PCS season is upon us and for many military families, that means moving their furry family members too. For our family, this was our first OCONUS move, and the first time we flew our pets for a move. Typically, when we move to a new duty station, we drive there with our kids and our pets, but this time that was not an option. This time we were lucky enough to find ourselves on our way to England.
My first thought was, "How in the world do I get my pets over there with us?" I immediately started looking up everything that I could find about military moves with pets and what we needed to do to get them all there safely. My first stop was Facebook and I immediately found the group Military PCS with Pets and started asking questions about moving to England. They then directed me to another group specific to moving pets to the UK to get me on my way. From there, my experience was probably much different than those who traveled to Japan, Hawaii, Germany, Korea, or any other country on the planet because each country has their own specific regulations for bringing pets into the country. For example, in England, you only need a valid health certificate, a microchip, rabies vaccine, and a fecal parasite treatment before travel, but you must have a pet broker (yes, that is a very real thing) to get them through customs for you on the other side.
I wanted to share my tips for PCSing with pets so hopefully, your travel will be much smoother than mine!
As soon as you know where you are moving, start looking up the regulations for bringing your pets into that country. Some have VERY strict rules to follow and some have breed restrictions. If you visit APHIS Pet Travel you can check all requirements for every country.
The military will NOT pay to move your pet, that is something you will need to account for when moving. There are a few options for loans and grants that you can apply for to help ease the cost. Navy Marine Corps Relief Society offers quick assist loans specific for pet travel and the SPCA has a grant that you can apply for.
If you plan on flying your pet, you will need to check air travel requirements. There are certain places that have "heat embargos" during the summer where they will not fly pets. You will also need to ensure that you buy the appropriate size crates for your pets and make sure they are airline-approved. And if you are traveling to England, you may not want to wait for the military to book your tickets. The Heathrow Animal Reception Center which processes the pets through customs is typically booked out 6-8 weeks in advance.
If you are able to, book all of your pet's health appointments at the military vet on base. They are much more knowledgeable about moving requirements and what your pets need to get to the next duty station with you.
I hope that these tips can help to make your next PCS with pets run as smooth as possible. For more information about PCSing with your pets, you can head to any of these links below:
Military PCS with Pets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/296920057140197
SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets (OMP): https://www.spcai.org/our-work/operation-military-pets
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Pet Travel Assistance: https://www.nmcrs.org/press/entry/navy-marine-corps-relief-society-offers-assistance-with-pet-travel