It’s only March, but Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season will be here before we know it. This is the span from May 15-August 31 where the military experiences a surge of moves for members and families. According to Military.com, nearly 65 percent of moves occur during this time! Whether it is your first move or your tenth, a PCS requires a great deal of organization, planning, and information.
Yet, even with the most experienced mover, things can be forgotten. As an office manager at a military veterinary clinic, I see firsthand an area that military members often neglect when prepping for a move – their pets. It can seem overwhelming to move your four-legged family members, but with the right preparation and a little info from your base veterinary clinic, PCSing with your pets is doable!
As soon as you know that you MIGHT be moving, contact your veterinarian.
Often, a servicemember knows that a move is pending many months ahead of the actual move. Even if you are unsure of the destination, start prepping as early as possible. I know that the military does not always give us much notice, but we generally know when our time in a location is coming to a close.
If you have an inkling of an overseas assignment, especially a rabies-free area, DO NOT WAIT. Putting off the necessary medical treatments, paperwork, and fees until the last minute could mean that your family will move without your pet. I would rather give information to someone years before moving than days before!
Stay current on your pet’s vaccinations and health exams.
Your pets should receive their annual exams and required vaccinations regardless of an upcoming PCS. Staying current on this will only make PCS time smoother. Some countries require multiple rabies vaccines and blood tests for entry, so staying up to date eliminates excess medical care or vaccines in the event of a move to that country. Make sure you keep all original rabies certificates and medical records for your pets and hand-carry them on your move – just like your own medical records!
Honest moment: I started working at a vet clinic in Germany and happened to check my dog’s record. To my surprise, she was overdue on vaccines. Whoops! If it can happen to a clinic manager, it can happen to all of us. If you have fallen behind, be honest with your vet clinic and do what you can to catch up.
Do your research.
No matter the destination – from one state over to across the globe – it is important to do your research. Will you fly or drive with your pet? What if your pet is a restricted breed at your new duty station? Are there entry requirements in that country that you need to complete to avoid deportation or an animal quarantine? How much will it cost to move my pet to my new assignment (because the military does not pay to move your pets)? There are so many questions, but the answers are found in research. Research, research, research! Ask your military or civilian veterinarian, ask your fellow spouses and families who have moved with their pets, look through Facebook groups at your new assignment, and peruse the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) for information on traveling with pets nationally and internationally.
Again, I cannot emphasize the importance of doing this as early as possible!
A military vet clinic is a great place to seek information about moving. These clinics deal with members and their pets moving all over the world, and these clinics do this much more frequently than civilian clinics.
Even if you take your pet to your favorite civilian vet for all its care, it is good to talk to the military clinic about your PCS and to gain information about your move.
When all else fails, seek outside help.
Family members and friends often help military families in moving their pets, but there are other options. Did you know that there are pet movers? These agencies are similar to household movers but for your furry family members. Some companies are all-inclusive, offering vaccinations, exams, documentation, and transportation from door to door of your pets; others simply move your animals to the required destination. No matter what, pet movers can take a great deal of time and stress away from a military family during a move. Be prepared to pay a hefty price for the service, but sometimes there is no price for peace of mind.
I will not sugarcoat it – PCSing with pets adds more work and stress to the process. But as someone who has done this multiple times, both nationally and internationally, I know that it can be done. I could not imagine leaving my dog or cat behind while we moved away! All it takes is a little more time, preparation, and patience (and money). These are members of your family, and they should move with your family.
For more on PCSing with pets, check out “10 Tips for PCSing with Pets to Avoid the Long Smelly Trip Down the Short Road to Insanity.”
How do you prepare to PCS with a pet? Share in the comments!