PCSing with family pets requires planning
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- PCSing with pets in tow makes an already hectic process a little more complicated. Before moving back to the U.S. or on to another foreign adventure, pet owners must get medical records, health certificates and vaccines for their pets before they can ship.

According to Capt. Annie Eure, officer in charge of the Vilseck Veterinary Treatment Facility, Public Health Command District-North Europe, in order to get a pet to the next destination, owners should plan ahead and keep abreast of all regulations for their incoming duty station.

"Make sure you have a bit of money and don't call us five days before you leave," warned Eure.

To ease the PCS headache and ensure that Fido or Felix have an on time arrival, Eure suggests tackling PCSing with pets as a step-by-step process.

Contact the local clinic. First, Eure recommends that pet owners contact their local vet clinic when they receive PCS orders and ask what to do. The vet clinic can provide a basic layout of regulations and a timeline in which they need to be accomplished.

Visit the customs website. Next, pet owners should visit the customs website of the country of their next duty station. For those heading to an OCONUS duty station, particularly Japan, Korea, Guam, the Philippines or England, this step is essential. Each country has different requirements for importing animals, which if not followed properly, will bar a pet from crossing over the border. Eure said that some nations, like Korea, will often change their regulations, making diligent website checks a must.

Contact the prospective clinic. For even more guidance on pet immigration, Eure advises pet owners to contact the Veterinary Treatment Facility at their new duty station. They can help parse the customs regulations for pet shipment and provide specific information on immunization and any necessary blood tests.

"They're the ones who will know how to get your pet into their country," said Eure, adding, "They are the most knowledgeable of what the biggest problems are."

Even those PCSing to the continental U.S. should contact the vet clinic serving their next garrison. Each state has different parameters dictating how often pets need rabies shots and what type of shot is authorized.

Updating shot records. Before any pet leaves Germany, they must have up-to-date rabies shots. After a pet owner determines the type of rabies vaccination their pet needs, they should make an appointment. Some OCONUS-destined PCSers might also need blood tests to determine the presence of a recent rabies vaccine.

Contact the airline. The next step for those PCSing with pets is to contact the airline. Each airline, Patriot Express or commercial, has its own standards for shipping pets. This mostly applies to the type of cage needed for an animal, which is based on its body size, not its weight. Eure recommends that owners measure their dogs -- cat cages don't vary much in size -- prior to calling the airline to determine the cage needed. Owners can rent cages through packing and shipping companies, but since Soldiers move frequently, Eure says it's smarter to buy.

Buy a pet ticket. While calling the airline for cage sizes, owners should buy their pet a ticket or reservation on the same flight as the family. Ticket prices hover around $120 for a cat and $600-$800 for a dog depending on size. Again, having the pet's dimensions handy before booking makes the process much smoother.

Obtain a health certificate. Within 10 days of the flight, pet owners must head to the vet clinic for a health certificate. Animals cannot leave the country without the certificate present at boarding. Eure stressed that if the vet clinic has no appointments during that 10-day span, owners should head off post. Most vets in the surrounding area speak English and will provide the same health certificate as the on post clinic.

Though shipping pets to the next duty station can be tedious and expensive, Eure warned against leaving the furry family member behind. Not only is abandoning an animal wrong, but also punishable under garrison policy.

"This garrison is cracking down hard," said Eure. "If you leave your pet, we will find you. It will be docked out of your pay. We are in the military and they can do that."

To find out more about PCSing with a pet, contact the Vilseck Veterinary Clinic at DSN 476-2370, CIV 09662-83-2370. To check out the Bavarian Military Community's pet policy online at www.grafenwoehr.army.mil, click on the "Newcomers" tab and the click "Pets."