By Dr. Becker
When members of the military are called upon for deployment, those with pets are often challenged to find a suitable home for their animals while they’re away.
Some military personnel may be lucky enough to have a family member who can care for their pets, but not all do — and in some cases both members of a two-person household may be deployed at the same time.
Boarding in such cases is cost prohibitive, not to mention would be extremely stressful for the animals since deployments last for months and may be extended.
Some military members have no choice but to surrender their pets to animal shelters or rescue groups and are not able to be reunited when they return. Fortunately, a number of programs are now available that connect foster homes with military pets. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Pets get to spend their owners’ deployment being cared for in a loving home, military personnel get peace of mind knowing their pets are safe and happy and foster pet parents get a piece of unconditional love from a new furry family member while helping to give back to those who serve the U.S.
Retired Marine Gives Back by Fostering Military Pets
New Hampshire’s Union Leader recently reported the story of Wayne Bayles, a retired marine, and his wife Phyllis, who are fostering two “gentle giants” — a mastiff and a Great Dane — for military personnel. According to the Union Leader:1
“'Taking care of Milah and Stout, said Wayne Bayles, a retired Marine, ‘is just a way of giving back. The military is grossly underpaid and nobody can afford to put a dog in any kind of boarding’ for a lengthy deployment, he said. ‘We have the ability. We have the time.’
It's their way of supporting those still serving, Phyllis Bayles said. ‘They allow us to live the life we want,’ she said.”
The arrangement was coordinated by the California-based non-profit Dogs on Deployment (DoD), whose mission “is to give military members peace of mind concerning their pets during their service commitments by providing them with the ability to find people and resources able to help them.”2 They provide foster homes for military dogs and cats.
DoD has several impressive goals, including having DoD boarders located within 50 miles of all major U.S. military bases, so military members can find long-term care for their pets no matter where they are stationed or deploying from. In addition, DoD also has plans to help military members and their pets by:
- Bringing to light the problem of pet relinquishment by military members to higher levels of the chain of command, and increasing rights of pet owners in the military
- Helping military members with the cost of pet care during emergencies and during deployments
Military (and Hospital) Foster Programs in the US
There are many military foster programs in the U.S. that are actively matching military pets with temporary foster homes. At PACT for Animals (People + Animals = Companions Together), for instance, they’ve received applicants for more than 200 animals in the last year and have found foster homes for one-third of those.
PACT is unique in that they also offer foster homes for people who have been hospitalized and need emergency care for their pets.
Each program has its own requirements for owners and foster parents, but generally the owner is responsible for transporting the pet to the foster home (and picking him up after deployment), although some organizations can arrange transportation.
If you’re a military member in need of a foster home for your pet, some of these organizations can find homes in as few as one or two days.
It’s important to give the foster parents the number of someone to contact in case of emergency if you cannot be reached, and draw up a written pet care agreement before you’re deployed. This should include important information such as:
- Who will pay for veterinary care (and what types of care should be offered in the event of an emergency)?
- Who will care for the pet if the foster parents are no longer able to or if the owner is unable to reclaim the pet?
- Who is responsible for any damages caused by the pet?
- What is the length of foster care required? (This is typically between one month and two years)
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet is another organization that offers not only foster programs for active military members but also provides pet assistance to wounded soldiers and veterans, homeless veterans, fallen soldiers and cases where military service members are reassigned out of the country and cannot take their pets with them.
There are many military animals in need, so if you have the time and the room (in your home and your heart), fostering a military pet is an excellent way to give back. Even if you can’t foster an animal in your home, some groups, such as Operation Noble Foster, are looking for volunteers to help transport animals.
Alternatively, there are also programs like Sugarland Ranch, which offers boarding to dogs and cats for military members on a sliding fee schedule or donation basis. If you’d like to get involved, searching for “military pets foster programs” followed by your state abbreviation is the best way to find an organization in your area.