Uncle Sam dictates that every parent must have a family care plan on file for the care of children during the now inevitable military deployments. But what about furred and feathered dependents? Beyond finding the right place, there are legal and financial considerations in preparing for your absence.
If you do not have a spouse or roommate that can care for your pet in your home, oftentimes family or friends may be a solid alternative, regardless of geographic location. The key is marrying the right support person to the pet. For small animals that require little more than feeding and any responsible adult may do. For Buster the 110-lb Labrador that runs 3 miles a day with you, the couch potato apartment-dweller or older person may not be the right match.
Perhaps that correct caretaker does not exist in your personal support network. Perhaps the right person lives some place that he or she is not allowed to care for your pet. In that case, there are two nation-wide organizations that offer largely free fostering services for military members.
1) Net Pets Inc.: A NationWide & Global network of Individual Foster Homes that will house, nurture and care for the dogs, cats, birds, horses and all other pets for Military personnel. (Foster: to give temporary nurture, care and shelter.)
2) Operation Noble Foster: The military service branch of Purebred Cat Breed Rescue is Operation Noble Foster. Although their primary focus is Purebred Rescue, they also hope to help U.S. military personnel retain ownership of their cats, have these pets cared for in a loving manner in an individual foster home while their owners are absent, and have these cats returned to their owners once their owners return.
Both organizations offer long term fostering that allows you to know that you can reclaim your pet at the end of your tour, whether it is for 2 weeks of training or eighteen months in another country. Once you have the caregiver, there are arrangements critical to success. The Humane Society of the United States has a pet care agreement that you can use if you have an individual caring for your dog. (Military Personnel: Making Arrangements for Your Pets) The pet care organizations will have their own.
Whether with a family member or an organization, certain issues must be addressed before you leave:
1) Care-giver must have access to all your pets health records.
2) Ensure vaccinations are up to date.
3) Provide some means of contact in an emergency, if at all possible.
4) If your pet takes medications, make sure to leave a 90-say supply and the refill prescriptions.
5) There must be financial arrangements, in particular if an individual is providing care.
Finally, ensure that your care-giver agreement includes provisions for where the pet should go if either the care-giver cannot remain the care-giver, or in the event you are disabled or deceased. While not something that you want to consider, you must do this for the same reason you do a will prior to deployment. Both your own social network and these organizations are here to support and protect your pet as you support and protect the nation. With some prior-planning, you can rest assured your best friend is in good hands.