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Helping the Pets of Military Personnel and Others in Need of Support

This week's tipsheet includes ideas for helping pet owners cope with major, stressful changes in their lives. While the tipsheet has a military-pet focus, it contains advice that we can apply to others facing many types of challenges, including a divorce, personal or family illness, adjusting to a new work shift and other situations.

The support of a caring acquaintance or neighbor can make an immense difference and even help a pet keep his or her home. We can find inspiration in the memory of our wonderful volunteer and friend Debbie Breuer, who always was there to help both animals and people.

Military personnel who are deployed overseas will face decisions about the care of their pets. Last week's tipsheet covered information for military service pet owners who are called to duty overseas. This week, we look at ways that civilians can help pets left at home by military personnel. Thanks to PAW volunteer Sharon Ardison for suggesting this topic.


  • Encourage military families to consider keeping their pets. In the stress of seeing a spouse or other family member leave for military duty, some people might worry that they will have trouble caring for a pet. However, the best place for the pet is probably with a close family member...and there are benefits for the spouse and other family members. The benefits include having the comfort and love that an animal can provide, companionship to help ease a life transition, and the physical presence of their loved one's special furry friend at a time when the loved one cannot be there.
  • Provide advice and information to help the spouse or family member cope with the pet. For folks who are not accustomed to being the primary caretaker of a dog, cat or other pet, the prospect and the reality of daily pet care can sometimes seem daunting. This is where your experience along with moral support can make all the difference. Share from your own knowledge, lend or purchase a good pet care book, and/or provide free guidance from internet websites. For example, the PAW website at www.paw-rescue.org includes not only a list of good pet care books, but also dozens of articles about pet behavior and step by step care.
  • Check in, and step in, from time to time. Ask how the folks are doing with the animal...this way, you can help the folks solve pet problems before they get overwhelming. And consider offering to physically help from time to time. Perhaps you could offer to stop in and feed and walk a pet when a military spouse gets in a bind. This can be especially helpful during the adjustment period for several weeks. Again, occasionally stepping in...and just giving someone a safety net...can make the difference between a military person's pet keeping and losing a home.
  • For pets still located on base, keep in mind that security is tighter at military bases these days. Volunteer Sharon Ardison reports that according to military police personnel at Belvoir, the procedure is for the caretaker to stop at the entrance gate and get a temporary pass. As long as he/she has the required information (driver's license, car insurance, pet's location, owner's name and address) entry typically should be approved.
  • If you yourself have become the caretaker of a pet owned by a military person who is seeing action on the front lines of battle, realize that the war experience can change some people to the extent that they cannot come home and pick up where they left off.
  • For military families that are being transferred overseas with Service personnel, sometimes pets can go along. The family pet offers some measure of comfort and stability at a critical time. Studies such as one conducted by Chumley, Gorski, Saxton, Granger and New in 1994 entitled "Companion Animal Attachment and Military Transfer" documented how keeping pets and their military families together reduced emotional trauma and consequent personal and family problems associated with location transfers.


For more of Robin's Dog Tips, see the index at:  www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.php

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

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Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport