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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Moving and Flying with Pets

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Moving and Flying with Pets

This is my last bit of advice concerning moving with pets. I've done it...I've analyzed it, and I've beat it to death and will end it here. Be sure to read my other posts on moving and pets. I had a bit of a steep learning curve, as my first big move with pets was by plane and overseas, but I am happy to say we all made it okay and in one piece.

Here final thoughts:

  • If you are moving overseas and need a valid 10 day pet health certificate, I encourage you to use a military vet. Not only is the check-up and paperwork free, but military vets are more familiar with the procedures. I think ours mentioned something about our paperwork having to go thru the USDA or some other entity, and if we use a civilian vet, we'd have to fax paperwork, and my husband immediately said...those are too many moving parts. A friend of ours was missing one signature on her paperwork and ended up having to leave her dogs at Frankfurt International Airport for EIGHT hours (and having to pay kennel costs), while she tried to figure it all out.
  • Use piddle pads inside the bottom of the crate. I know your doggie is a good doggie, so is mine. But you know how Murphy can strike whenever you least expect it. I had one friend whose dog got really sick, and luckily the pad absorbed most of it. Another, the dog got stuck in the crate on the tarmac because of delays and just couldn't hold it anymore. Newspapers just don't cut your pet a favor and just put the piddle pad (puppy training pads) underneath your pet's regular bed or mat.
  • If you are flying, pick the shortest flight route. We drove from Florida to Virginia, visited relatives there, dropped of our van to be shipped through Baltimore and flew out of Dulles. This gave us a direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany. You want to avoid any flights where you have to change planes. More chance for things to go wrong, and your pets to be stuck on the hot....or cold...tarmac and potentially left behind or put on the wrong plane. Less moving parts again my husband would say.
  • Check airlines pet flying policies and prices. Even though the military arranges your flight, if you are going overseas, check beforehand, which airport is closest to your destination and which airlines are most pet friendly. Consistently, I heard plugs for United and Lufthansa. We flew United in the middle of a hot summer and the pets were fine, because all of United's planes are temperature controlled. Many of the others are not and have restrictions on when you can fly pets. Also check those prices. A friend was charged what must've been the cargo freight fee for her two medium sized dogs...yep, over $2,000. We were only charged $310 for a cat and a large 100 lb dog (with a 50 lb grande size kennel). That broke down into the cat flying for $105 and the dog for $205 one way.
  • Visit the airline's pet travel webpage. Each airline has a page...or group of pages on their requirements for pet air travel. If you can't find it in writing, then ask about it. For example, I called the airline to make sure this super giant dogcrate would fit on the plane. The reservationist was actually able to look up the airplane type and what size crates would fit. Not all planes fit all size crates, and if you are stuck on a plane that is too small, you risk the chance of having to ship your pet air freight which equals $$$$$$.....or leaving your pet behind.
  • Make sure your pet's travel information is in your PNR. As soon as you get your reservation, call the airline and make sure your pets and what crate models you have, are noted in your record. Planes can only take a certain number of pets per plane, and you don't want any mistakes on crate sizes vs plane cargo hold space. Most airlines only allow two pets per passenger cabin (more in the cargo hold), so make sure that is noted as well if that's what you plan to do. I knew someone who showed up at the airport and was denied boarding her pet because two other passengers had their pets noted in their records. Because of some kind of oversight, her kitty was not. This brings me to my next point.
  • Have back up arrangements for your pet. Things can go wrong at the airport or with your family or with your schedule. I knew someone who last year had a dog and crate who were five pounds over the limit, and they would not allow the dog to board. She was also traveling with a little dog and four kids! Since she had planned ahead, she was able to give the dog to a friend...who was helping them at the airport at check in...and made arrangements for her to ship the dog at a later date...after he was put on a little diet.
  • Put something in the crate that smells like you. In the week before we moved, I put a washcloth for each pet on our pillows. Right before we flew, they each got one. I honestly think this had a calming effect on both of them. When I first saw the cat, he had it burrowed all around him.
  • If you have a litter box trained cat, plan for your sponsor or someone on the receiving end to have a litterbox and litter ready for you. My husband didn't...think he was too embarrassed. We got to Frankfurt airport, and the poor cat refused to go to the bathroom at the airport on a plot of grass or at our first highway rest stop. Of course, the dog had no issues with this. After a three hour drive to our destination, my husband had to run and buy the goods, brought the stuff to the hotel and the was truly a sight to see...jumped in there and must've scratched for a full minute, eyes wide, meowing to no end....before finally going....poor thing. I don't think he's ever not gone in a litterbox and probably never will!
  • Tape a cheap leash and a photo of your pet to the top of its crate. You never know when there might be delays and a sympathetic airline employee might take out your pet. Also, if your pet somehow escapes, they will at least know what he looks like.
  • Tape a ziploc bag of one food portion to the top of the crate. I chose not to feed my they wouldn't have to go to the bathroom. They won't totally starve by missing one meal. But let's say there are major delays. You don't want your pets going too long without food.

    Do you have any tips to share?

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Blogger Krista said...

I really appreciate the advice in this blog! I am heading to Germany as well in March (spangdahlem). I have the unfortunate luxury of doing it all by myself w/ a cat and dog since my husband is in Korea till then. I've also taken notes from your moving posts. Thanks for all your input!

August 24, 2008 at 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Pets do get expensive!! I have a 75 lb. dog and a 20 lb. dog...Delta is charging me $846!!! I have heard from other military members that the army pays for this. Is this true? Has anyone heard of this?
I have heard of a e-9 having 2 90lb. dogs shipped at all cost to the army, but how do we go about doing this? Moving in 2 weeks...NEED HELP!!!

September 8, 2008 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

And this is why military folks are known for "people who abandon their pets", because instead of going through the "hassle" of shipping a pet, they are just abandoned. I remember before the Gulf War, there were actually packs of abandoned pets running throughout the training area!

No, sorry, the military does not pay for transporting your make sure you budget for that. You will be asked how many pets will travel, and they'll even make the reservation for them as well as you and your family, but you'll be the one at the ticket counter handing over your money or credit card.

September 8, 2008 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

We flew United to Frankfurt from Dulles with our two dogs last year. It cost about $200 and United took really good care of them, even giving us a little card assuring us that the dogs made it onboard. I put hamster bottles with water in our crates. If I had to do it over again, I would have frozen the water beforehand so it wouldn't have made quite as much of a mess. Also, we were told we had to get bigger crates when we go back to the States. Apparently, the Germans are a lot stricter about crate size than the Americans are.

September 10, 2008 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger petblogger said...

Great advice, especially the warnings about the price. Moving a pet, especially internationally, can be very expensive! We are an international pet relocation company and offer a 10% discount to all members of the military, but even with that, it still can be out of many family's price ranges. It is hard for most people too because a lot of the more expensive locations, like Okinawa, are very difficult to understand with regards to the import requirements. We offer free consultations, so I always try to help as many people figure out how to do it on their own.

Anyway, great blog! I added you to our links on our sidebar on our blog!

September 25, 2008 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

My husband just joined the Army and is off to BCT and AIT in 2 weeks. We have 2 dogs, 1 of which has severe anxiety problems. I am extremely concerned that if we get posted overseas that she might not even make the flight. Do you know of any airlines that fly the dogs in the cabin vs cargo, or that the owners can fly with them? She is 65lbs.

Thank you.

March 12, 2010 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

So sorry to hear about your extra stress! No, you won't find ANY airline that allows dogs of that size in any cabin. Your best bet is to go with a pet shipping company, as they specialize in shipping more difficult pets. I would advise against taking her with you on the day you go, as the stress would be enormous for you worrying about her in the hold, and she'll pick up on that beforehand. I know most vets advise against drugging dogs, as they can really hurt themselves, but maybe you can find one willing to work with you. My only other recommendation, which you won't like at all, is to leave her in the States with someone temporarily or permanently....always try to think of what is best for the dog and not necessarily for you if it comes down to such a decision. Please let me know how things go, as we can put your information up on this blog to help the next person faced with similar challenges

March 14, 2010 at 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anjali said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I just found it. Actually, there IS an airline for pets now. Pets travel in the main cabin, NOT in cargo. Here's the web site for PetAirways:

April 3, 2010 at 12:09 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Yes, I know it's brand new and was started well after I wrote this blogpost. BUT, for those of us traveling overseas, it is not available. They only have limited availability right now...who knows, maybe it'll catch on?

April 3, 2010 at 4:42 PM  
Anonymous AAsquared said...

My husband is already over in Italy and we know we want to get a pet...Ive wanted to get one before we leave since Ive looked at websites for animals over there and they are crazy expensive and not what I want...anyway I want to get a small tiny dog and was wondering if I get one before I leave am I able to take it in the cabin with me...and what are the rules of taking a pet overseas- shots etc..??

May 15, 2010 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Dog or puppy? I would not take a puppy on such a long flight, plus they have to be a certain age. Your vet will tell you what shots they need, but they are standard ones. I think only two pets (cat or dog) are allowed per cabin (check airlines' international travel webpages). All airlines may have different restrictions and requirements. Expect to pay at least $200 for flying the pet over with you, plus cost of kennel, food, etc....

Lots to think about taking a pet to a new country where you will already be stressed out just moving yourself.

There are plenty of pets of ALL breeds in Italy from military folks who thought they wanted a pet and then didn't realize the cost, limitations (it will put a crimp in your European travel plans at some point) and just hassle (Europeans don't leave their pets alone for long hours
like Americans; plus it is against the law over here). Our Stars and Stripes newspaper is FULL of dogs and cats (and snakes, etc) of all different sizes and breeds, especially through the summer where PCSing folks feel like they can just discard a member of their family (if you are not prepared to treat a pet as a member of your family and give them the time and effort they deserve, then don't get one).

I would personally not get a pet right before moving...just creating more unneeded stress for yourself and will cause you to make unrational decisions...

May 16, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

uuugh! my husband is at AIT and of course will not receive his PCS until a couple weeks before finishing. if we are lucky, we will have about 3 weeks notice (counting his time off) before we move. 4 kids 2 dogs and 1 kitty. we are praying for a station within the US so we can drive there and there will be less paperwork needed for the pets. overseas paperwork and cost of flying with no advance notice would be really rough. no family support for this choice of Army life so we are on our own. our pets are part of the family and where we go they go. it's insane what some places (like hawaii) wants before moving your pet. is there any arrangements that the army has with certain state or governments to make it easier than if we were moving over on our own?


September 6, 2010 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Joy, you've got a lot on your plate! It sounds like you have some prepping to do...and saving money. Yes, you can get advances from the military (your husband can get parts of his pay early when you move)...but I would certainly save to offset moving costs!

The Army does not look at pets as family. You are on your own there. The good thing is that there are vet clinics on most posts that will do the 10 day exam for free (if you are flying overseas). You would also have to live off post, wherever you go, since you are only authorized two pets in ANY military housing, that includes inside the US too.

I always recommend to folks to not go over the pet limit until they retire....even though it can still be a hassle moving, it is more manageable. Many leave pets with relatives when they go overseas as well.

You've got some choices to make, but on the other hand, you wouldn't be the first one going overseas with more than two if you choose to go that route.

Just prepare yourself both mentally and financially, and you should be okay.

September 7, 2010 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I am so happy I found this blog! Thanks for sharing all of this information, it is very helpful. I was hoping you could advise me on something regarding an international move with a small cat. We are moving from Ft Bragg to Germany (my husband is already there). I will be traveling with just myself and my kitty Tigger. I have already had her micro-chipped and gotten her shots updated as required 30 days before flight. We are going to be leaving in 3 weeks, and I know we need to get the 10 day health certificate prior to flying. Here's the confusing part: While I was on the phone with the vet clinic (it's an Air Force clinic - I'm staying with parents until I can travel), they informed me that I will have to take my cat to the USDA office to get checked out/do paperwork 4 months before travel. Now I have never heard this before, not at the Ft Bragg vet clinic whom I spoke extensively about the Germany move with, nor on the official travel website for Ft. Bragg. I'm wondering if this is indeed true, or if whoever I spoke to didn't know what they were talking about. Any info about this would really help me out, I'm distraught about possibly having to leave my Tigger behind!

October 30, 2010 at 3:42 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

It is my understanding that the 10 day health certificate is paperwork that somehow comes from the USDA. Our Army vet in Tampa on Macdill AFB was authorized to do all the paperwork, which can be done no more than 10 days before your flight. There is no other paperwork required unless this thing you are talking about is something new, but I can't imagine that...there is no press or articles and no one is talking about this "additional requirement". Are you close enough to go to that vet clinic in person and ask what paperwork you need? Perhaps there was someone new on the phone who maybe didn't understand the process? That's all I can think of. If you do go to a civilian vet, you need to go to one that does this health cert regularly and also be prepared to pay for it. Sorry I couldn't offer more insight! Safe travels!

October 30, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Damon said...

Thanks for the good info. Really helpful. I'm in a strange situation if you can help though. I'm in Korea right now and PCSing to Hawaii. My dogs are with my parents in Omaha, NE right now. Any ideas? I will be in Vegas for a few days before I go to Hawaii so I was thinking of flying them into Vegas then sending them to Hawaii but I'm not sure if that'll work. Any help would be much appreciated :)

November 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

I would really check into this, because Hawaii has some strict entry requirements and possibly quarantine, and depending when your flight arrives...delays where you can't take your pet right away.

You also have to look at the weather (and other delays), and if your pets are unable to fly out of Vegas with you, what is the back up plan?

I would also compare pet shipping services vs. your parents possibly visiting you in Hawaii and bringing the dogs along.

A lot of things to mull over, but if you have a plan, it can be done low-stress.

November 23, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

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