We thought everything was perfectly planned for our PCS.
Flights for three humans and one small dog: Check.
Movers for multiple shipments: Check.
A plan for the cars: Check.
Somewhere to stay between now and then: Check and check.
Until we got a call informing us that there were no pet spots available on the military flight to Japan.
Cue screeching brakes sound effect and a bug-eyed scream from me. Our perfectly laid plans were suddenly up-ended and then burned to the ground.
Moving your dogs and cats can be a challenge. Here are three tips for PCSing with your pets.
Check Travel Options And Regulations, Twice
During overseas PCS moves, many families seem to bank on the military-operated flights as the pet transport option. We learned the hard way that this should never be the one and only option your family considers.
Military flights, like any flight, have limited space. And it’s a first-come, first-served world when it comes to who gets those pet spots on the military flights.
Your family could be like mine: fully booked for humans, but SOL for the fur child.
In the past, military families moving OCONUS or within the United States have relied on major airlines as pet transport options. This year, those plans were thrown for a major loop.
United announced in March that they were suspending new bookings for any pet travel after several live cargo mix-ups and one in-cabin pet death. They were honoring existing reservations, but nothing new would be booked. Now every military family traveling with pets from Asian-Pacific duty stations was suddenly down an option.
A faint glimmer of hope that military families on orders would be exempt was quickly quashed.
All of this to say that it pays to do your due diligence when researching pet shipping or travel options when stationed overseas. Don’t rely on major airlines, even those with established pet travel programs and certainly don’t bet on getting a spot on the military flight either.
It pays to make several possible plans to move your pets via plane: military flight (available for PCSing families only), commercial airlines and pet shipping companies. Pet shipping companies can often find creative ways to fly with pets that both follow airline regulations and meet your PCS needs. However, these services are more expensive than a DIY travel option. It’s something to consider after you’ve exhausted all other options.
It’s also important to double check those airline regulations, again. Some airlines that are flying pets will only allow certain kennel sizes or restrict when certain types of dogs can fly. There are also rules about flying when it’s over or under particular temperatures.
Medical Concerns For Your Family Pet
When traveling or moving, it’s important to keep your pet’s medical needs in mind.
If you’re moving overseas, check with the on-base veterinarian and the moving office for specifics when it comes to importing pets. Each country has their own list of banned breeds, quarantine timetables, microchipping requirements and vaccination rules. You’ll want to get ahead of these way in advance.
You’ll also want to be sure to clear any travel with your pet’s vet. There might be complicating medical conditions that prevent safe travel or PCSing.
Ask about calming medications in different situations. Travel can cause pets to be anxious and they might react destructively. Talk to your vet about medications that work well for planes or cars, depending on your mode of travel.
Pets In Hotels
When we were traveling cross country with our pup a few years back, we quickly noticed that not all hotels were pet-friendly. That makes it more challenging to take a road trip or PCS via car. The same is true when you fly, especially OCONUS.
After you confirm your pet’s arrival date and method of transport, book your pet-friendly hotel rooms ASAP. On base, those pet-friendly rooms are snapped up super fast! Even if you can’t actually book on-base lodging with your pet, get on the waiting list.
If you’re staying off base, be prepared for additional charges when you bring your pet. Even if your furry friend barely sheds and is super well behaved, most hotels have a pet fee. It does vary by hotel but could be over $25 per night.
Be sure to bring a way to contain your pet when you’re not in the room, usually a kennel. This makes it easier for room service to enter and might help prevent messes.
Rehoming Your Pet
Sometimes it is just not feasible for our pets to PCS with us. If, for whatever reason, you do need to leave your pet behind, it’s OK. No judgment here!
If you’re PCSing without your pet, it can be emotionally challenging for sure. Do your absolute best to find a home for your pet that will work for at least the length of your orders. Finding family or friends to temporarily love on your pet can be one option.
Another option is to permanently rehome your pet. There are ways to do this privately or through the local animal shelter.