Making Successful Moves with Pets

I volunteer at an animal shelter and a frequent reason for owners surrendering their animals is they are moving, and they feel it is too difficult to take their pets. 

We always took our pets with us when we moved, so I needed help understanding the problem. So, I asked a group of military wives to assist me to determine if a “How To” article would help or if moving is an excuse to not have a pet. Most thought it was an excuse, but there were some valid points made for not taking pets on a move.  Below I provide I tips on how to move with an animal. 

I would like to extend a thank you to the Kings Bay Military Wives Group on Facebook for helping me with this article.

 We have made many moves with pets, so I thought I would share how we did it. I added some tips and links as well.

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Welcoming Pooky Home

My husband Michael and I got married when he was stationed at Pearl Harbor Navy Base.  It was my introduction to military life.  We had to wait until we moved to base housing, as our first apartment didn’t allow pets.

We went to the Humane Society in Honolulu and looked for our new dog.  We found this little guy who had just come in.  He came to the gate, but, wasn’t barking, he just wagged his tail shyly while cowering in the corner, terrified.  We went to the desk and they told us he had to stay on stray hold for a few more days, and we should call on the last day to see if he was still there.  We did, and he was. 

We named him Pooky after Garfield’s Teddy Bear.  Pooky was a love, he chewed on our stuff, he ran off from time to time, and had his own crazy character. But, mostly, he gave us so much love.

Our Move with Pooky

When it was time to move we arranged his travel with the airline and bought him a travel cage.  Did I mention that we had a baby eight months after we got him and is now a little over a year old?  Yes, we had a toddler, a dog and all our belongings.  We were going from Hawaii to Washington State, in November.

We made sure our hotel was pet friendly ,and we had gotten a referral to some old Navy housing that did accept pets. 

We got our household goods and unpacked, but it was the holidays and as typical military families do, we went to visit family for Thanksgiving.  The four of us, my husband, our son, Pooky and me were back on a plane for the visit.  That was our first move with a pet.

The next one came when we went from Washington to Georgia.  By this time, we had a toddler and a baby.  Given the personality of the boys and the length of the trip, we thought taking the dog in the car with us would be tough. We called the airlines, and for a small fee they would ship Pooky solo, if we had someone pick him up. Our family held onto him until we could get there.  

We enjoyed our Christmas with the family, but we then had to find a pet friendly place at our new base.  It was a brand-new base and there wasn’t much housing on or off base, and it was harder to rent with a pet, so we bought our first house.  That was Pooky’s last move with us, but he did take some trips.  When Pooky crossed the Rainbow Bridge we got our next shelter animal.  

We went to the base and found a sweet little girl named Snowy.  Snowy was a lively two-year-old Beagle mix. She was also a known runner and who could blame her, she was two and had already been passed between four families due to, you guessed it; moving. The poor girl had never known stability with a family. That effects animals as much as it would affect a child passed between foster homes.

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Our Journey with Snowy

A few years after we got Snowy it was time to move back to the West Coast.  This time my husband went ahead of us.  He found a temporary apartment that was pet friendly while we waited for our Navy housing to be ready.  Once in, we put up a fence for Snowy to have her own free space and took her on many trips in the car to see the mountains of Washington and the great Northwest. 

Our next move was when my husband retired from the Navy and we had to find civilian housing that was pet friendly.  It was more challenging, but we did it. 

When you get a pet, they are a part of your home and household and just as with any family member, you find a way to make the relationship work no matter what happens.  Advanced planning is essential.

We still travel a lot with our pets.  it is work but they are worth it.  To us, they are part of our family, a gilded member, and dogs as well as cats are social animals, they become part of a “pack”, whether human or of their own kind, and are loyal to that, and will protect it’s other members and they are affected as much by loss of that pack or any member of it, as much as you or I would be affected by the loss of a spouse or child, they feel that. 

Why do you think they are so happy when one returns from work, or a trip and they have been home alone, even if only for a few minutes?

Moving Tips with Pets

Below find some tips and links to help with making your trip or move with your pet less stressful:

Research your new location as soon as you know you will be moving.  You need to find out how the new home works for all the members of your family.  Schools and Doctors for the kids, employment for the adults, breed restrictions and veterinarians for the pets. 

If you find you are moving to an area where there are breed restrictions, you need to be aware of this before you go. (The ridiculousness of these rules is a whole other article.) Make sure where you live accepts the pet you have or will get, make sure your pet will fit into your living situation. A cat or a small dog will probably work better in a two-bedroom apartment with no yard rather than a Lab or Great Dane.  

These are simple steps that will help avoid heartache and headache.

At this point you may have to make some tough choices.  There are some circumstances under which it may be in the pet’s best interest to live with someone else rather than making the move. You may want to check out Pets for Patriots as a possible place for your pet.

I am not suggesting anyone shirk their responsibilities but putting a sixteen-year-old dog or cat into a long quarantine may not be in the pet’s best interest. We did rehome two animals for what we thought would be in their best interests. 

In both cases. we made sure they went to trustworthy families. The second one only lasted six months, and we got him back. Pooky was part Husky. They are runners, and when he kept running off we thought he would be happier at my parent’s house in the country.  My folks realized he missed us and brought him back, that was the last time we tried “re-homing.”

 It would be very hard on me, now, to find a new home for my pets, and I think I would prefer not to move if I couldn’t take my pets, they are our family and you don’t just abandon your family.  But the US military doesn’t always have that as an option, and when the orders have you going overseas you need to know and obey that county’s rules.  

The Trip Itself

For the trip itself this depends on whether you are driving or flying.  If you are flying, you will need to pick an airline that will allow your pets to fly with you. Find out the requirements and procedures and talk to your vet before the trip, they often prescribe a mild sedative you can give your pet before their flight to ease their anxiety.

You can imagine it’s very traumatic for them to be separated from people they know, trust, and love. Then they are trapped in a cage on a noisy, scary plane ride. Most people are nervous about flying, and we understand what is going on. Image what it’s like for the pet who has no idea what is going on!

I know we have had some horror stories in the news about airlines and lost pets.  Let’s remember, something only makes the news if it is unusual.  I believe most airlines get it right more than they do wrong. Here are a few airlines that take pets; these allow pets in the cabin.

If you are going by train, check the rules just as you would for the airline.  If you are traveling in the car with a pet, remember, they need a break just as you do. 

Plan to stop at places where they can safely stretch their legs and play, just like you would for the kids.  Rest areas have a place for pets and many hotels welcome your pet

Bring their familiar items like their crate or bed, some toys and treats.  These will make Max or Fluffy feel more at home. 

If you have a more unusual pet like a pig or a snake you will have to do a little more checking to see what hotels and rest areas allow. 

Owning pets is a privilege and a responsibility. You have a living friend that is close by and greets you at the door with enthusiasm, no matter what mood you are in or what you are dressed like. It is a relationship like no other.

They are here for a short time and trust me, when that friend leaves you miss them.  Make the effort to keep them for as long as you can, but if you must, also make sure they find a loving, safe new home.


About the Author

Lisa lives with her retired US Navy Submariner husband in South Georgia. She is a former homeschool mom of two active boys who are now adults. She volunteers at an animal shelter.  She writes children’s educational books as well as articles for adults.

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