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Family Matters Blog: Things to Think About When Moving With Pets

By Heather Forsgren Weaver
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2010 – Heather Forsgren Weaver of American Forces Press Service, is a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather’s been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.

In this blog, Heather offers some tips for military families that might soon be moving with pets.

I was thinking recently about how difficult it must be to have a pet and serve in the military. In fact, I know several military families and only two of them have pets.

One of the challenges of military life is the moving. Moving is stressful for everyone and every family, even if you have done it several times. If your family has a non-human member and you are getting ready to change duty stations, you have even more to think about.

When choosing a place to live make sure your pet is welcome. As I said in my recent blog about pet ownership, "Pets Can Be a Welcome Addition to families," you could discover some distressing restrictions due to the size and/or breed of your pet.

Once you have found a place to live and ensured that your pet will be welcome, then you have to start thinking about how to get your pet to your new home.

Defense Department regulations limit pet shipments to passengers with orders to change duty stations, known as "permanent change of station" or "PCS status." In this case, pets are defined as dogs and cats and you can have a maximum of two.

Fifteen days before your scheduled departure, if there is any additional room, you may ship additional pets. Space is limited, so make your reservations as soon as your plans are finalized because pet transport is allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you and your pet are heading to your new duty station on a commercial flight, be aware of airline restrictions. Your pet must weigh less than 100 pounds, and some airlines don't allow pets to be shipped when the outside temperature is too hot or too cold. Air Mobility Command does not impose seasonal hot/cold restrictions.

Female pets in heat and/or mothers who are still nursing their young cannot be shipped at all.

Your pets must be up current with their shots including the rabies vaccination. A veterinary health certificate will serve double duty as proof of ownership and vaccinations; it must be presented when making reservations.

No sooner than 10 days before you leave, you also must obtain a separate pet health certificate from your veterinarian. This is a follow-up to the veterinary health certificate and proves that your pet is still healthy and ready to travel to your new home.

You are responsible for obtaining all required documentation and immunizations. Additionally, you should be prepared to pay any border crossing fees.

On moving day, prepare a travel crate for your pet with a favorite toy and a familiar blanket. The crate should be big enough for your pet to stand, lay down and turn around, but should not be too big. On the outside of the crate, list your pet's size, weight, specific markings and affix a current picture.

Before traveling, feed your pet a light meal. Don't overfeed because that could cause discomfort. Same goes for the amount of water you give them. Remember they'll be in the crate longer than you will be on the plane and they won't have access to "bathroom" facilities.

The actual flight might be stressful for your pet, so it is probably a good idea not to allow the animal to interact with strangers at the airport. Even the most gentle and friendly pet can turn aggressive when it perceives a threat or is stressed.

Try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible on moving day, and continue the routine once you arrive at your new home to make the transition easier.

As you settle in, give your pet some time to adjust. Beware that cats might want to mark an area, so if your cat is prone to this, keep it contained in a room where cleanup will be easiest.

Dogs will want to sniff everything, so if possible try to arrive before the movers so you can let your dog discover the new home before putting the pet in a safe place, either a crate or a locked room, while your stuff is being moved in. When taking your dog outside, keep it leashed. Remember, this is a new neighborhood for the dog and the desire to discover and sniff everything may be overwhelming.

While this blog has focused on moving dogs and cats, other pets can move to your new home as well, but they will have to be shipped and allowed in your new town.

There is a lot more information available about moving with pets on Military OneSource.

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