Military families are often world travelers and their pets are no exception, but service members many times are not aware of restrictions that might apply to bringing their animals to other countries.
It’s important that they are aware of these requirements, said Fort Gordon’s veterinarian, Dr. Holly Landes.
“The bottom line is, as soon as soldiers know or suspect their new (permanent change of station), they should immediately contact the (veterinary treatment facility) for assistance determining the necessary requirements and timeline for traveling with their pet,” Landes said by e-mail.
While there are no countries that completely ban any pets, the requirements to grant them entry vary. Germany, one of the most popular destinations for soldiers, requires a microchip to be inserted before the pet receives a rabies vaccination.
Soldiers also have to provide a European Union health certificate and either a travel form endorsed by a military veterinarian or a civilian veterinarian’s voucher approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Pets are tested for parasitic and infectious diseases before any health certificates are issued.
Foreign countries are not unique in these requirements.
Hawaii, for instance, is one of the most difficult places to send a pet, Landes said. The state requires a microchip and at least two rabies vaccines 30 days apart and a 120-day quarantine. If the soldier moves before the quarantine period expires, the animal must stay in a state facility at the owner’s expense.
“While unfortunate, pet relinquishment can be a fairly common problem for soldiers,” Landes said. “Soldiers may not have realized that it can costs thousands of dollars to bring their pets with them to Europe or elsewhere.”
If soldiers are unable to afford the expense or find a good home for their pet, they can turn to organizations such as Guardian Angels for Soldiers’ Pets. Landes also suggests posting an advertisement at the veterinary treatment facility on post.
“Soldiers should educate themselves, especially concerning military-specific requirements, and contemplate all owner responsibilities before getting a pet,” she said.