Owners, officials encourage responsible pet ownership
April 23, 2012
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea -- They've been married 25 years and their children have grown and moved out, so for Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Jacobs and his wife, Melissa, their two pet dogs are a big part of life these days.
"All of our children are grown, so our dogs are like our kids," said Jacobs, command sergeant major at the 2nd Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu.
So it has troubled them to know that some servicemembers who have pets in Korea consider abandoning them when they end their Korea tour and move to a new assignment.
Instances of servicemembers abandoning pets have been a recurring concern in U.S. military communities and one that military leaders want to curtail.
But abandonment of pets, Jacobs and other Area I officials say, doesn't have to happen because there are ways available to leave behind a pet without abandoning it.
Last summer, as many servicemembers were nearing the end of their Korea tours and a move to a next duty station, Jacobs began seeing what he took to be abandoned dogs roaming Area I installations.
"There's three or four I know of for sure," Jacobs said of the dogs.
"What was sad about that," he said, "it seemed about the time everybody was PCS-ing out, getting ready to do summer rotation. We're dog lovers so we don't like to hear about that kind of stuff."
A first step for military communities to head off the abandonment of pets lies partly in making sure people are aware of the alternatives.
"They have several options," said Capt. Sara Hegge, Area I veterinarian and officer-in-charge of the Camp Red Cloud Veterinary Treatment Facility, bldg. 437. She's assigned to Team 1, 106th Medical Detachment (VSSD).
"They can call us and sometimes we know of people that are looking for pets," she said.
They can also turn the pet over to a reputable animal shelter. Or they can seek a responsible new owner by checking their community Facebook site, Hegge said.
But at least as important for those who might decide to get a dog while in Korea, Jacobs and others say, is to do one simple thing at the outset: think, and think again.
"They need," said Jacobs, "to make a conscious decision, 'OK, someday I have to PCS back to the continental U.S. and it's going to cost me money with health certificates and shots and things like that, and just the cost of the ticket.'"
There are extra costs, especially for puppies and kittens, which require a series of vaccinations and de-wormings, said Hegge.
"People don't realize that they have to keep on bringing their puppy back from the time they get it to the time they're 20 weeks of age, so they're properly protected from these very preventable diseases we have in Korea," Hegge said.
And then there are the pet ownership requirements of the U.S. military.
Pets must be registered with the post veterinary clinic and be properly vaccinated, and dogs and cats must have a microchip inserted. Those and other requirements are spelled out on the website of the 106th Medical Detachment (VSSD), www.korea.amedd.army.mil/veterinary/index.html.
And those thinking of getting a pet should contact the vet clinic, Hegge said. "If they're even thinking about getting a dog, please, please, please, contact their nearest veterinary treatment facility."
The clinic staff can steer them away from places that may sell animals with health or other problems, and toward reputable shelters.
For those who already own a pet, Hegge said they should find a good off-post vet, in part because the post vet clinic offers limited services during training exercises, and it is often in the field. A list of such places is on their website, Hegge said.
Those within a year of PCS from Korea have special homework to do, and should research the U.S. military's requirements and those of airlines, including weight limits and fees, at least six months before PCS, Hegge said.
For those who do decide on getting a pet, both Jacobs and Hegge recommend first contacting the Korean Animal Rescue and Management Association, or KARMA. According to its website, http://www. karma.or.kr/, KARMA rescues about 10,000 stray or wild animals a year, and works to prevent injury to animal and illegal hunting. It's located in Yangju.
The Jacobs went there when they decided they wanted a companion for their black-and-gray dog Murray, who came with them from the States. After going through KARMA's careful screening process, they left with an energetic, silvery Yorkshire terrier who's "a little bundle of joy."
"The people we worked with at KARMA were awesome and they're very concerned about the care and the welfare of the animals that leave there," Jacobs said.
In any case, said Jacobs, thinking before acting is key.
"I just think individuals should think very seriously before getting a dog," said Jacobs. "Don't do it on impulse. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons and that you're prepared to do the right thing and that when you leave, the dog goes home with you."
Pet Ownership Tips
Following are the "top five" things Area I members should be aware of regarding ownership of dogs or other pets. They're from Capt. Sara Hegge, the Area I veterinarian and officer-in-charge of the Camp Red Cloud Veterinary Treatment Facility, bldg. 437. She's assigned to Team 1, 106th Medical Detachment (VSSD).
1. Consult us first if you want to buy a pet -- do not get suckered in by the pet stores, and know the real financial costs involved with pet ownership BEFORE you get a pet!
2. Register your pet with us so that we can provide NEO information to you and have the mandatory microchipping completed.
3. Make sure your pet is vaccinated or "boostered" against the preventable diseases (Parvo, Distemper) that are in Korea. Also make sure your pet is up to date on Heartworm testing and the other mandatory vaccinations (Rabies) required by your pet's age group/status.
4. Have an off-post veterinary clinic near you chosen in advance for any veterinary medical emergencies that may arise.
5. Do your research far in advance of PCS time for the requirements necessary to import your pet to different countries.
For more information call the Veterinary Treatment Facility at 732-8664.