Pets in the Military: Dogs Traveling and Moving with Their Military Families

Pets in the Military: Prepare Ahead for Travel with Your PetTraveling with Pet Dogs in the Military

As 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 of the challenges of pet ownership for active duty military is that the family unit (including pets) will relocate every few years:

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. (Pets in the Military: Should You Add a Pet to Your Military Life?, August 15, 2012)

When you add a pet as a military family member, it’s important to:

  1. Register your pet with the base veterinarian or a recommended local vet.
  2. Microchip your pet.
  3. Vaccinate your pet (with vaccinations recorded on the microchip).
  4. Keep your vaccinations up to date.

NOTE: It is very important to note the order of the above points. Microchip first, followed by vaccinations. This is essential to securing a Health Certificate before traveling or moving.

Air Travel with Dogs

Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Air Travel with Dogs

Keep in mind that when you PCS or travel overseas with your dog, most airlines (and some countries) will require your pet to have had a rabies vaccination before they will fly your pet and you will need to present a certificate of vaccination to the carrier at check in. Your pet’s rabies vaccination should be scheduled for about 21 days before your departure date.

NOTE: Your next place of residence will most likely require a rabies vaccination, and if not already administered to meet airline requirements ( e.g. you are traveling by car with your pet), they will require a rabies vaccination usually within 10 days of arrival.

Health Certificate Requirement

A Health Certificate is a mandatory requirement of most airlines, to be obtained within 10 days of departure. Your pet’s Health Certificate is issued by your veterinarian.

Kennels Suitable for Air Travel with Dogs (and Other Pets)

When you purchase a kennel, make sure the brand and model you are buying is internationally compliant, as well as good value for your money.

Size matters. Make sure your pet is able to sit or stand without the top of their heads or ears touching the roof of the kennel. The minimum internal length of your kennel for air travel with dogs must be the total length of your pet, nose to tail, plus half a front leg measured ground to elbow.

You may need “live animal” stickers. Check with your airline.

Choice of Air Transportation for Your Pet

You have three choices when transporting your pet via air transportation:

1. Accompanied Excess Baggage: Your pet travels on the same aircraft “on the back” of your airline ticket. Your kenneled pet is checked as “hold baggage” and attended by baggage handlers on the baggage carts; pets are left in their kennels until flight.

What you need to check while planning your air travel:

  • Whether your airline will take your pet as Accompanied Excess Baggage.
  • Whether all aircraft on your route/itinerary will have cargo door sizes large enough to accommodate your kennel.
  • If you have more than one pet, whether they will both be accepted.
  • When your PCS date falls between 15 May and 15 September, whether your airline restricts travel (due to heat restrictions).

The advantage of this travel mode is that this is the least costly way to transport your pet by air. The disadvantage is that your pet’s flight is not guaranteed and the decision is made when you check-in on the day.

2. Independent Flight: Your pet travels as manifested cargo on a configured passenger aircraft. Your pet is not left in their kennel and they are attended by animal handlers in a dedicated animal handling facility. They are transported to the aircraft in a special vehicle. Their space on the aircraft is guaranteed, and there are year-round services.

The advantage of this travel mode is that your pet is likely to be more comfortable and their space is guaranteed.  The disadvantage: This travel mode is more expensive.

3. Travel Arranged by a Pet Shipping Company: Your pet travels on a pet-specific flight with all arrangements coordinated by the company.

The advantage of this travel mode for your pet is the high degree of organization and comfort with special handling. Since arrangements are handled by the pet shipping company, there is less work for you and less chance that essential deadlines and details will be missed. The disadvantage: There is a higher cost for this special service.

Traveling with Dogs: 10 Tips

Before Traveling with Dogs

Drugs/Medication —

  • Don’t use drugs to sedate your pet! Time and again sedation has caused more problems than it solves. (Most airlines won’t carry sedated pets.)
  • Ask for advice from your vet about medication already prescribed for your pet.

Food and Water —

  • Provide a low protein diet for a short time prior to an airline flight. Don’t withhold food before travel.
  • During an airline flight, no food is required, but water is. Your kennel needs to accommodate your pet, its water dishes or dispensers.
  • Don’t overfill water dishes since a wet pet in a kennel is not a happy traveler.
  • Make sure your pet is well hydrated prior to an airline flight.

After a Flight or Other Travel with Dogs

Food and Water–

  • Offer water as your first priority.
  • Keep the first feed at half the usual volume and feed only dry food.

Pet Stress Relief–

  • Find a safe place for your dog to pee and poop. (Don’t forget your Poop Scoop!)
  • Provide a quiet place for your pet to rest and get over travel. (They may not want to eat for about 24 hours.)

Resources for Military Families Preparing to Move or Travel with Pets

1.  Family services at the base where you currently assigned and at your destination for example, Airman and Family Readiness for Air Force families. For a list specific to branches of service see:

2.  The national agencies that deal with animals (often combined with agencies responsible for agriculture) for example, in the United Kingdom, it’s DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

3.  Animal welfare organizations in your present assignment and at your destination.

For tips for air travel with dogs, see this article by the ASPCA:

Comments on Pets in the Military or Moving or Traveling with Dogs?

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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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5 Responses to Pets in the Military: Dogs Traveling and Moving with Their Military Families

  1. Norman Wilson August 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    An excellent article with sound advice much of which applies to even non-military folks. Things have changed since 9/11.

  2. Laurie August 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Registering with the base is the best tip of all. My brother recently adopted a stray cat from his base on Crete and the Navy was very helpful guiding him through everything he needed to do to have the cat transported to the US. The cat has now moved up to Washington and is happily adjusting to his new life.

  3. Maggie August 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Really great tips that anyone can use! Traveling can and is just as enjoyable to dogs if it done right.

  4. Jenny October 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit yet again since I saved as
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