This month we celebrate the first anniversary of SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets program. Over the past year, SPCA International has played a lifesaving role for 251 military families’ pets. For numerous financial reasons, each dog and cat faced the risk of having to be left behind – either in an already overcrowded animal shelter or handed off to someone else when their families moved to their next duty location. Thankfully 212 dogs and 37 cats were able to remain with their families because of SPCA International supporters.
The Operation Military Pets program was formed out of a concern that military families often have a difficult time coming up with the money to transport their pets when given military relocation orders. Since the military does not cover any of the costs to transport pets, and there are no other organizations that offer this kind of financial assistance, SPCA International decided to step forward and give hope to military families that find themselves in a potentially heartbreaking dilemma. During this last year, 173 families received Operation Military Pets grants. Families like the Unfreds who reached out to us when they were just weeks away from having to make one the hardest decisions in their life.
“I am requesting assistance because I don’t make very much money in the military and my wife and I just had a baby that was born on December 30, 2013. Benjamin is the greatest thing to happen to me, but I am finding it costs a lot of money to raise a child. Unfortunately, it also costs a lot of money to ship our dog Gus from overseas, but I could never leave him behind. My wife and I consider Gus to be our first child and he is a big part of our life. I was injured while on active duty and have to accept orders away from my family in order to get follow up surgeries, so knowing that Gus will be protecting my family while I am away takes a load off my mind. Thanks for helping my family.”
Each time we approve another grant, we know we are making a difference for a military family. As we celebrate the one year anniversary of Operation Military Pets, we are grateful that our supporters also recognize this unique way to help – and thank - members of the military and their pets at the same time. The need for this program’s services is undeniable and for this reason we are starting to prepare for the upcoming summer months - a busy time for the program when military families with children are on the move. Last summer we received as many as two to three applications per day and at times it become overwhelming. That is why we need help so we are able to keep up with the growing demand. There would be nothing worse than having to deny a family a grant because funds were not available and learning that a dog or cat – a member of their family – got left behind.
We just received the following email this week from the Rappa family, also desperate for an Operation Military Pets grant:
“Please help us!!! We just found out we are moving to Nashville, Tennessee next month! This was unplanned and unexpected. We got our orders today and we will be in Nashville on May 30th. We took our dogs to the vet yesterday for their annual checkup and shots and the bill was $728! I have a copy of the receipt. We had no idea the vet would cost us that much yesterday. We thought it would only be like $200 max. It is so expensive here in Hawaii. We are a large family of 5, not including our fur babies. We were quoted today from Delta $1,314.93 to fly Jack and Kona with us to Nashville. We don't have the money to do that. We also priced their XL crates that they will need and that's going to cost us $400. We are in a dilemma. Please help us. We move next month.”
How can we tell this family no? We can’t.
SPCA International has given out $134,875 in grants over the past year, a great accomplishment considering the short time the program has been in existence. It is our hope that Operation Military Pets continues to grow – resulting in more happy endings for military families and their pets.
When the Knopp family had to move and they absolutely did not have the money to fly their dogs Lolita and Sylvia, they left them behind with family. Settling into their new life in Hawaii was difficult for many reasons, but the hardest part was not having Lolita and Sylvia with them. When someone told the Knopp family about Operation Military Pets they could not believe that such a program existed. Now the Knopp household is filled with joy, knowing that their family will soon be together again and Lolita and Sylvia will no longer be spending their days sitting at the window wondering where their family went. Operation Military Pets gave this family a happy ending and the following email expresses their appreciation:
“Thank you for the incredible news, we are both humbled and so grateful for this grant. We can't wait to be reunited as a family, a moment you and this incredible organization is making possible.”
SPCA International hopes to have lots more emails like this to share in the years to come. Nothing would make us happier!