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Pets & the Military (plus Shipping vs.Sending Your Pet as Cargo)

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Pets & the Military (plus Shipping vs.Sending Your Pet as Cargo)

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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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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pets & the Military (plus Shipping vs.Sending Your Pet as Cargo)

my baby...
Being in the military these days means moving around.  Depending on where your military spouse is in his career, that could mean every year, every two years, three years or six years and everything in between.  There are a few what we call "homesteaders"...I am always amazed at what a husband will do for his German wife, as I have seen senior NCOs in Germany for close to eight years...but that is obviously not the norm!  Many military folks have pets....we include ourselves in that club.  There's just something about having a furry critter as a member of your household.  At some point, there comes the dilemna on how to get your pet from point A to point B.  What if you have more than one pet?  What if you have a pet that weighs close to 200 pounds or how about 1,000 pounds!  What are ya gonna do every time you move?

I profess not to know all the answers.  I can only speak from experience and also from what people I know have experienced.  Here are some things to consider:

  • How does your pet handle change?  Riding in a car (if small enough)?  How about flying in a situation where you can't drive (like overseas or Hawaii)?  At some point, you will have at least one overseas tour.
  • Are you committed enough to your pet to spend the extra money needed to be a petowner who moves a lot?  Every overseas trip you are looking at $300-1,000 PER PET per flight.  Horses are going to cost you more and will go as cargo.  I've heard of folks taking their horses to Hawaii and even to Germany, so it can be done...but be prepared for big expenses (horses are expensive anyway....I had one in high school...they eat a lot, and you can't keep them in your house).  The good thing about horses is that many stateside posts do have their own stables, but then again, some have long waiting lists and special requirements (more immunizations and such) to get in.  Some airlines will also limit the size of pets traveling as baggage.  I've heard 100 lbs, but our German Shepherd was just over that, and he was fine with United Airlines.  I've also heard 150 lbs.  Just check with the airline you are flying, and I am going to recommend United and Lufthansa again as the BEST choices for travel with pets.
  • Know that on post housing has a TWO PET PER DWELLING rule.  This has not always been enforced in the past, but I am seeing it enforced more and more these days to the point of people having to adopt out their pets or else risk getting kicked out of housing.
  • What food does your pet eat?  Stateside, it won't be a problem as you can go wherever to get your pet's food.  Overseas, the commissary and PX have limited fare, and it might not be what your pet normallly eats.  Ordering through the mail may be too expensive.  I've been told time and time again not to change your dog's diet, especially as they get older  I lost my dog in large part because of this I believe.  I am STILL not over the guilt.
  • Pet expenses overseas will be higher.  On post military vets cannot always see your pet unfortunately, especially when you really need care.  Many only offer routine check ups and vaccinations and nothing else.  You'll have to be prepared to deal with vets off post, in a foreign country and who may or may not speak English.
I also wanted to touch on a few points of taking your pet overseas, or rather HOW you'll get your pet overseas.  I know there is one airline stateside (Pet Airways) that just recently started doing JUST pets.  You won't find them going overseas though, so you have two choices.  You'll either take them with you on your flight (underneath your seat or in the baggage hold as checked baggage, depending on their size and how many other pets are already registered on the flight) OR you'll ship them air freight/cargo.  I unfortunately do not know the process for shipping horses, so you'll have to look elsewhere for that.  Here are some things to consider for cats and dogs (you won't be able to take your bird with you, plus I have heard from other bird owners that even if it were allowed, birds would get too stressed out and likely become ill or die...ugghhh):

  • Taking a dog or cat on the plane with you will be cheaper than shipping them separately.  Read my other blog article about taking your pet with you when you fly.  Do have an alternate plan if you travel in the dead of winter or heat of the summer as many airlines do have regulations that won't ship pets when the air temperatures reach a certain level (either too hot or too cold).
  • For shipping your pet air cargo or freight, there are a few companies that do all the work for you.  I don't have any personal experience with any of them, but I have heard from a few people who have used them, that the cost you are quoted or what you pay them may not be the total cost you dish out.  There may be additional fees involved, so budget for that possibility.
  • At least in Belgium, at Brussels Airport, expect to pay anywhere from 200-600 euro EXTRA when picking up your pet from the cargo area of the airport.  This fee covers the final vet check (the airlines are covering themselves liability-wise; you can't get out of this vet check) and for someone to take your dog through customs...and of course their "boarding fee" while this is all being cannot get around the fees.  In Frankfurt, Germany, there are also similar fees.  Be prepared and come with cash when you have to pick up your pet.  What you pay the pet shipping company may not be your total cost...always ask for the details, cause that's where it's all at!
  • Keep in mind that it may be an all day affair to pick up your pet.  They may say your pet arrives on such and such day, but expect to wait til late morning or mid-day to actually take your pet home.  Sometimes the process takes this long.
  • Don't plan any traveling around or anything after bringing your pet to their new home.  They have had a major disruption and need to have time to get adjusted to their new life!
  • If you do decide to change their food, please do it gradually.
Do you have any tips to add about pets and the military or moving with pets?



Anonymous kirsten said...

Great article!
One tip and one comment:
If you cannot fly your pet with you, see if you can find *someone* going in the same direction as your pet needs to go who would be willing to 'chaperone' your pet for you. I did that before a deployment, sending my dog 'home' to the states in the care of a coworker. My spouse drove to Dallas to pick up the dog, as that was where the chaperone was flying to (I was there to load the dog on the direct flight). It was great peace of mind for me that, should the flight be delayed, someone on the plane would say 'hey, could you check and see that the dog has some water and a chance to exercise?'. Luckily nothing diverted the direct flight.

One comment-I knew some folks in Hawaii who brought their birds with them. No idea how, and they weren't small like finches or parakeets.

November 7, 2010 at 12:41 AM  
Anonymous Tephanie Soderstrom said...

Great tips! We flew to Germany from Kansas over the summer and used Continental as they were one of the few airlines that would ship pets over the summer. They have a whole service dedicated to shipping animals with A/C, heated vans and holding areas for climate control to keep pets comfortable. Also, if the pets are traveling more than 18 hours they require that they are taken out of the crates for a walk and potty break (for a fee of course) during a layover. It was pricey (we paid around $2000 for our 2 Australian Shep.).
I agree about the whole day spent at Frankfort Airport customs too! We were there for hours driving back and forth between buildings getting all the fees and paperwork done on top of jetlag. Brutal but worth it for our fur babies.

November 30, 2010 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Yes, what we do for our family! But isn't it great to be prepared? It'll be interesting to see how costs/methods change (or don't) with United and Continental merging.

November 30, 2010 at 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Thanks for all the tips ladies! I was wondering if anyone had experience taking a dog in the cabin with them while going overseas? We have a shih tzu so he would fit under the seat but I wasn't sure if they allowed this for international flights. Also if you do have experience taking your pet in the cabin, are you allowed to take them out of their crate?

Hope everyone is having a great March!

March 10, 2011 at 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Jodie said...

You cannot take your dog out of the carrier while on the plane or in the airport.
As far as taking your dog on the plane to start, it depends on the airline. We are currently starting to make our plans in order to move to Germany this summer. We were told (by SATO travel today) that many airlines will not take dogs in cabin anymore and that it is going to be difficult to find one that will ship during summer months. Out of our current duty station, we were told that American Airlines will probably be our contracted carrier. We got a quote from American Airlines Cargo, to ship our 3 dogs (1 teacup Yorkie 3 1/2 pounds, mini Dachshund 5 pounds, & our 17 pound Dachshund), will cost around $1535. To ship just the 17 pound Dachshund (we are hoping to take the 2 small ones in cabin, if we can somehow work that out) , it will cost about $785.

May 12, 2011 at 1:58 AM  

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