PCSing with Pets: 4 Things to Remember While Moving Your Animals

A dog sniffs the ground in Hawaii.
A dog sniffs the ground in Hawaii. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

Doing a PCS move with an all-human family can be stressful and complicated. Adding in animal family members can make the whole process much more difficult -- and expensive. That's especially true when moving very long distances or overseas, where country-specific rules may recreate a web of hard-to-navigate requirements or restrictions.

Kari Mendoza, who owns and operates Island Pet Movers based in Hawaii, said she has seen it all when it comes to helping military members relocate their animals. She shared her best tips for making it happen on a recent episode of PCS with Military.com. Here's what she said.

Know before you adopt. For families who have not yet brought a pet into their home, now is the time to learn the rules and know the barriers, she said. It's important to know that not all pets can be moved overseas, including birds and many reptiles, and that some pets, like very large dogs, are extremely expensive to relocate, she said.

Listen now: Moving With Pets: What You Need to Know for Your PCS (with Kari Mendoza)

"Military families should really ... be aware of the fact that there are difficulties in moving some breeds, and people just don't know," she said. "If we can talk about finance, if we can talk about sexually transmitted diseases in boot camp, we can talk about pets. Because pets are really, really important. And they're going to be important forever."

Get help if you can. While hiring a professional pet shipper like Mendoza's company might feel out of the budget for many families, paying for help can be a big stress reliever when navigating overseas moves in particular, she said. That's because pet shippers don't only deal with the physical move of pets, she said.

"We are the logistical experts in what it is everything to do with pets. So for us, we take a deposit on our contracts, and that deposit is for us starting our service. And that's going to give everything that we need to do to help you move," she said. "People reach out to business mentors, they reach out to finance mentors, they reach out to realtors for help when they're moving somewhere. And a lot of times, people forget that pet shippers, we're here to help you along the way, not just physically get around them on a plane and get them to their final destination."

Train your pet for shipping. Moving a dog or cat that travels in a crate is a lot simpler for families who spend a little time getting their pet ready by crate training them and socializing them with other animals, she said.

"Having a pet that is socialized and knows how to act in front of other pets is really important when you are going to be moving," she said. "That comes back to crate training, and the importance of crate training. The number of people that come to us, they're trying to travel in three weeks' time and their pets have never seen a crate. That's really stressful for the owner."

Remember your pet doesn't feel human emotions. While humans want to believe their pets feel happy, sad or empathetic, it's important to remember that animals are not people and don't share our emotional intelligence. That means that the stress or sense of loss we think they will feel over moving is likely just us projecting our own emotions onto them, Mendoza said.

"One of the biggest things, though, that I think are stressors to pet owners -- and this is not just military pet owners; it's all pet owners -- is that we give animals too many human emotions, and those human emotions that we placed on our pets create stress for us," she said. "They give us that unconditional love that you can't get from a person. And people feel that, and they're just like, oh my God, my dog absolutely loves me, and my dog is going to be super stressed out. But you know, I have a German Shepherd who loves anybody, especially if you have a ball, and it's annoying sometimes how much she loves anybody. And that's how it is with a lot of animals."

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