What Your Military Command Can Do to Promote Responsible Pet Ownership
Why Should Leaders Care?
Pet ownership can be a valuable aspect of a military member's life; pets can give companionship, comfort and unconditional love in a military member’s life that otherwise may be lacking due to location, lack of family support, personal issues or more. Additionally, it is worth recognizing the problems that irresponsible pet ownership by military members creates in the community.
Shelters are completely overflowing with unwanted pets. The ASPCA estimates that approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, but approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized. When a military member takes their pet to a shelter due to an upcoming deployment, or poor planning, there is a chance that pet will be needlessly euthanized. This is an unfair, but all too real consequence for the animal that could have been prevented with prior planning.
It gives the military a bad name. There are many advocates out there that say military families should not be allowed to adopt pets because their lifestyles are changing so much they cannot provide a stable home for their pets. It is rumored that some shelters won’t adopt to military because of this reason. If you are a pet owner, you are a pet owner and you deal with it the best way you can. As military members, you are expected to be responsible members of society. It is important for leaders to stress responsibility in personal affairs, including pet ownership. A military member should not get a pet if they are not in a position to care for it indefinitely. Additionally, if a military member does have a pet, they should ensure that they are acting responsibility in their care for it.
Lastly, should a military member feel forced into giving up their pet due to a service commitment, this can be detrimental to that person’s morale. Having a military member about to deploy whose personal affairs are not sorted, or is battling with regret or stress from a situation, such as having to give up a pet, they will not be fully ready for operation. This can be detrimental to the overall mission success of the deployment. It should be a priority of leaders to ensure their troops are emotionally and mentally prepared to deploy; if a military member is troubled by a situation involving their pet, distractions may make them a liability.
Tips to Improve Pet-Ownership in Your Command
Include Annual Pet Training
Military members receive various annual training and professional military education every year, but none of it includes pet ownership, which is a huge aspect in many military member's lives. Ask your command to give a presentation on responsible pet ownership when able. Dogs on Deployment provides an example presentation for your convenience.
Know Who Has Pets
It is important for leaders to know who has pets. This may be an important factor during training, deployments, personal issues, emergencies or evacuations, and more. It is important to recognize that many military members view their pets as an integrated part of their family, and thus, by allowing them to properly plan and care for their pet, leaders are improving their morale during potentially critical times.
Ask About Pets During Mentoring
Every military member is mentored by a superior, especially when first checking into a new unit. They are asked about their spouses, children and family, but what about pets? Pets can be a military member’s soul companionship, or an integral part of their family. It is important to recognize the value pets give to our military members, especially considering the benefits pets can give to a family in terms of comfort and companionship.
Pre-Deployment and Pre-PCSing Checklists
Whenever a deployment or PCS is pending, military members receive several checklists. Included in that checklist should be a plan for their pet. Additionally, military members moving overseas may be confronted by a wave of complicated policies and requirements. Referring military members to either a base veterinarian or to companies like PCSPets.com can help them make plans to bring their pets with them to their next duty station, regardless of location.
Ensure Members Have Pet Plan for Emergencies or Evacuation
In any briefs, checklists or pamphlets handed out during emergency or evacuation preparation, include details about options for pets during these critical times. Many emergency shelters will not accept pets, and thus, a member may have to alter their plan in order to ensure they can keep their pets with them during evacuation. Most all shelters require current vaccination records, something that should be included in an emergency travel kit. Additionally, some facilities offer emergency boarding for pets.
Place an Informational Flyer on Your Resource Board
Military members are often confronted by several flyers and resources available to them, but rarely are they given resources for their pet’s care. Dogs on Deployment provides a free printable flyer for your command to hang in areas of heavy traffic so that those who could use our fostering service can learn that we exist.
Ensure Your Ombudsman or Family Readiness Officer Knows About Dogs on Deployment
Spouse groups and spouse group officers can be huge resources for both military members and their spouses to receive information regarding various services available outside of traditional military services. Dogs on Deployment can be one of those resources for military families to turn to for help with their pets’ care.
Contact Your Base Support Offices About Our Program
It is important that any official military service organization is also aware that Dogs on Deployment exists to support military pet owners. Examples include Fleet and Family Support, MWR and base veterinarians. While they may not be able to officially endorse Dogs on Deployment, word of mouth recommendations will help those who could benefit from our services, learn we exist.