Relief groups helping troops bring furry friends overseas

Soldiers and other service members have new options when shipping their furry friends overseas with them for permanent changes of station.

With moving costs rising due to a handful of factors during the COVID-19 pandemic, service members are finding it difficult and expensive to ship their pets to other countries.

The Army Emergency Relief (AER), a nonprofit closely related to the Army, is offering interest-free loans or grants up to $5,500 to help soldiers keep their non-human loved ones as part of the family when they need to follow orders to another nation.

Other similar relief funds like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society are offering similar assistance.

“The intent of the $5,500 is that we found that that’s what it will cost to ship two pets overseas,” said Glen Wellman III, a senior emergency assistance administrator, during an interview with Federal News Network. “That was the intent we’re trying to meet. Most soldiers have one or two pets. We wanted to make sure that we could meet that need.”

The program is open to active duty, reserve and National Guard components.

AER is not putting a cap on how much money it will loan or grant.

Wellman said so far 23 soldiers have requested assistance for a total of $61,100.

“Not only do soldiers have pets, but some of them have service animals,” Wellman said. “To the soldier, a lot of times they consider their pets family members. Not being able to afford to take a family member with them on an overseas assignment is probably a significant emotional event for a soldier or a family.”

A recent report from moveBuddha is showing just how hectic this moving season is for service members.

About 60,000 troops are moving this summer.

“A lot of people are waiting a very long time on their household goods to get delivered, that is probably the number one complaint. The other issue we are seeing is cancellations,” said Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha, a moving rate aggregation site. “When you’re moving, a cancellation is really disastrous because it’s very hard to find a replacement option when that happens.”

Carrigan said military and corporate moves don’t pay as well as civilian moves and therefore contractors are less likely to take their jobs.

With civilian moves up 5-to-8%, Carrigan said military families are having trouble finding companies that will take their jobs.

“Contractors are going to go wherever the highest rate is, and civilian consumers are willing to pay more in the current markets,” Carrigan said.

Wellman said AER is also offering assistance for move related costs like temporary housing, transportation and other unique or unusual costs caused by moving issues.

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