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Steps for PCS: Making sure Fido is 'homeward bound'

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) --

Although they are not flying business class, more than 100,000 pets travel by air each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Service members with animals know the importance of having their precious cargo with them every step of the move.

Relocating half way around the world or even across the country can be a stressful experience, but adding a four-legged friend can make the process even more complex.

According to Dr. Kathleen Nowak, the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Veterinary Treatment Facility veterinarian, time is of the essence.

"My biggest piece of advice for service members would be to make an appointment with the clinic as soon as you've received your orders," Nowak said. "Always start early, and get your information so that you can be one step ahead."

Base veterinary treatment facility’s can offer a wide range of information including in-depth checklists and an inventory of suggested websites, including www.humanesociety.org, that give users step-by-step directions on how to ensure pets will be able to accompany you to a new installation.

Service members should check with their destination base when moving overseas for specific pet health requirements, transportation methods and quarantine issues that may apply. Depending on the destination, pets may be required to have a microchip, vaccination paperwork and a state health certificate.

"For many places overseas, your pet must receive their shots within a defined time frame before entering another country, or they are may have to be quarantined at the owners expense," Nowak said.

Nowak said quarantine can become costly, averaging $17 a day, and if the pet arrives unprepared, this method can be implemented in some locations for up to three months.

Nowak added many countries restrict certain canine breeds, making it important to have alternate arrangements and relocation contacts if necessary.

Restrictions vary by base and although the base may permit a certain breed of dog, housing in the community may not. It is imperative to know if local laws and ordinances regarding dog breeds and their breed-specific legislation before you go, Nowak said.

If a service member is moving within the U.S., a permanent change of station is just like moving from one town to another. While on a cross-country trek to a new location, military members should always be prepared for bumps in the road. Installation rules vary from one base to another, and there could be restrictions imposed in on-base housing, such as a two-pet limit.

"Getting a state health certificate for your pet before traveling across the United States will also ensure you do not run into any problems on your cross-country travels," Nowak said.

Service members can always prepare a pet before receiving notice of a PCS by keeping up to date with shot records, health certificates and veterinarian visits. Preparation will take some of the stress out of the equation for both master and pet when the moving day arrives.

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