by Stephen Bajza
If you've ever tried to transport an animal long-distance, you know that it's a complex process that can cost a lot of money -- and it can be even more difficult for servicemembers and their families, who must foot the bill for transporting pets due to frequent relocations, often to other countries. For some, the costs and logistics can be overwhelming, and it was for that reason that SPCA International (SPCAI), which has plenty of experience saving dogs and cats, has a new program assisting those needing to relocate their pets.
"SPCAI has been running the program Operation Baghdad Pups for 5 years," says Stephanie Scott, director of communications for SPCAI. "Throughout our time working to save dogs and cats U.S. troops befriended in wars in the Middle East, we often heard of the hardships military families face here at home with their pets. Our experiences with Operation Baghdad Pups showed us time and time again how important animals are to our troops and their families.
"We have many stories of moms and dads stationed in Iraq who would give the dog or cat they were sending home a hug before handing it off to the SPCAI transporters. That mom or dad would then call their kids at home and say, 'When you hug the dog you will be getting a hug from me.' In other cases we received direct requests from soldiers stationed in other places around the world who needed assistance getting their domestic pets to or from their duty station and the U.S. And we heard from shelters near military bases about the high rates of surrender when military families couldn't afford the high costs of their family pets to new stations. So, as we witnessed all these things, the idea of a program dedicated to this issue began to take shape."
As a result, SPCAI has just formed a new initiative called Operation Military Pets to assist servicemembers and their families in transporting pets. The need for assistance is so great that Operation Military Pets received eleven requests for assistance within its first week.
Morgan's Story: Veteran's PTSD Confidant in Crisis
As an example of the type of work SPCAI does, in 2012 it aided an Air Force veteran who had recently returned from Afghanistan and was enduring PTSD. The veteran's brother contacted SPCAI, wanting to relocate the veteran from San Diego to the brother's family in the Northeast so he could receive support and treatment for his PTSD -- the only problem was that the veteran refused to move without bringing his longtime friend, a cocker spaniel named Morgan, and couldn't afford the hundreds of dollars it would cost to bring Morgan with him. SPCAI rushed the veteran a financial grant to cover the cost of Morgan's flight to the Northeast, and a few days later, Morgan and the veteran flew east together.
The mission statement for Operation Military Pets is as follows:To keep military families together by providing financial assistance for pet relocation costs. All branches of the military can qualify for grants. Whether being relocated within the United States or anywhere in the world, SPCA International's Operation Military Pets aim is to keep pets with the ones they love
For more information about the program, check out the operation's home page at www.spcai.org; the program also gratefully accepts donations. If you'd like to apply for assistance, fill out this form. Anyone who wishes to donate to the program can click through to this page and select the increment they'd like to send.