Considerations when choosing a pet

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Dr. Denise Ruark, Dyess Veterinarian, listens to Da Vinci’s heart Oct. 20 during a routine appointment at the Dyess Veterinary Clinic here. The Clinic provides pet services such as: immunizations, treatments for skin disorders and eye and ear infections, micro-chipping, health certificates, and spay and neuter services. Heartworm prevention medication, flea and tick medication, vitamins, dental kits and shampoos are available for purchase at the resale counter. Base housing residents are required to register their pets with the clinic. Hours of operation are Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m-4 p.m, and Fridays from 9 a.m-2 p.m. For more information, call the clinic at (325) 696-3367. (U.S Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Shannon Hall)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Dr. Denise Ruark, Dyess Veterinarian, listens to Da Vinci’s heart Oct. 20 during a routine appointment at the Dyess Veterinary Clinic here. The Clinic provides pet services such as: immunizations, treatments for skin disorders and eye and ear infections, micro-chipping, health certificates, and spay and neuter services. Heartworm prevention medication, flea and tick medication, vitamins, dental kits and shampoos are available for purchase at the resale counter. Base housing residents are required to register their pets with the clinic. (U.S Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Shannon Hall)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- They are our furred, feathered and scaled friends. They can provide stress relief and give extra joy to our lives, but losing them, is often a heart-wrenching experience. Losing a pet is a very real concern for servicemembers due to military responsibilities and frequently changing addresses. However, a little research and prudent planning before buying an animal can help ensure a long, love-filled relationship.

Those who choose to buy a pet often bond closely to the animal; some even consider their pet to be an integral part of their family. When servicemembers go through a permanent change of station to an overseas base, or even to a stateside location, they sometimes find they cannot take the animal with them because of high shipping costs or local animal restrictions.

Mary Nunley, an office automation clerk at the Veterinary Center here, said some areas have implemented laws which prohibit the introduction certain dog species and that shipping larger dogs is generally more expensive than shipping smaller ones.
She said California no longer allows Pit Bulls, and countries such as Germany have an official list of "dangerous dogs" which cannot be brought into the country without first going through a rigorous application process. It's not just Pit Bulls either, she said. Some countries forbid Bull Mastiffs and Rottweiler's as well.

There are other concerns when choosing a pet as well. She said in the military we often do not know where we will be going over the course of several years and that finding adequate housing at a new base for large animals can be difficult. Land lords are generally more likely to accept a new occupant who has a small dog or cat than they are one with a large dog.

Safety when traveling is another concern. Owners sometimes cannot ship their animals with them because of temperature restrictions. If the temperature on the tarmac at either airport is too low or too high, airlines will not ship the animal. This sometimes leads to lost or left behind pets.

One way to prevent losing the animal is to have it microchipped before hand. The procedure is simple, only costs $25 and can be done here. The chip can be scanned by anyone with the proper equipment and identifies the animal's owner and contact information.

"Microchipping your pet early is massively important for military members," Ms. Nunley said. "There are currently no countries where we have bases that will accept a cat or dog that has not been electronically tagged, and most of them also require at least two previous vaccinations."

One should also consider that although cats tend to be easier to ship, they do not always adapt well to new living situations.

"Cats tend to suffer from anxiety issues when introduced to a new environment," Ms. Nunley said. "That can cause them to lose weight or become sick more often."
She said it is also important for pet owners to know the Air Force and the Army cannot treat breeding animals. If an owner breeds his pet, that animal is no longer considered a pet and is instead classified as a business animal. Military veterinary centers are only authorized to treat private pets. Once an animal has been bred, the owner must show written proof the animal has been spayed or neutered.

Undertaking a pet is a great responsibility. Before purchasing an animal, it is a good idea to research options and restrictions. With the proper planning and care, a pet can be a wonderful extension to a family.

At the veterinary center here, there are sometimes advertisements of pets for sale by military owners. For clinic hours or questions about your pet, contact Ms. Nunley via e-mail at mary.nunley@goodfellow.af.mil.