PCSing with pets? Vet Clinic personnel offer advice

Dr. Nancy Vincent-Johnson, a veterinary medical officer at Belvoir Veterinary Clinic, greets Andy, a 3-year-old Maltese/Yorkie, and Christopher Brett, dog dad. 

Your pet may need additional shots or original paperwork before being allowed at your new duty station

With the heat of summer comes more PCS moves, the time every two or three years in a Service member’s family’s life when they relocate to another duty station. However, for those families who plan to relocate with pets, planning is key. 

Regulations differ between countries and the Fort Belvoir Vet Clinic has processed required health certificates for travel to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe, to name a few. 

Justina Spinella, a Vet Clinic clerk who handles many of the animals’ health certificates for PCS, said, “The minute you even get tentative PCS orders, it’s best to start the process of moving with pets.”

In terms of timing, Dr. Nancy Vincent-Johnson, the veterinary medical officer at the Belvoir Vet Clinic, said, “The process can easily take six months … or more, depending on where you’re moving to. Some verifications will need a blood test and then a waiting period for the results.

“Also, the pet should be microchipped before a rabies test is administered, which should happen before a FAVN test,” Vincent-Johnson said. 

The FAVN test, which represents Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization, is required by many rabies-free countries or regions, for dogs and cats to qualify for a reduced quarantine period before entry. 

Additionally, Vincent-Johnson said some countries require treatment for parasites, before a pet’s approval is granted to travel. 

“That can even add extra time into the process,” she said. 

“Quite often, the country where they’re moving to will require original, signed copies of rabies certificates, which can take a lot of time to get,” Spinella said. “It’s extra hard if that outside veterinarian is out of state.” 

Spinella also suggested that pet owners and veterinarian staff triple check microchip numbers and make sure outside veterinarians physically sign all required forms, especially those that are electronically signed and printed. 

Once all the required signatures, forms and approval exists, and it’s time to travel with your pet, Sgt. 1st Class Heather Robinson, clinic staff, suggests: 

• Give pets plenty of time to get acclimated to their travel kennel and don’t have their flight the first time they’re in it.

• Put something familiar to the pet in the kennel with them, like a shirt that smells like their owner, to lessen anxiety.

• Vet Clinic personnel don’t suggest sedating an animal before travel, because they are unsupervised while they’re in the cargo hold. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has a Pet Travel section on its website, which military veterinarian staff use to determine what tests are needed for pets set to travel abroad. The site is aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home.