When deployment rolls around sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart. When these plans involve furry Family members, heartbreaking results can follow.
This need not be the case. Several nonprofit organizations have created solutions to this common military problem. Pets need not be surrendered, re-homed or left uncared for when a Solider deploys.
The first port of call when trying to develop a pre-deployment pet plan might be Family or friends, but when these avenues fail, there are other options, according to the Fort Bragg Veterinary Center.
Ester Turner, Fort Bragg Veterinary Center clerk, recommends visiting the Dogs on Deployment website for additional information on foster homes that can care for pets while a Soldier is deployed.
Dogs on Deployment is a nonprofit organization created to help deploying Soldiers find a temporary home for their pets through an online network of volunteers willing to board their pets until the Soldier can return. They maintain a database of approximately 24,000 registered foster homes all over the United States. The organization has successfully helped 1,085 pets receive temporary care while their owners fulfilled their military commitments.
They do not assess potential foster homes, leaving the process of vetting temporary homes to the Soldier, explained Jayne Basford, Dogs on Deployment volunteer.
A general agreement template, or “Contract for Pet Care” is also provided for fosters and Soldiers, and is available online. The organization runs on a volunteer basis and was founded by a dual-military active-duty Marine Family in 2011.
“(We) help Families stay together so they don’t have to relinquish their pets while they’re gone,” explained Basford.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, founded in 2005, is based in Texas and has a national network of vetted foster homes. The organization has helped over 1,000 pets and their owners find appropriate temporary care.
Applicants are thoroughly vetted. A state coordinator speaks with potential foster homes and potential foster Families are expected to submit two personal references. When a Soldier reaches out for help prior to a deployment, a state coordinator matches them and their pet with an appropriate foster home.
A written agreement is prepared by the foster home of the Soldier’s choice, and a meet-and-greet is organized. Details such as the return of the pet and financial responsibility for the pet’s needs are included in the suggested agreement provided by GASP.
Once both parties have signed, a copy of the agreement also goes to the national GASP office. According to Linda Spurlin-Dominik, founder and CEO of GASP, the best way to contact the organization is through their website.
PACT stands for People Together=Companions Together. This organization also aids Soldiers in need of help finding temporary homes for their pets during deployment.
The process for foster applicants at PACT requires two letters of recommendation, a reference from a veterinarian and photos of both the inside and outside of their homes, explained John Scargill, placement coordinator. If the applicants are local to the greater Philadelphia area where PACT offices are located, an in-home inspection is also carried out.
Costs for the care for the deploying Soldier’s pet should be negotiated between the two involved parties. PACT also provides a recommended form for use to aid in building and officiating the foster agreement. PACT has been operating since 2011. Scargill recommends that Soldiers reach out as soon as they know they may need a foster.
Soldiers should expect some delay in response as PACT handles cases based on time sensitivity. Last minute needs are handled first so that they are also able to assist Soldiers in unexpected need. PACT currently has nearly 300 foster homes located in 33 states on record.
Soldiers who fail to protect and care for their pets during deployment are criminally liable if their pets come to harm due to negligence. If pets are left in quarters on post, Soldiers will be subject to prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, said Staff Sgt. Stephen Wright, Fort Bragg Police Department.
Soldiers who live off postare also liable for animal abuse or neglect and would face prosecution under North Carolina General Statute 14-360, as well as additional repercussions from their own units.
Most organizations offering foster care require that dogs and cats be spayed/neutered and recommend microchipping and registering pets where possible.
For more information on these programs, visit www.dogsondeployment.org, www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org and www.pactforanimals.org.