We’re probably more aware than usual at the vast number of people being shipped overseas because of their employment with the military. What we don’t think about immediately is what this might mean for their non-human family. It is actually a significant problem, and part of the cause of the high numbers in the shelters and humane societies.
There are programs designed to find (hopefully temporary) foster homes for the military personnel, which is great and necessary, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. I could be talking about war, in general, but I’ll leave that for another topic!
One thing seems clear to me – people should be asked (if they aren’t already) before adopting an animal whether they are in the military. They should be encouraged, if they are, to make immediate contingency plans for the “what if” of overseas deployment, or even a simple relocation to a non-combat area, whether international or domestic. The military itself should have programs (if it doesn’t already – I’m not in a position to know) where they provide information on what can be done for the non-human family members. In my opinion, the military should also provide some financial assistance for either relocating the dog, cat, bunny, etc, to the new location, or to contribute to foster care. But since the military neglects to provide full body armor to the soldiers sent overseas, I suppose that providing financial assistance for a soldier’s non-human family is a ludicrous expectation.
There are groups working on this issue. The HSUS has an article and a checklist to help people figure out what needs to be done in case of deployment.
There are other groups, and they all seem to have had success. Apparently there was an even bigger problem during the First Gulf War, so it seems awareness has been raised, and people were more prepared this time around.
There are more directed local ways to get involved as well. The Hawaiian Humane Society, again, has done much to assist in several ways, as discussed in this September ’06 article. Anyone living near military bases has a chance to get involved, whether with an existing program, or starting one of their own.
An article supporting what I’ve written recently about no-pet policies (and, additionally, the high fees imposed on those of us renting by the landlords, the size limits, and the number limits of one or two total) and relocation can be read here. Housing, and the limited choices we sometimes face, directly impact what happens to the cats, dogs, birds, bunnies, and other animals we share our lives with. Military deployment, with the short notice people are often given, can be devestating if plans aren’t made ahead of time. People they may have counted on to be able to help can be limited by the pet policies of people they’re renting from, which adds another layer of complication to a less than ideal situation. In addition military personnel being transferred to a different base, perhaps in a place like Hawaii, may find that they can’t easily find a place to live with their furry family. I do think that campaigns to address both of these issues could easily be linked together, especially in areas with military bases. It won’t completely solve the problem, but removing one reason for relinquishment is a step in the right direction.