Military families regularly PCS with their pets, which includes moving overseas, or OCONUS.
The process is stressful for humans and animals, but there is good news. A growing industry exists to help military families secure their pet’s travel to their new duty station. Whether you choose a private shipping company, a commercial airline, or military flight, safe options are available for transporting your pet overseas if you take the time for proper research.
Options for Transporting Your Pet Overseas
Flying with Your Pet
Depending on the airline, the options for transport include a carrier that fits the small space under the seat inside the cabin of the plane, or the pet must fit into a regulation size crate in the baggage area, or the cargo storage, which is different than the space holding checked baggage. Pets flying in cargo spend much more time in their crates vs. those checked as baggage.
Commercial airlines have their own set of restrictions regarding the transportation of pets in the cargo and baggage areas during the summer months, which unfortunately is the highest point of PCS season. This leaves military families with a narrow field of options to travel overseas, especially those with large pets.
For families with short-nosed dogs and cats who are prone to breathing problems, such as Persians, pugs, bulldogs, and boxers, even fewer commercial transportation opportunities exist, as carriers now have strict policies regarding these breeds. Some have even banned their transport, either all together or during the hot months.
What to Know About Flying with Pets During Your PCS Move has links to major airline pet policies.
As each airline customizes their own pet safety rules, a one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t exist, especially when it pertains to the size and breed of the animal. In order to maximize safety and reduce wasted time and money, become extremely familiar with the airline’s policy in totality to leverage as much control over the process as possible.
Though convenient, commercial airlines have a number of disadvantages. They have a lower weight limit of an almost across-the-board limit of 100 lbs for both pet and crate. Given that a large crate can weigh approximately 40 pounds, big dogs may need to find a home with family for the duration of an overseas PCS.
Finally, these services are expensive, ranging from $1,300 for the coordination of overseas pet travel with the airline and ensuring that an airline pet care specialist watches over any pets prior to and after the flight to $2,500 for door-to-door pet service.
Military Flight aka Patriot Express
One affordable, but limited option does exist for military families moving overseas. Patriot Express will fly up to three large pets per flight in the cabin and ten below the cabin. These are total numbers, making Patriot Express a limited and in demand service which has to be reserved well in advance of the departure date.
The AMC Pet Travel Page has more details and offers this breakdown of guidelines.
- Pet travel is limited to families with PCS status only.
- Only two pets per family may fly.
- AMC Patriot Express flights for pets are exceptionally limited.
- Bookings are first come, first serve basis made through the local travel management office.
- Orders are not required at the time of booking.
- Pets cannot fly alone-- the owner must be on the flight and pay for the pet’s flight.
- Fees are charged on a per-kennel basis depending on the combined total weight of your pet and kennel. Prices vary from $125- $375.
- Pets and kennel weighing more than 150 lbs are not accepted for shipment.
The Patriot Express operates flights both to Germany and the Pacific region. The former operates out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport and flies directly into Ramstein Air Base in Germany. In addition to permitting ten large pets in the cabin, this flight also permits under seat pet carriers of a size no larger than “20 inches long by 16 inches wide by 8 inches high.”
The pet must be able to move around comfortably within this amount of space. The latter flight to the Pacific leaves directly out of Seattle-Tacoma Washington International Airport and flies into Korea via Japan. This flight has the same restrictions on pets and sizes, and both specify that only dogs and cats may travel.
Here’s more pet PCS info: Military Move with Pets: 5 Tips to Prepare.
In order to fly on Patriot Express, pets need documentation. Military families must have PCS orders to fly with documentation from your Travel Management Office approving the pet’s flight. It is important to make these arrangements quickly after receiving orders, as these flights fill almost immediately, particularly during busy PCS seasons. More specifically for your pet, they need a health certificate within ten days of flying. No waivers exist for this date restriction.
Families who choose to use a civilian veterinarian for this final health approval are required to complete additional paperwork that includes a USDA endorsement. For a less expensive and time consuming option, families can instead choose to work with a military veterinarian, though an Active Duty veterinarian must actually sign the paperwork.
This signature ensures that pets have successfully completed the immunization and screening process for traveling overseas. The document serves as approval for the pet’s entry into the new duty station.
Flying Your Pet with a Transport Company
There are many reasons a family chooses to fly their pet alone. From scheduling difficulties to finances, sometimes the best option is to send them solo. Pet transportation services exist to lessen the worry and burden of the process, but pet owners will pay a premium to work with a qualified company that has a reputable record of safety and care.
Military families use private pet transport companies because they offer a variety of solutions to move your pet overseas with minimal discomfort. They coordinate all of the necessary details like veterinary care, flight details, and pick up and delivery transportation to and from the airport.
To begin your search for a pet transport company, start with the International Pet and Travel Association (IPATA). They source recommended and vetted companies serving airports across the globe.
If this is your first time flying with a pet, The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Animal Welfare Act are two strong points of reference for understanding the overall picture of regulated pet travel.
MilitarybyOwner knows exactly how important pets are to military families! This blog is constantly updated with information about pet PCS resources, including transportation and on and off base housing restrictions.