By Capt. Katrina James | First Year Graduate Veterinary Program-Public Health Activity-Fort Carson
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Permanent change of station (PCS) season has arrived, and that means a host of changes for Soldiers and their furry friends. The Veterinary Corps officers (VCOs) on post can help assist with the transition and ensure Soldiers and their pets arrive at their destination safely.
Unlike most PCS tasks, the Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) does not need a copy of a Soldier’s orders to start the “Pet PCS” process. Talk to a VTF as soon as possible. Some countries require pets to receive specialized testing up to six months in advance, and the sooner the process begins, the better. Additional information on country requirements can be found at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel.
While many people think of their pets as their four-footed children, the military does not consider them dependents. This means the owner is responsible for all expenses associated with transporting the furry friend. The costs of moving animals can vary widely depending on the circumstances. It would be wise to start budgeting as soon as possible.
Travel within the U.S.: Plan to set aside about $600 in a “Pet PCS” fund to cover all the expenses associated with travel in the U.S.
Travel out of the U.S.: Plan to set aside about $2,000 in a “Pet PCS” fund. Rarely, a country will require pets to be quarantined on arrival and the cost to board an animal often needs up-front payment.
All PCS travel:
- When flying, pet transportation (in-cabin or in-cargo) costs about $150-$200 per flight, not per trip. For people who don’t have a non-stop flight, the cost of pet flights can add up quickly.
- All pets are required to have an official health certificate no more than 10 days prior to arrival at their destination. Health certificate appointments can be scheduled at the VTF.
- How to schedule travel for pets
a. For flights on civilian airplanes, talk to the airline directly. Each airline has different requirements for carriers, breed of pet, etc., and the customer service desk should be able to answer any questions, remember to mention military service.
b. For Patriot Express, each service member is allowed one pet. If the service member is traveling with their family, an additional pet may be allowed. All pet reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis and official orders are required prior to reserving a slot. Talk to Port Call for additional information.
- Is it dangerous for pets to travel in a plane?
a. Thousands of pets fly every year, and airlines are dedicated to ensuring the safety of each pet they transport. During the veterinary health certificate appointment, “acclimatization” papers will be given stating the temperatures in which the animal can travel. The airlines are required to adhere to these standards. Similar to human travel, however, no trip is without risks. Some specific breeds, such as bulldogs and Siamese cats are at a higher risk for air travel, and some airlines will not transport them. Preparation and research are key in keeping pets as safe as possible.
- How can pet owners decrease the stress on animals during travel?
a. Flying or driving can be a harrowing experience for any pet. It’s loud, it’s bumpy and it’s full of new sounds and smells. Acclimatizing pets to their carrier and creating a stress-free environment is key to decreasing anxiety. Ensure pets have ample opportunity to go to the bathroom before the trip, and line the carrier with absorbent pads to catch accidents during travel. Hormone sprays have been shown to have a calming effect and can be used to saturate a favorite blanket, or even the pads, in the pet’s carrier before travel. Talk to the VCO for additional information and ideas.
- Can pets be sedated for travel?
a. Sedation and anti-anxiety medications can be used for travel on a case-by-case basis and will only be prescribed after a full physical exam has been performed by a veterinarian. It is highly recommended to perform a “trial run” of a new medication before the trip to see a pets’ reaction. If there are any concerns with dosage, it is better to find out before traveling. Some airlines will refuse to take an animal if they look heavily sedated.
- Is it dangerous for pets with health conditions to travel?
a. Each pet is unique, and there are no “blanket” answers, but questions and concerns about a pet’s health will likely be answered by the VCO.
- What are the options to transport a pet later?
a. There are numerous pet relocation services or pet shippers, available to ensure pets arrive at their destination. Make sure to research the options, as quality of service and availability will vary from company to company. Another and possibly cheaper option is to ask a friend to ship the pet using a power of attorney. The Judge Advocate General’s office can assist with the document. Remember, when using a pet shipper or friend, the pet must still meet all the requirements for travel.