6 Resources for a Military Move with Pets
As I write this, our rescue dog is bounding around the living room, “killing” his chew bone with feigned ferocity. After several years since our last doggie passed, we finally felt ready to welcome a new pup to the family.
Over my husband's military career, we’ve made many PCS moves with our pets, and I know that, while the addition of a family pet brings much happiness and companionship, it can also add layers of complication to a military move.
Military families most likely heard about the series of heartbreaking pet transport mishaps a few years back and the ensuing policy changes. Major airlines like United suspended their pet shipping programs temporarily, which caused some panic for military pet owners stationed in Guam, as United Airlines was the only U.S. commercial airline flying pets to and from the remote island. The airline again now offers U.S. military personnel making a PCS move, State Department Foreign Service Personnel (FSP), and their spouses pet transport through United PetSafe® for pets that meet all their requirements. (See the latest guidance on United's site.)
But whether you're making a move with your pets overseas or driving across the country, you may not know about all the helpful resources for military families, ranging from pet relocation grants to pet foster care. Of course, you'll need to ensure that your pet’s health certificate, immunizations, and other paperwork are all completed for the country or state you’re relocating to, but here are a few other resources to make your military move with pets easier.
1) Air Mobility Command (AMC)“Patriot Express” Flights
You may be eligible to ship your pet via military transport.
There are limited spaces for pets on AMC flights (the Patriot Express) for overseas PCS travel from Baltimore/Washington International or Seattle/Tacoma International airports. A limit of two pets per family applies.
AMC flights have similar breed restrictions as commercial airlines. While this option is much less expensive than flying commercially, the coveted spots are limited, and it’s recommended to contact your local transportation office as early as possible for all the requirements and details.
Some current requirements:
- You must be in PCS status (no leisure travel).
- Pet spaces are booked on a first come/first serve basis.
- Orders aren't required at the time of booking.
- Pet owners must accompany their pets on the flight and pay all expenses.
Get more information about the Patriot Express, including kennel size and weight requirements at the AMC Pet Travel page.
2) Pet Transport Companies
Type "pet relocation" into Google search and you'll come up with a multitude of companies. But when it comes to taking care of your furry family member, how do you know who to trust?
A pet transport company will handle all the details of shipping your pet overseas or for transportation domestically, to include quarantine and immunization paperwork you’re required to file, travel and flight arrangements, any needed documents, and pick up/delivery to and from the airport.
But not all companies are equal. Avoid a shady company or scam artist by finding a professional pet shipper already screened through the International Pet and Travel Association (IPATA). The website also covers common FAQs about transporting pets and a members-only section with country profiles, a directory, training resources, and more.
3) Military Pet Relocation Grants
The cost of shipping a cat or dog in the cargo area of a plane can run anywhere from about $200 to $1,000, depending on the animal’s size. With other possible costs including vet screening, an approved kennel, quarantine fees, and customs clearance, the price tag can add up quickly.
Several companies and nonprofits are working to alleviate the hardship of moves for military families wishing to keep their pets as part of the family. Here are just a few:
- Dogs on Deployment Rich Setzer Memorial Grant Fund offers financial assistance for certain pet expenses for military members (generally E-6 or below), including travel costs due to a PCS move. See their site for requirements and to apply. Assistance is granted on a need-only basis and when funding is available.
- Operation Military Pets from the SPCA provides financial assistance to offset pet relocation costs.
- Operation We Are Here has an extensive list of pet relocation grants and help for military families.
- Operation Roger: Regional and long-haul truckers who volunteer to transport pets in need. Non-profit organization.
4) Pet Quarantine Fee Reimbursements
If you’re moving to an area with mandatory pet quarantines such as Hawaii, Japan, or Guam, you may be entitled to a reimbursement from the government.
The DOD's Defense Travel Management Office states that, for uniformed service members,
“Mandatory pet quarantine fees, incurred ICW the mandatory quarantine of a household pet, are reimbursable not to exceed $550 per PCS move for pets in, or entering into, quarantine on and after 28 December 2001… Only quarantine costs associated with dogs and cats are allowed.”
Note: transportation costs are not eligible for reimbursement.
5) Pet Foster Care for Military Families
When faced with a short-notice overseas move or deployment, some military families must make the decision to leave a pet behind temporarily. For instance, when our family moved to Hawaii on short-notice orders, my sister kept our dog for several months until his quarantine period passed, then flew out with him later.
If you don't have friends or family members able to help out in a similar situation, take a look at these organizations that have a mission of providing temporary homes for pets of military members going through a transition like a PCS move overseas. Their goal is to reunite families with their pets and help prevent the occurrence of abandoned animals. Note that each agency has differing options and requirements.
- American Humane Society
- Dogs on Deployment
- Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet
- PACT for Animals
- State Humane Societies (check with your state)
Image from Canva
6) Alternative Travel Plans
If your PCS falls during the time of year when pet travel in a plane cargo hold is limited due to extreme temperatures, you have some alternatives.
Send your pet on a cargo flight.
This option is understandably more expensive and can usually only be booked a couple of weeks in advance. For examples, see Delta Airlines’ guidance for year-round shipment of animals and American Airlines PetEmbark program.
Travel by train!
Amtrak now allows smaller animals to be transported for just $26 for each travel segment when they travel with you. Travel time can only be seven hours total, and weight and breed restrictions apply.
Need more information for your move with your pet? Check out these articles:
- Military Move with Pets: 5 Tips to Prepare
- Quick Tips to Prepare Your Pets for a PCS Move
- What to Know About Flying With Pets
- Options for Transporting Your Pet Overseas
- 8 Tips for a Cross-Country Move with Pets
A military move with pets can be stressful, but worth it when you're finally reunited! If you're about to face a PCS move, we hope this information helps alleviate some of your concerns about moving your dog or cat. Please share your favorite pet moving resources with us in the comments or on social media.
Please note that all links are for informational purposes. It's important to always do your own due diligence and research before working with any organization.
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