FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Planning ahead is essential during a permanent change of station, or PCS, especially when the move involves pets.
Navigating that process for the first time can be stressful for young Soldiers and Families, but the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center is on hand to make sure their furry friends have the proper health certificates, vaccinations, and microchips.
Completing health certificates
“[You should] start the health certificate process as soon as you receive orders to PCS to limit stress and paying higher prices for rushed
veterinary care,” said Capt. Colleen Meuse, Fort Campbell Veterinary Center. “To obtain a health certificate from the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center, pets must be registered with the clinic and have a travel sheet submitted for review at least 45 days prior to the date of travel.”
Both of those documents are available at https://blanchfield.tricare.mil/Health-Services/Other and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A health certificate consult is required prior to scheduling a health certificate appointment,” Meuse said. “[That’s] to ensure the pet is up to date on all health certificate requirements and documents, and to limit last minute scramble and stress.”
Soldiers and Families can set up appointments by visiting the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center at 5289 Eighth St. or by calling 270-798-3614. Military veterinarians can endorse health certificates for those PCSing to the contiguous U.S., Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, Germany, European Union, Japan, and Korea.
“All international health certificates – Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam included – must be administered within 10 days of travel,” Meuse said. “All domestic health certificates can be administered within 30 days of travel if driving, [and] 10 days of travel if flying commercial airlines.”
If the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center cannot endorse a health certificate for a destination, Soldiers and Families will need to find a civilian veteran endorsed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. That information is available at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel, along with travel requirements for individual countries.
Meuse said each country’s travel requirements are varied and often change, but consulting with the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center and the USDA’s website allows Soldiers and Families to follow the proper steps and avoid mandatory quarantines.
The government can reimburse Families up to $550 in quarantine expenses per PCS according to the Defense Travel Management Office but working with military veterinarians can prevent the issue entirely.
“If you go to the post vet and you tell them you’re going overseas, they’re going to give you a packet of information with what you need,” said Chap. (Col.) James Lester, garrison chaplain. “They’re also going to walk you through the steps ... pretty much everything you need they can do. They’ve been very gracious in helping us get appointments for our pets, and even though things have been crazy during COVID-19 they’ve been very responsive.”
Lester and his Family have PCSed five times with their pets since 2010 – both stateside and overseas – and are preparing for a sixth to Hawaii in June. He recommends making arrangements and budgeting for pet travel as soon as possible, since there are expenses young Soldiers and Families may not expect.
Tips for a CONUS PCS
“You’ll need to find a vet on the other end to make sure you keep up with their shots and records,” Lester said. “The other thing you’ll have issues with is just finding hotels as you travel that take pets. That can be difficult for a young Soldiers and their Families if they’re PCSing and have to find different hotel rooms, and it could force them to drive further than they might want to so they don’t have to pay that extra expense.”
Finding pet-friendly homes can be another challenge, Lester said, because many landlords and renters have experienced property damage resulting from animals.
“Be persistent and tenacious,” he said. “Be willing to pay an extra fee every month for the pet deposit. When you leave, if you had a pet, clean up the house and the yard to make it look better than it was when you left it ... set the standard so they understand that pet owners do care for their pets and their property.”
Soldiers and Families also should take steps to prepare their pets for a road trip if they aren’t comfortable with long car rides.
“Get them used to riding in the car before you go, not just going to the vet but taking some trips to other places where the dogs are in the car with you,” Lester said. “Take paper towels and cleaning products in case they get sick and be prepared to stop a lot more often to go to the restroom or let your dogs out for some exercise.”
Tips for an OCONUS PCS
Outside the contiguous United States, or OCONUS, PCSing with pets is a more involved process because it involves working with commercial or military airlines.
The government does not cover fees associated with pet travel during a PCS, but the Fort Campbell Personal Property and Passenger Travel Office can provide assistance by making flight reservations.
If Soldiers and their Families are PCSing overseas, there is the possibility of flying commercial, but oftentimes this requires an exception to policy based on location, said Nadine Browne, Fort Campbell Passenger Travel Office.
“Sometimes the military dictates that they use Patriot Express, and as long as there’s pet space available, we can accommodate having their pets booked,” Browne said.
Patriot Express flights travel between the U.S. and Europe, as well as the U.S. and Korea, and offer limited spaces for pets on a first-come, first-served basis. The Department of Defense defines pets as cats and dogs and will charge Families $125-$375 per kennel based on weight, other animals will require a third-party carrier to be transported.
“People don’t want to fly without their pets, but the government only pays the ticket for the service member and their dependents,” said Carri Barnes, personal property supervisor, Personal Property Travel Office. “A lot of people see their pets as Family members, and it’s a very hard thing for them if they’re not on the same flight.”
If the Soldier and Family are required to fly on Patriot Express but cannot secure a spot for their cat or dog, they will have to make other pet transport arrangements.
Lester said pet owners should check their crates into the airport three to four hours ahead of the flight time and be prepared for the expenses of flying with them. They should also be aware that most airlines will not transport pets if the temperature is too high.
“Most airlines, if your dog meets certain criteria, can go in the baggage hold and be checked as check baggage,” he said, adding that most cats can travel the same way. “You’re going to pay anywhere from $100-$250 per pet, but if you’re dog is too large, you’re going to have to hire a carrier who will do all the coordination for your pet to fly cargo, which can cost thousands of dollars.”
Although PCSing with a pet can prove difficult and stressful, Lester said bringing your furry friends to your next duty station is worth the effort.
“Be patient, save your money and be ready for it,” he said. “It’s not easy, but your pets are part of your Family, so don’t leave them behind.”