When you’re about to be deployed in the military the last thing you should need to worry about is the safety and care of your pets and worrying about their care when you are away, yet considering your return to life with them and family and friends is one of the things that brings a serviceperson comfort while on deployment. But often military members have to surrender their pets to an unknown fate in a shelter because foster homes or boarding is hard to arrange or costly for the unknown and unpredictable terms of a deployment, and considering how members of the military are often moved around you may not even know your neighbors.
Serving all pets, all military, active duty, veterans and wounded warriors
Dogs On Deployment is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit which provides an online network for service members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets during their owner’s service commitments, but it also provides a host of services to members and veterans of military service in regard to their pets. The organization promotes responsible, life-long pet ownership by military pet owners by advocating for military pet owner rights, providing educational resources and granting financial assistance for military pet owners during times of emergency. They welcome not only members of the military to use their service but also individuals who are willing to foster or board pets and businesses who support members of the military with discounts and services.
The organization was founded in 2011 by husband and wife, Shawn and Alisa Johnson, who serve in the US Navy and US Marine Corps respectively. As a dual-military family, they have found themselves in situations where they needed a program like Dogs on Deployment. Alisa had orders to move to Quantico, Virginia where she was to attend six months of military training while her husband Shawn was to be deployed at the same time and neither could care for their beloved dog, JD. They were lucky enough to have family to rely on, but recognized the need for a program which would help others who found themselves in a similar situation. Thus, Dogs on Deployment was born.
Founders Alisa and Shawn Johnson proudly own two miniature Australian Shepherds, JD and Jersey, and two Caique parrots, Kiki and ZoZo, who are the inspiration behind their work. They not only founded the organization but are also active fosters for Dogs on Deployment and local rescue groups.
How Dogs on Deployment works for boarding pets while on deployment
The core service is an online listing for military members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets while they’re deployed. Individuals register as volunteer DoD Boarder for pets, while military service personnel register their Pets in Need for boarding while deployed. Dogs on Deployment (DoD) doesn’t help to find or organize the boarding, only providing the listing service.
For DoD Boarders
Though the site stipulates that volunteer boarders live within 50 miles of a military base, DoD customer service assures the distance requirement need not be met to qualify. “There are military members in need that don’t necessarily live near a major military installation, including National Guard members. We also assist veterans, and Department of Defense members that meet our requirements,” Sharon Spears answered in an e-mail. Anyone can register to become a DoD Boarder, and the only requirement from DoD is that, if you rent, your leasing agency is notified if you begin to board a pet and will allow the pet you are going to board on the premises. This includes common sense pet ownership guidelines for all pet owners: the pet must meet breed and size requirements and the volunteer boarder must stay within the maximum number of pets allowed. If you own your home instead of renting, there must be no Homeowner’s Association or county restrictions of the type of pet you will be boarding (Breed Restriction Legislation).
DoD will also work with organizations who have a program to foster pets in addition to individuals who volunteer.
Aside from these guidelines, pet owners themselves may have additional requirements for a home such as the number or types of other pets in the home or a yard, but these requirements are arranged according to the needs of the Pet Owner and Pet in Need.
For DoD Pet Owners
A DoD “Pet in Need” is legally owned by a military member who is currently unavailable to give it care due to military commitments. These commitments include active duty and reservist personnel going on deployment, command training or required military travel, veterans who have been honorably discharged meet stated medical and service requirements, and spouses who meet the above criteria and need assistance according to DoD requirements.
At right is a sample Pet in Need post from the DoD Facebook page: “Military member in #Washington needs help from a #DoDBoarder to watch her cat Toby while training out of state. Toby is a sweet cat. He loves to play. Can you help? #DoDmilpet” The post also included specifics about Toby’s physical and health characteristics as well as place and pertinent dates of need.
Pet owners are required to accurately and honestly describe their pet, its personality and its needs, and only list the pet for temporary boarding, not for rehoming. In addition, DoD does not assist pet owners who need assistance for their pets for non-military reasons such as personal vacations.
For both the volunteer boarder and the pet owner DoD provides a host of resources and suggestions to help the boarding setup and management be successful for both parties and all pets involved such as questions to ask each other, how to ask for certain requirements for your pet or of the boarder, arranging a meet and greet to make sure everyone gets along. DoD also offers an example DoD Boarding Contract and urges all parties to review and retain a signed copy.
For DoD Business Members
Dogs on Deployment will list businesses and organizations which support members of the military and their pets in order to foster the military-pet community. DoD Vendors must be a business related to military, family or pet care and offer a discount or incentive program to all military members so that when a business registers as a DoD Vendor they can have DoD Members referred to their business through their promotional incentives.
Assistance and advocacy in many ways for all military members, veterans and their pets
Throughout their website, blog, Facebook page and more DoD emphasizes responsible lifelong pet ownership, age-appropriate spay and neuter and proper veterinary care by pet owners and this can be tricky while living an active military life, but DoD offers a host of resources and assistance for members of the military, veterans and their families who qualify. They also advocate within the military to have pets considered members of the family when servicepersons are deployed and sending information about DoD up the chain of command so that military personnel can be informed by their superiors about their options when they need to move. And they advocate for keeping all breeds in behavior tolerance without resorting to breed bans as well as standardized military pet policies in housing.
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I found out about Dogs on Deployment while at the Pittsburgh Pet Expo. I have provided long-term foster to a number of pets over the years, none to military personnel, but there’s nothing like knowing you are providing comfort and relief to someone by caring for their pet when they can’t. If you can board pets for DoD, I urge you to sign up!
To read about another organization that assists veterans and pet, visit Pets for Patriots. And let’s hope everyone soon comes home to stay.
Read other articles in the category of “Health and Safety”.
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