By BERNADETTE KAZMARSKI
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 when you are away. 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.
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 as well as other information and services. 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. Today 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. Anyone can register to become a DoD Boarder, and the only requirement from DoD is that you follow pet ownership guidelines for size and number of pets whether you rent or have a Homeowner’s Association or county restrictions regarding pets.
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 boarding home 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 meeting stated medical and service requirements, and spouses who meet the above criteria and need assistance according to DoD requirements.
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, and offers an example DoD Boarding Contract, urging 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. This can be tricky while living an active military life, but DoD provides educational resources and can grant financial assistance during times of emergency 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 they advocate for keeping all breeds in behavior tolerance without resorting to breed bans as well as standardized military pet policies in housing.
For more information, to sign up as a pet owner or boarding volunteer or supporting business or to donate or otherwise support this organization, visit their website at www.dogsondeployment.org, or Facebook page at DogsonDeployment to see a few sample postings.
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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!
“Photo courtesy DogsOnDeployment.org”