By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsJanuary 9, 2009
Caring for four-legged family members can be a big responsibility
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The term "man's best friend" brings to mind companionship and unconditional love. A pet can walk with you, listen when you need to vent, and provide safety for your family and home.
Owning a pet has been proven to lower blood pressure and can also alleviate feelings of chronic loneliness and depression. Additionally, exposure to animals can improve children's social skills, according to the Humane Society.
Raising a pet can be a rewarding experience, however, the realities of pet ownership and the accompanying responsibilities may present unforeseen challenges. Dogs, cats and other critters have their own physical and medical needs, in addition to behaviors and instincts.
"Animals need constant care," said Sgt. Kimberly Marin, Schofield Barracks Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF). "Dogs should be walked at least twice a day, preferably after meals."
Other helpful hints include providing a good diet, regular veterinarian visits, rewarding good behavior and socializing with other animals.
Marin also suggests seeking professional help from your vet, a trainer or an animal behaviorist if a problem arises. Numerous additional resources are available at the VTF.
Due to the increase in frequency of deployments, military surrendered animals are on the rise.
Those who can no longer care for their pet can sign over the animal either of the VTF locations (Fort Shafter and Schofield), as well as the Hawaii Humane Society. However, a deployment doesn't mean you and your pet have to part ways.
As an alternative for military personnel, the Humane Society started the "Pets of Patriots" Program to provide pets of deployed Soldiers a foster home during the duration of deployment.
"Our goal is to help our fellow military so they have their companion to come back to," said Dmitri Welch, outreach programs coordinator for the Hawaiian Humane Society.
The program is currently in need of volunteers willing to commit to long-term foster care.
All of the pet's financial needs are usually handled by the pet owner, according to Welch, and both parties should agree upon all financial responsibilities prior to deployment.
Taking the plunge
Once the decision has been made to obtain a pet, educating yourself and your family can make all the difference in ensuring your pet is happy, healthy and well behaved.
The U.S. Army has strict policies on the care, safety and licensing of pets on installations.
For example, pit bulls, or any breed thereof, are prohibited on all Army installations on Oahu. A pit bull is an American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, crosses of these breeds, and any other dog with physical characteristics similar to these breeds. An Army veterinarian can determine if a dog is a pit bull.
The garrison strongly recommends spaying or neutering all dogs and cats living on the installation. Also, Policy Memorandum USAG-HI 35, Army Installation Microchip Program, states all cats and dogs kept on the Army installations on Oahu are required to have an identification microchip implanted under their skin.
The microchip allows for instantaneous animal and owner identification should a pet become lost or abandoned. Any type of animal cruelty including abandonment should be reported immediately to the proper authorities.
In addition, owners must register pets that are 16 weeks of age or older with the City and County of Honolulu and with the applicable Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) on Schofield Barracks or Fort Shafter within 14 days after arrival on an Army installation on Oahu.
Although Hawaii does not have a statewide leash law, Army Hawaii Family Housing requires all dogs be kept on a leash during walks.
People have always had a strong urge to nurture animals. In an age of constant change, many family members place increasing importance on the role of pets in their lives. Knowing the responsibility of caring for a furry family member can provide a safe and rewarding environment for every member of the household.
For more information on the Pets of Patriots Program, contact Dmitri Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 808-356-2217.
Schofield Barracks Veterinary Treatment Facility
Building 936, Duck Road
Fort Shafter Veterinary Treatment Facility
Building 435, Pierce Road