Pets in the Military: Should You Add a Pet to Your Military Life?

A military man hugs his dog

Pets in the Military: Is It Wise to Take that Doggie Home with You?

Pets in the military are the rule rather than the exception. Singletons or family people, military people love their pets and value their companionship as much as civilian people do. However, military members face some barriers to providing the best home for pets — so before you bring a pet home, think about these issues:

1. Military members often work long and variable hours. Pets need to be fed, groomed, walked and receive social interaction with regularity and predictability. If you are young and single, it’s all up to you in your off duty hours.

2. Military members deploy. You will often be away for months at a time. Who will care for your pet? Do you have friends or family members who can handle your dog and become a second home and tribe for your pet? Will they have the means to feed your dog and provide pet health care? What if your dog causes a problem or damages their property? Do you have a backup plan?

3. Military members PCS (permanent change of station). You will move every few years and need to settle yourself and your pet into a new base, a new state or even a new country. Moving with your pet will require at least as much planning and paperwork as moving yourself or any other member of your immediate family: pet passport, health records, and the appropriate immunizations.

Every new jurisdiction will have their own laws and regulations governing your pet’s arrival and settling in. Some U.S. military bases do not accept pets. Some do not have accommodation that will suit a large, active dog. Some accept only certain breeds and not others.

Resources for Pets in the Military

If you are trying to decide whether to take a doggie  home with you, there are resources available with needed information about the requirements in your branch of the service and your location. Start your pet owner preparation here:

  • Your base animal welfare officer and base veterinarian. In my case, I found information at the 48th Force Support Squadron, Airman and Family Readiness section. The base veterinarian is knowledgeable about vaccinations, pet passports and travel abroad.
  • PetTravel.com has a comprehensive list of resources and information for pets traveling or moving overseas or returning to the United States. Check out the drop-down menu of countries on this page — http://www.pettravel.com/passportnew.cfm — for pet immigration information worldwide.
  • Military.com has a brief article with a great checklist of things to remember and plan for when moving with a pet. Read more here: http://www.military.com/money//pcs-dity-move/moving-with-pets.html

Action Steps for Owners of Pets in the Military

Walking the DogsIf you are willing to prepare ahead of time, spend time with your new pet (e.g. in a dog obedience class) and be proactive in your planning for deployment and PCS, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of the pleasure of sharing your life with a canine companion (or a feline companion).

Steps for you to take:

  1. Gather information about the situation for your branch of the service, your base and the state and country of your location. Find out what you need to know about resources and regulations. In particular, check in with your base veterinarian and ask for pamphlets or other information that will help you plan ahead for the health and well-being of your pet.
  2. Talk with other pet owners about their experience of moving with their pets.
  3. If you become a pet owner, start your preparations for PCS with your pet at least six months before you and your family are due to travel on orders.

So, can you really have a pet if you’re in the military? Many military people are happy pet owners with happy and healthy pets that travel with them to new homes and stay home with their alternative families when service members are deployed.

Next article in this seriesPets in the Military: Dogs Traveling and Moving with Their Families — with more details to help you to prepare to travel overseas with your pet, especially when moving from the USA to another country, or moving back again.

Active Duty Military? If you have experience with sharing your life with a canine companion, please leave your comments, questions or tips for us below in the Comments section.

[This article is authored by Kate L Williams, currently living at RAF Lakenheath in the UK. (Her family doggie’s name is Tyson.) As KateMagicDog, Kate helps Dr. B with her blog and social media for My Magic Dog. Visit Kate at her Facebook page or her blog for Social Biz Local Biz.]

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About KateMagicDog

Teacher. Facilitator. Social media marketer. Champion of the small. Rose, hydrangea & organic veggie cultivator living in Pacific NW household ruled by tuxedo cat. (Currently living in the UK at RAF Lakenheath in a household ruled by a Lhaso Apso doggie.)

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7 Responses to Pets in the Military: Should You Add a Pet to Your Military Life?

  1. Norman Wilson August 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Fascinating article and contains much good information. I am sure many people have never thought about our military people having pets except those that had them in the war zone and struggled to bring them back with them. A good read!

    • KateMagicDog August 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

      Thanks, Norman. I didn’t know about pets in the military until I had to “re-home” or “adopt” a pet that wasn’t ready to PCS with his family, California to England. He has a happy, settled life now but his military family miss him. They needed to have more detailed information from their vet months before they were able to uncover the information about pet microchips, pet passports, rabies vaccinations, etc.
      –Kate

  2. Dr. B August 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    A fascinating article with exceptional information! I’m sure I’m not alone in never having considered the issues regarding a pet dog for someone in the military. Thank you so much for this wonderful article. You’ve given military families a wonderful guide to help them include their important 4-footed family members. I’m so glad you’re on the My Magic Dog team!

    • KateMagicDog August 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Thanks Dr. B! I’ve learned a lot myself and I’m sure our family doggie will be happy I’ve learned how to take care of him as we prepare to PCS to our next home. It will probably involve an international air journey for him so will talk more about that in my next guest post.

  3. Kathleen Kaska August 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    What a valuable article. I never really thought about what military families go through with their pets. It was agonizing for me to leave my dogs even for a weekend even when they stayed with my parents, who incidentally, pampered them. This is great information, Kate. Thanks again, Dr. B, for another fine post.

    • barbara peterson August 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      great article, full of useful info.

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  1. Pets in the Military: Dogs Traveling and Moving with Their Military Families | My Magic Dog - August 27, 2012

    […] we discussed in the first post in this series — Pets in the Military: Should You Add a Pet to Your Military Life? — military people love their pets and value their companionship as much as do civilians. One […]

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