Why My Dog Can’t Fly Free: The Hidden Costs of Military Pet Transportation

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated May 6, 2024

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Because there are so many unknowns and variables, animal transportation can be stressful. There are a lot of logistics to manage when it comes to moving your pet. This is even more stressful if you’re scrambling to make plans for your PCS move.

Ground transportation is the best option for domestic PCS moves. Why? You wouldn’t put your children in the cargo hold of an airplane. Don’t put your pets through the stress and confusion of air cargo travel. Instead, make the humane choice for your pet and allow them to be accompanied for every moment of the journey.

No matter what method you choose, there can be hidden costs. If you’re prepared ahead of time, you may be able to minimize or even eliminate some of these pet relocation costs.

What Costs Should I Consider When Moving My Pets?

The total cost of transporting military pets carries several factors. Let’s take a look at the various factors that go with moving your pet.

  • Distance of the move
  • Size of the animal
  • Any special health considerations
  • Whether the transport is solo or with other dogs and cats
  • Vaccines and health certificates
  • IPATA-approved travel carrier

If it’s an international move, you will also have to pay for a pet passport — the cost of this passport varies depending on the destination country.

Other factors to consider for international moves include the cost of quarantine. Read up on your new country’s vaccine requirements — if you follow the rules to a “T,” you may be able to reduce or eliminate quarantine times. Remember, quarantine locations often charge a per-day fee, so the less time in quarantine the less you’ll pay.

Background on New Military Reimbursement Policy for Transportation

In June 2023, the Department of Defense released new policies regulating pet relocation reimbursement after Congress passed a new law in December 2022. The new policy states as follows:

“As of January 1, 2024, military Service members going through a PCS within the continental United States can be reimbursed up to $550 for one household pet, either cat or dog, and up to $2,000 for moves to or from a location outside the continental United States to cover costs related to the transportation of a pet.”

This is a first — before, military families had to pay to relocate pets themselves. Now, you can get reimbursed for some of the travel expenditures. Unfortunately, the new policy is not applied retroactively.

Make sure you save your receipts. You can find the reimbursement form here.

How Much Will The Government Pay for Families to Move Their Pet?

As stated above, the government will pay $550 for one household pet if the move is in the continental United States. The payment goes up to $2,000 for moves if the locations are located outside the continental United States.

In order to get reimbursed, you must:

  • Use Form DD 1351-2 to claim expenses. You’ll get reimbursed once the travel claim is completed.
  • When traveling outside of continental US, you must use government-run or federally-contracted transportation for their pet shipping needs.
  • If transport services are not available to their transoceanic destination, members must get a “non-availability letter” to get reimbursed for the pet transportation they booked separately.
  • If you’re using cargo because it exceeds the weight limit for in-cabin travel, the receipt must include the pet’s weight.
  • You may get reimbursed for transportation, microchipping, quarantines, boarding, hotel service charges, virus immunity testing and licenses. Remember, keep all of your receipts.

Bottom Line for Service Members

Military pet transportation is not free. But with the new government policies that came into effect in 2024, you can now get reimbursed for pet care during a PCS move. When you use CitizenShipper, reimbursement is easy — we’re grateful for your service and our pro transporters want to make travel as smooth, easy and safe as possible for you and your furry friends.