Abandoned pets increase during PCS Season
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USAG YONGSAN -- During the permanent change of station (PCS) season from June until August, many military personnel at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan move to other stations. Unfortunately, some of them leave their beloved pets behind at the garrison, making pet abandonment a recurring issue for the community.

"It is not certain how many pets are abandoned during the PCS season, but it is true that the number tends to increase," said Sgt. Logan Campbell, Yongsan Vet Clinic NCOIC. Also, a total of 17 pets were abandoned at the Yongsan Pet Care Center this year.

Most of the pets abandoned on post are usually found around Blackhawk Village or on the street. People have the misconception that leaving their pets on post will ensure they are picked up by veterinarians and can be cared for much more easily.

When veterinarians find an abandoned pet on post, they first try to locate the owner. By regulation, all pets with owners who are beneficiaries of the garrison are supposed to be microchipped. That is, their first step is to scan for the microchip. Pets should also be registered for vaccination purposes. However, not everybody follows the regulation, and more often than not there is no way to track unchipped pets.

The vet will then determine if the pet is adoptable based on the pet's behavior and temperament. If the animal is friendly, veterinarians will work hard to find the pet a family. Animals like dogs or cats are more popular than rabbits. There is also the rare case of the previous owner returning to the vet to reclaim the pet.

There are two primary legitimate reasons why pet owners surrender their pets. First, the pet could be aggressive and considered dangerous, especially to children. The second is health-related, including allergies to animals. In most cases, however, the owners will say they are PCSing and cannot take their pets with them.

"There are many reasons for pet owners to surrender their pets," said Gina Nam, Pet Care Center Director. Most of these reasons are financial as pet owners may not be able to pay vet medical bills, boarding costs, and the expense of transporting their pets back to the states or to their new station. In addition, if their destination country has complicated regulations for incoming pets, and if the owner does not have enough time to prepare for the process, they may be inclined to leave the pet behind, she said.

Therefore, it is imperative that pet owners be able to support their pet financially through any move. A move can cost up to several hundred dollars to fly with dogs or cats on the same airplane, depending on their size. Pet carrier services are even more expensive, reaching thousands of dollars depending on the size of the pet. Lower-ranking Soldiers, in particular, should be prudent before investing in a pet given the high cost of maintaining an animal.

Both Nam and Campbell insisted that pet owners on a military installation be aware of the regulations of each region. Some countries require at least a period of one month for quarantine or vaccination, further resulting in more expenses.

"It is necessary for pet owners to take account into expenses or regulations in raising a pet, in order to prevent impulsive adoptions," said Nam.

Fortunately, more than 95 percent of pets abandoned on post are able to find a new home, usually adopted by civilians or Soldiers. Vets take into consideration the animal's temperament and family make-up to find a good fit for even more troubled animals. Also, both the Yongsan Pet Care Center and Veterinary Clinic advertise to the public whenever a lost animal needs a home. The animals left behind are euthanized as a last resort given the lack of facilities off-post for abandoned animals.

For more information on adopting pets, please contact the Yongsan Pet Adoption Center/Veterinary Hospital, Bldg 4728, DSN 737-2450, or the Yongsan Pet Care Center, Bldg 5256, DSN 736-6426.

Abandoned cats wait to be adopted by a good family, at the stray facility of Yongsan veterinary clinic. Every month, especially during PCS season, many pets are abandoned or left at the veterinary clinic. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Park, Min-je)