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    Which Pets Aren't Allowed in Military Housing?

    If you move into military family housing on your next PCS, bring your horse (many installations have stables), but leave your skunk, your raccoon, your cobra, and your hedgehog with a friend or family member. You also may not domesticate any of the base squirrels; leave them to terrorize the neighborhood and pelt you with acorns on your morning run.

    It seems ridiculous to specify that your skunk may not live in base housing with you. Seriously. Who brings their skunk?

    Someone did, though, because even though neither the individual branches nor the privatized housing companies can agree on a standardized breed restriction list for dogs, they all agree that skunks can’t live inside base housing.

    Animal restrictions for military housing exist to help keep your family safer while living on base, but they don’t all agree on what animals do or do not make you safer. Even when an installation does create a policy to make you safe, they don’t necessarily enforce it.

    Which Pets Arent Allowed

    Which Pets Aren't Allowed in Military Housing? 

    The list of banned animals typically includes: 

    • Hedgehogs
    • Skunks
    • Rats
    • Raccoons
    • Squirrels
    • Pot-bellied Pigs
    • Monkeys
    • Arachnids
    • Dangerous/poisonous snakes
    • "Other" wild/exotic animals  
    • Barnyard animals: ducks, rabbits, chickens, ferrets.


    Animals Generally Permitted on Military Installations

    • Dogs: no more than two. Dog breed restrictions exist, though they differ by branch. In the event of a joint installation, the policy of the lead branch in charge of the installation wins.
    • Cats: no more than two.
    • Caged animals: hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, and birds.
    • Aquarium animals: turtles, aquarium fish (there are often size restrictions on aquariums).

    Our Pet Experience with Military Housing

    Case in Point: Our Move to an Installation that Shall Remain Unnamed

    After an exhausting two-day drive following a last-minute unplanned DITY move (thank you for canceling at the last minute, military movers), my husband and I pulled our car up to the housing office. Our house was ready, and all we had to do was sign the paperwork, get the keys, and move ourselves, our stuff, and our overtired, cranky, hyperventilating dog into our new home for the year. With complete dog medical records in hand, we strolled into the office.

    Three minutes later…

    I climbed back into our car vaguely wondering which of us was hyperventilating more--me or the dog? The housing officer had requested a genetics test for our dog’s breed. What?! This wasn’t in the paperwork! It wasn’t in any of their policies online, and during my many calls to the housing office, not a single person had mentioned anything other than bringing his updated shot records.

    dog boarding

    The housing officer handed me a number of someone who could help, someone who could "get the job done" in less than a couple of weeks. He explained that it helped the installation maintain their breed restriction policies by having the precise breed of the dog, which they could only procure from a true genetics test. I’m no geneticist, but from my understanding, a quickie genetics test on a dog won’t tell you whether my dog is a danger to your installation. 

    In our post Breed Restrictions for On-Base Military Housing, you can read how the Director of the Army’s Veterinarian Service Activity agrees--the blanket breed restrictions exist to weed out dangerous dogs, but they fail to recognize that the problem with "bad" dogs more often lies with the owner and not with the dog. These restrictions simply don’t serve their purpose.

    I took a deep breath, marched back into the office, and demanded that the housing officer come outside and meet my dog. Eventually, he obliged. He shirked when he saw my 100-lb mutt’s massive hulk, but upon seeing him meekly obey our commands, he relented. He signed off on our dog’s approval for the base, requiring no further testing or paperwork.

    I was elated, but given the willingness of the housing officer to break his pet policy--albeit, a new and undocumented policy--it made me wonder just how many other potentially "illicit" creatures lived on base with us.

    Get Tips for Finding a Pet-Friendly Rental Home

    "Questionable" Pets in Military Housing

    On that particular installation, I knew at least four people with animals that fell into the questionable category. These questionable pets ran the gamut of offenses:

    • The minor offenses: one with more than the permitted number of cats (three instead of two).
    • The moderate offenses: possession of "restricted" breed dogs through waiver loopholes for having either grandfather clauses on the dogs (on newer breed restrictions) or therapy dog permissions.
    • The more serious offenses: a variety of reptiles and a dog "boarding" facility.

    boy with pet lizardsThe issue of a questionable pet is due to their breed or the “exotic” label. This is challenging for owners who love animals that are not the typical dog or cat. The unknown of which animal is acceptable at one base and not another forces a difficult and costly choice of whether to live off or on base.

    The Law: Banned Breeds and Exotic Animals 

    pet lizard

    But what if one of your family member’s life or health depended on an animal that was squarely positioned on the restricted list?

    This situation is true for military families who rely on certified service dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESA). Although true service dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the language isn’t clear if restricted dog breeds that are certified service dogs are exempt from military base and private housing regulations. 

    service dog

    To add to the confusion, some military families own animals who are an ESA that are medically prescribed by doctors and require documentation but are not covered by the ADA. An ESA is not necessarily allowed in military housing if they are banned breed dogs and likely won’t have any protection at all if they are not a common dog or cat. All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, rats, minipigs, ferrets) but many of these are considered exotic animals on base. 

    The American Bar Association took on this predicament on behalf of military families and asked the Senate Armed Services Committee and Department of Defense in 2019 to create consistent pet and service animal policies encompassing all of the Armed Forces. 

    With guidance from the ABA, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL--veteran and well-known advocate for military family causes) created breed-neutral language for the companion animal policy in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021.  As of January 2021, the decision was made to leave the existing dog breed regulations in place, pending the adoption of a uniform policy governing dogs in military housing, the timing of which is unknown. 

    Wondering if your exotic pet is allowed in military housing? 

    If you're planning to bring a questionable animal on base for your next move, remember to review the lists issued by the base and the housing company to verify their exact policies until an official banned breed and exotic pet policy is enforced. 

    Whoops, it turns out your beloved pet is banned from base housing. You’re going to need a new home fast! Did you know that MilitarybyOwner’s rental inventory can be filtered by pet policy? The landlord decides if their property fits into one of these categories: No Pets, Pets Allowed, and Upon Approval. Simply choose Pets Allowed or Upon Approval and a list will populate will homes for rent in your desired area.

    How to Find a Rental Home with a Pet

    Karina Gafford


    Karina Gafford

    Originally from Ireland, Karina has been a proud U.S. citizen since 2010. She and her husband have lived together in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. Karina is a Realtor with Keller Williams City View in San Antonio, a founder of Tutors By Base, and an active member in her military spouse community. She has served on many military spouse committees, and is currently the co-chapter leader of the MilSpo Project in San Antonio, a non-profit that supports military spouse business owners and entrepreneurs.

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