In 2010, I had my PCS orders in hand and heard the young Specialist at my transportation brief say “The military doesn’t pay for your pets to PCS”.
What the hell?
How was Ninja, my Golden Retriever puppy, going to get to the U.S.?
I purposely didn’t adopt a pet until I had over 20 years in the Army, though I grew up with dogs and loved pets. When I joined the Army, I spent most of the first 10 years in the barracks, so I obviously couldn’t have pets then. And after 9/11, with all the deployments, it was nearly impossible to spend quality time with your family, much less a pet. But at 20 years, I was finally in a place in my career where I wouldn’t deploy much and could actually raise a pet. So I adopted my Golden Retriever in downtown Bogota, Colombia where I was assigned, but now I had to figure out how to get her back to the U.S.
“If you want to transport pets back to the U.S.,” the Specialist continued with her bad news, “you have to pay for pet transportation fees via commercial airlines.”
That was annoying. It ended up costing me almost $500, and I had to fly into a major hub city that was not anywhere near my new base, and then I had to figure out how to get myself, my family, and the pets moved to the base.
Four years later, I had two dogs and the military was moving me to Italy. Having experienced the pain of moving pets the first time, I did my research. Instead of paying almost $1000 for plane tickets for my pets, I came up with a new, more complicated, but cheaper plan that cost me about $400 total.
During the last few years, there have been a lot of news addressing the high price tags connected with Service Members transporting pets overseas during Permanent Change of Station (PCS). United Airlines, one of the most pet friendly airlines, temporarily suspended their pet transportation policy to some locations (https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-united-airlines-pets-20180320-story.html) and other airlines prohibited certain breeds from being transported. Some Service members have paid over $12,000 to move their pets. The DOD has stated that it is “working with our commercial air carrier partners to mitigate the effects of policy changes, especially for those military families now overseas with their pets who will need a safe and affordable means of returning home.” (https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/military-officials-seek-exemption-to-united-s-new-pet-shipment-restrictions-1.525732).
The more I researched this subject, and the more I asked my military peers about, the more I saw a need for a dedicated information source on how to transport a pet without breaking your piggy bank. that’s what this blog is dedicated too. I’ll discuss as many options as I can think of and hopefully you can find some useful information that might save you money and safely get your pets to their next station.
If you would like a copy of my book – PCS Your Pets Overseas – it is currently available on Kindle Unlimited. You can see a book description here.
I wrote this book because it includes information I wish I had known before I PCSed with my pets. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but what I’ve provided here is a recipe for success and I’m sure there will be some information in this booklet to help you move your pets safely and within your budget.
For a free checklist on preparing to PCS Your Pet Overseas, please contact me and write in the comments that you would like the PCS Your Pets Overseas checklist.
I spent over three years in Italy and heard many heart-wrenching stories from my fellow Service Members paying crazy prices to have their pets brought over from the U.S., how some of the animals were poorly treated during their journey, and, unfortunately, how some Service Members had to leave their pets behind and find them new homes.
Pets are a part of the military family and families should stick together.
If you have any pet transportation stories, either good or bad, please share them in the comments section below. I’d love to add them to the next addition of my book.
On the next blog post I will cover the various pet transport options available to military members when considering the transportation of their pets. We’ll compare the pros/cons for commercial airlines, military aircraft, and pet shipping companies.