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Tips for Moving With Pets

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As my military family prepares to move to San Diego next year after almost seven years of Hawaii duty, we are dealing with what many military families endure - how to find a rental that allows our big, goofy well-behaved boxer dogs.

Our society loves pets, with most Americans owning at least one. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of all households have pets, but owners struggle to find affordable and safe rental properties. The National Council on Pet Population and Research found that moving is the most common reason owners give up their dogs, and the third most common reason they give up their cats.

Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly spends time with her 12-year-old boxer, Fiona. Donnelly helps other military families find pet-friendly housing. Courtesy photo

Some of the hardships faced by families with animals are restrictive pet policies, which occur in privatized military housing, off-base rentals and city and state governments. These policies also prevent some pet owners from obtaining insurance when purchasing a home. It's unfortunate that irresponsible pet owners have caused property owners, rental companies and even city and state governments to adopt such policies, but there are resources to help military families overcome the challenge.

If you're not ready to buy a home, but determined to find a rental where you can keep your pets, here are some tips to help ensure all members of the family can stay under one roof:

- Check with other military families to find out what's worked for them. "I have two large dogs, and I started looking early, not because I want to choose a place early, but because sometimes you notice patterns in which rental management companies are more pet friendly. I'll contact people that say, "no pets" but then offer a larger pet deposit if it's a house I really like," said Kristen McDeeLite, a military spouse stationed in Hawaii. 

-As soon as you know the location of your next duty station, start looking online. A great resource is the Automatic Housing Referral Network. Sponsored by the Defense Department, this free service lists off-base rentals, privatized military housing, temporary lodging, military-shared rentals, and allows property owners to list their homes for rent. On the listing, there is a paw print next to each rental and information on banned breeds as well as weight, size and numeric limits.

-Contact your sponsor, the base family service center and a local animal shelter. Your sponsor may have a newcomer's packet with housing information. Talk to families already living there and ask them for recommendations. See if local shelters have a housing pet program or other referral services.

-Call properties that state "no pets" and find out why. Perhaps you can build a rapport with the property owner and better understand their negative experiences. Maybe your family can help them overcome the negative stereotypes caused by irresponsible pet owners.

-Demonstrate to your landlord that you consider your pet a cherished, lifetime, indoor family member. Offer to bring your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet to an "interview" with the property owner and have letters of reference from previous landlords, neighbors, obedience instructors and your veterinarian attesting to the good behavior of your pet(s). Have all veterinarian records handy and offer to sign a pet addendum making you personally liable for damage to property and injury to others.

Moving rarely is a smooth, stress-free process. But preparing early, putting aside savings and planning smartly will help alleviate some of the hassle and help ensure your furry family member arrives at your next duty station happy and healthy.

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