For Immediate Release Contact: Tripler Public Affairs Office, 808-433-5785
Release Number 06-017 Mar. 3, 2006
Care for your pet
By CPT Emily C. Gocke-Smith
Schofield Barracks Veterinary Treatment Facility
With upcoming deployments, Soldiers will face the difficult task of preparing their family for the time while they are away. There are many things pet owners must do to ensure that their furry family members are also prepared. Knowing the steps to take and preparing early are the keys to reducing the stress for Soldiers, their pets, and the community.
Leaving pets with family members or friends is a great option. It is best to pick someone familiar with your pets, their needs and their habits. Finding a suitable temporary home is just a beginning. Follow these steps:
1. Complete a pet personality profile (available on-line at http://www.hsus.org/militarypets). The checklist includes information about what and how much your pet eats, any medications your pet may need, and many other important areas you may forget to discuss. Make sure to go over each question with the caretaker and address any questions before they agree to take care of the pet. This will help the caretaker understand all the needs of the pet and decide if they can provide all that is needed. Go over the checklist again before you leave to ensure that the caretaker understands.
2. Have a written agreement outlining the pet care arrangement. This should cover what will happen to the pet if the caregiver is no longer able to care for the pet, what will happen if the pet is injured or dies while the caretaker is responsible for the pet and what will happen if you are unable to reclaim your pet. You must also obtain a power of attorney giving the caregiver permission to take the pet to the military or civilian veterinarian.
3. Take your pet to a veterinarian for a general health check, to address any medical problems, and to update any vaccinations in advance. Inform the veterinary staff that you will be deploying and provide the name and contact number for the temporary caretaker. Be sure to pick up a supply of any needed medications and a copy of the pet’s medical record to leave with the caretaker.
4. Leave contact information about how to reach your pet’s veterinarian. If you use a military veterinary clinic for routine conditions, also leave instructions of which civilian veterinarian to use in case of emergency or if your pet needs services not available at the military veterinary clinic. Arrange in advance who will pay for routine and emergency care - neither civilian nor military clinics will accept “IOUs” and payment must be made when services are rendered.
5. Make sure your pet has a collar and tag with the caretaker’s information. Otherwise, it may be difficult to match the dog with the caretaker if the animal becomes lost. The best means of permanent identification is a microchip placed under the skin. This is required for pets that reside on-post but recommended for all dogs and cats.
6. Have your pet spayed or neutered before you leave. Spaying or neutering will decrease the chance of medical or behavioral problems while you are away.
7. Leave money for food, toys, grooming, or any other routine costs.
For Soldiers who are having difficulty finding a caretaker for their pets, there are other options.
All active-duty military members who have a pet who needs temporary care are eligible. Foster homes can be military or civilian. Some of the foster families even provide e-mails and photos for the Soldiers overseas to help them cope with being away from home.
The point of contact for this program is Liza Souza, Humane Society Outreach Programs coordinator, at 946-2187 Ext. 217. Volunteer foster homes for the program are needed as well. Please contact Ms. Souza if you are willing to open your home to foster an animal.
There are many other organizations dedicated to help find temporary homes for pets of deployed military personnel. These help provide a network for matching foster homes to military pets:
Operation Noble Foster http://www.operationnoblefoster.org
NetPets.Org’s Military Pets Foster Project http://www.netpets.org/netp/foster/php
Patriotic Pets http://www.patrioticpets.org
Soldiers who cannot find an appropriate temporary home may be forced to relinquish their animal to the Hawaiian Humane Society. This is a last resort.
“Setting your pet free” is completely unacceptable and will only lead to a lifetime of disease and suffering for the animal. Soldiers who abandon their animals are subject to disciplinary action as set forth by the Oahu Base Support Battalion.
If you have a pet who is considered “yours,” in that your spouse and children do not usually care for the animal - discuss the pet’s care with family members before deploying.
Many times, a spouse overwhelmed with work and taking care of children may have difficulty with the additional pressure of caring for an animal with which they have had little previous responsibility.
Preparing in advance is the key to finding a caring home for your pet during a deployment.
Knowing that your pet is in a loving home will take a big weight off your mind, and give you something extra special to look forward to on your return home.
For more information, contact the Schofield Barracks Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) at 433-8531/8532 or the Fort Shafter VTF at 433-2271.