My guest post today combines two things near and dear to my heart: military life and furry kids. I’m so please that Theresa of Hawaii Military Pets agreed to do a guest post for me!! It’s such an AMAZING thing she is trying to do and I have a natural, instant love for anyone trying to help keep fur kids with their families. Being an animal advocate myself, I’m always thrilled to be able to help others who are fighting for the same things I am. :) Please be sure to check out her site and share it with those that might benefit from the information!
If you are a military family and own pets, you’ve likely heard the dreaded stereotype from animal rescuers, civilians and other military families that when we move, we leave our furry family members behind.
When I hear this from people, it really upsets me. The military places such emphasis on accountability and commitment. How could people take on this lifetime responsibility and then abandon the poor defenseless animal when caring for it becomes inconvenient?
Last August, we created Hawaii Military Pets, an online educational resource for military families living in Hawaii. Hardworking volunteers teamed up to help other military families. We have a co-administrator for our Facebook page who writes for Marine base paper, professional photographers and other writers who help spread education and promote the human-animal bond.
I drew upon pet knowledge I had from volunteering with our Boxer dog club. We formed partnerships with pet businesses, shelters, animal rescuers and dog trainers. We asked them to help educate our military pet families. We teamed up with people working in base housing, animal control, and leveraged existing relationships with public affairs officers on base. On duty, I’m a Navy public affairs officer. I’ve worked in Hawaii community relations. These networks were vital as we started building and strengthening our ties.
We learn as we go, and in time, we better understand what military pet families need to keep pets for life.
We have an active military pet community in Hawaii. We do military pet events with local animal nonprofits, and when we have questions about animal law, moving with your pets, preventative pet care, boarding and other concerns, there’s a place people can find information.
Every duty station needs access to pet information. Our goal is to break down the barriers to forever pet ownership. This is what inspired us to join not-for-profit Dogs on Deployment and launch a petition asking The Department of Defense, Congress, and The White House to make all the pet policies in military housing standardized. This means strict enforcement of dangerous dog policies that don’t assign breed labels, but hold the pet owner accountable. There’s no way to accurately identify a breed. Base animal control and housing officials have told me they cannot enforce this flawed policy. There’s not an accurate DNA test for breed and even the Army’s own veterinarian community doesn’t endorse these harmful bans and won’t indentify dog breeds. No community that has studied the effectiveness of breed-specific legislation found that the policy made their community safer.
The facts are in this petition, and I encourage you to sign it. There’s strength in numbers and our hope is that our leaders will understand that this destructive policy tears pet families apart. Many families I spoke to with mixed-breed animals live in fear that they’ll someday lose their pets. And, it’s not just the breed bans. The weight, size, and numerical limits on pets are not consistent from duty station to duty station. Some families must live on base. This policy keeps people from owning pets for life and must be abolished with an overarching pet policy for all of the military.
Transitioning with pets is hard, but it’s doable with proper planning. Military leadership could provide pet information at PCS, indoctrination and deployment briefings. If they aren’t, the best place to start looking is to visit the military veterinarian clinic. If they can’t answer your questions, find the shelter at your duty station contracted to enforce animal law. We also recommend you ask Family Service Centers to provide families with pet information, if they’re not doing so already. Having access to resources helps our military keep their pets.
I blog for The Department of Defense Family Matters and Spouse Buzz and have written posts on moving with pets, the role of our military veterinarians, importance of forever ownership and what to do if your pet gets lost. I’m always interested in exploring other topics too, so please contact me if you have any questions or if you would like further information.
Theresa Donnelly is an active-duty Navy Lieutenant with 16 years of military service, having done 10 years enlisted with multiple overseas deployments. She is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, an online pet resource for military families living in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information, pet policies in state and federal governments, and overall ways to celebrate the human-animal bond. She routinely partners with local and national animal nonprofits that place special emphasis on military and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @tdonnelly76.
Hawaii Military Pets is a one-stop resource for all Hawaii military pet information, celebrating the bond between all animals and our Hawaii men and women in uniform. Through the resource, readers can find pet transport information, boarding and veterinarian services, information on Hawaii military pet law and more. The organization advocates for protecting animals through pet-friendly policies in state and federal governments. Hawaii Military Pets aims to build a pet-friendly military community on Oahu, committed to lifetime pet ownership. Visit www.hawaiimilitarypets.com for more information.
Have you been affected by an inconsistent military pet policy? If so, we need to hear from you. Our military leaders must understand that these aren’t isolated cases. I know it might be hard to talk about this and if you prefer, we can keep your information private. Please share your story with Alisa at[email protected].