My Experience as a Spouse PCSing With Pets

Pets are a part of our family; hence, they need to be included in the planning process for any change in duty stations.

Pets are a part of our family; hence, they need to be included in the planning process for any change in duty stations. Most importantly when that change in location involve crossing continents. After multiple PCS with our pets in tow, I could say that there is no getting used to the process. No matter how much we thought we’ve prepared, we always ended up in challenging and stressful situations. Even in situations where we used Pet Movers. Thankfully, we were able to resolve issues and were able to take our pet with us.


Several factors need to be looked at as soon as you get news of transferring if not using Pet Movers. First is your dog’s registration, medical records, and vaccinations requirements. This information can easily be obtained from both your current duty station’s and or destination’s base vet clinic.


Next factor is your flight. Will you be flying MAC flights or commercial? If your family is flying with MAC flights, it is crucial to find out their regulations on pets – weight limit, limits on number of pets, cost, banned pets, crate requirements, supplies needed, and paperwork needed. The same goes if your family is flying commercial. Keep in mind that guidelines vary depending on the airline you will use, season of the year you will be traveling; even the stop-over that the flight your pets will make. It is of utmost importance to keep following up and keeping yourself up to date for any sudden changes in requirements or guidelines. It HAPPENS!


When we were PCSing out of Sembawang Naval Base in Singapore back in 2009, we relied on the label attached to our dog’s crate being on par with the IATA requirements. We could have double-checked and confirmed it by calling either the airport, the airline, and or the base vet clinic. But we didn’t. On the day of our flight, we got up, got ourselves (and two toddlers at that time) ready, prepared our dog and his supplies in his crate, loaded up our luggage, and headed to the airport. It was an early morning flight – 0700 and since we have a pet, we planned on being at the airport three (3) hours prior to our flight. We were confident that once we checked our pet and luggage in, it would be smooth sailing from there. We were planning a divide and conquer strategy. He takes care of the pet and I take care of the kids and the luggage. As we were entering the airport, we were approached by airport personnel with worried look on their faces. They checked our dog’s kennel and then informed us that our crate was not IATA approved. One of the requirements is for the crate to have openings on all four sides (ours only had three – one on the front and two on the sides!). My husband was dumbfounded and asked what we were supposed to do. Seeing how we had two little children and a mountain of luggage, they recommended for us to just drill holes at the back. Well, we didn’t have anything to drill holes and none of the personnel had anything. Thankfully, the airport personnel tried to help (the best and immediate way they could) and had one of them get scissors. Yep, scissors!!!! So, my husband had to go back outside with our dog in a crate and started drilling holes using scissors! The excitement did not end there. Two of our luggage was over the weight limit. There is certain excess that the airline allows, but ours was way over the limit. Good thing the other luggage were below the weight limit. So, there I was, with two toddlers on leashes attached to both sides of my wrists, opened four of the luggage we had and then moved items around. By the time I was done shuffling luggage and checking them in and husband drilling holes at the back of the crate and then checking dog in for our flight, our three hours was almost gone! We literally had to sprint through security and customs and barely made it to our gate before final boarding was called! As soon as we boarded the plane and was seated, we were in utter shock and then relieved. Flying with pet out of Sembawang Naval Base in Singapore was one of the most memorable PCS travels we’ve ever done.


Finally, and is extremely important, know the pet policy on your destination’s on-base housing or local housing. Japan, for example, only accepts maximum of two pets (on very rare chances for off-base quarters). We were recently stationed in CFA Yokosuka and CFA Sasebo and getting quarters on-base was challenging for people with pets. There are assigned floors where families with pets are allowed to occupy, and in that same building, only a certain number of families with pets were allowed. Unless your family scores a townhouse unit. Off-base quarters were more difficult as most of the Japanese landlords only allow certain breed and sizes. Due to the small spaces in most houses there, having a big dog will be cramped (if you’re lucky enough to find one that allows big pets). It would be helpful to connect to the base housing office and or any spouses group to get firsthand experiences as soon as possible. Keep an open mind though because different folks with different circumstances have different experiences. However, there is always a consensus to draw some insights from.


Be connected and keep yourself informed. Don’t settle on one single source. Cross reference, double check, and confirm any conflicting information. It may not guarantee a perfect PCS, but it does ease a lot of unnecessary stress and expenses.


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