the SPCAI and complete the application process. There are no pay grade or rank restrictions, just the need for financial assistance. Families are eligible to receive aid once every 5 years. So if you get a grant this PCS season, you can’t apply for the return trip in 3 years.
There is a high demand for these grants, due to recent media attention. The best advice is to get your application in early!
For military families E-6 and below, Dogs on Deployment offers a unique financial assistance program designed to help you continue to care for your pets in a variety of circumstances. From emergency medical bills to overseas pet travel costs, a Pet Chit grant could potentially cover up to 80 percent of your costs.
If you don’t qualify for a grant through SPCAI or Dogs on Deployment, the next best option might be to find a loving foster home with friends or family while you are stationed overseas.
Ideally, your foster family would be experienced with your furry buddy and be ready to take on temporary custody.
On the plus side, if your family or friends live near a military base, you can still see a military vet! Before you PCS, head to your base’s legal office and create a special power of attorney designating all pet care duties to the foster home. Be sure to include language that designates the use of military veterinary facilities and call the military base where your pet would be seen to confirm availability.
Other Foster Options
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a family or friend is not available to care for Fido or Fluffy in your absence. If this is the case, there are a variety of organizations that can help fill the gap.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet: This is a temporary foster home situation, usually lasting 3 to 6 months for OCONUS PCS orders. However, this could offer families the time needed to gather financial resources or find a more permanent foster home situation.
PACT for Animals: The foster homes available through this group seem to cover both deployments and PCS orders overseas. The mission of PACT is to help military families avoid surrendering their beloved pets to shelters. The group helps to arrange and monitors foster home for pets. They even will work with both families to help everyone stay in touch and provides regular updates on the health and well-being of the pet.
Operation Noble Foster: If you have a cat, this may be the answer to your OCONUS PCS pet problems! This foster group is a cats-only group that finds foster homes for military families throughout the United States.
Dogs on Deployment: Before you use this as your fall-back plan, contact the organization to confirm your eligibility. Based on a few clicks around their website, military families PCSing overseas are not outright excluded. However, it is definitely a program aimed more at service members dealing with traditional deployments or short-term situations. Boarders are allowed to list themselves as “greater than 12 months,” which could potentially include OCONUS orders.
No matter what foster situation you potentially choose, it is important to keep a few basics in mind, according to the American Humane Society.
First, create a written agreement that outlines your pet’s needs and health conditions, as well as who is financially responsible for essential (food, medicine, vet appointments, etc.) pet care. You should also outline the terms and conditions of the foster period, like length of stay or boarding costs when your foster family travels.
Additionally, your pets should be spayed or neutered and microchipped prior to going to their foster home, to ensure that there are no small surprises and that a missing pet can be located more easily. Your pet should be fully vaccinated and given a clean bill of health.