Military Pet Policies Tear Families Apart

July 24, 2012  

Pet restrictions within military housing force many families to give up their beloved animals

By Alisa Johnson and Theresa Donnelly

Many of our country’s armed forces willingly lay down their lives, protecting others with their call to honor, to protect and defend our freedom and democracy. According to the White House, there are more than two million men and women who have served in war zones and an unprecedented number of deployments by our National Guardsmen and reservists. The courage of these fine individuals and their families must never be forgotten.

For the overwhelming majority of troops, this family includes their cherished pets. For military families that face constant deployments and other uncertainties, there’s comfort knowing a pet will be there to give unconditional love when they return. Videos on the Internet document these emotional reunions filled with wagging tails, uncontrollable licking and animals bouncing around, so excited they can barely walk. Some pets jump right into the arms of their thrilled owners.

Not only do pets help heal the troops, these furry family members help military spouses tremendously as they settle into a home routine without their loved one. Often spouses find themselves doing tasks they would normally have help with, such as raising children alone and sometimes doing so without the support network of close family and friends.

“Nothing can truly fill the hole in my heart when my husband is gone,” said Brianda Gracia, a Marine spouse stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. “We have no kids, and my dogs bring me so much love and joy. They make me smile. I would be beyond depressed without my pups.”

Considering how vital pets are for stability and love, it’s shocking to know there are official military housing pet policies in place, forcing families to abandon cherished pets. This is because there’s no standardized pet policy to facilitate forever ownership. Instead, we have inconsistent weight, size and numeric limits. Furthermore, our housing policies include unscientific and unenforceable breed bans.

Below are just some examples of the inconsistencies in military housing, and there are many others.

Lincoln Military Housing, which owns base housing at Marine Corps bases Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and Quantico, as well as large Naval bases NAS Fallon, Lemoore and Norfolk states as their pet policy, “Only two pets, dogs and/or cats are allowed in the home. Full or mixed breeds of pit bulls, Rottweilers, canine/wolf hybrids, or any canine breed with dominant traits of aggression are not permitted aboard the installation or in housing.”

Balfour Beatty, a larger company in military privatized base housing bans not only full or mixed breeds of pit bulls, Rottweilers and canine/wolf hybrids, but also Akitas, Chows, Dobermans, American Staffordshire Terriers and English Staffordshire Bull Terriers. This includes a grandfather clause in their policy that states, “For residents in housing on or before March 31, 2008 these animals will be ‘grandfathered’ if the resident had this type of pet and it was documented in their housing file. These pets must be muzzled when they are outside of the home.”

However, military families have told us that it is often difficult to get a pet grandfathered in, and it only applies to a singular base where the pet was originally owned. In other words, the grandfather clause does not follow the pet, only the base.

And it’s not just the bans, it’s numerical limits that are breaking apart families. Pinnacle Military Housing allows up to four walking pets, while most base housing allows only two. We have been contacted by several families that lived in housing where they were allowed to keep their two dogs and two cats, but then moved to a housing complex that only allows up to two, forcing them to re-home two of their four pets. Some base housing, including Balfour Beatty, consider a bird cage or fish tank to count as one pet, bringing the total number allowed to one walking pet.

Based on these differing policies of many of the base housing key players, the problem is obvious. There is no consistency and no protection granted to pet owners.

This is the first of a series of blogs to explain why and how this destructive policy is having devastating consequences as military families are forced to give up their family members. We hope by sharing their heartbreaking stories, you’ll be inspired to join us in our quest to ask the United States Department of Defense for an overarching pet policy that focuses on education and enforcement, regardless of subjective breed identification. Sign the petition here.

For more information, visit the post on the subject.

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10 Responses to “Military Pet Policies Tear Families Apart”
  1. I never knew this about our military…so depressing. Can’t these soldiers who are fighting for our freedom at least have the joy and love their pets bring into their lives? 

    • StubbyDog says:

      annedreshfield We know Anne, its shameful of those in charge to deny soldiers their family pets. Hopefully we can all work to change this policy in our military.

  2. LornaAnstey says:


  3. Military families are special for several reasons and think this is one more thing they have to fight is sickening. A very good friend of mine serves in the military and had two of pit bulls taken from her, she was devastated as were her children.  Another group to educate.

    • StubbyDog says:

      theprettychic We can’t imagine what your friend went through. Yes, we do have to educate the military brass, so this can’t happen any more.

      • StubbyDog She was emotionally down for a little while yet she had a job to do. It makes it hard to do your job when the morale is so low.  She supports us in all we do for pitties.

  4. pitbullsrock says:

    We have adopted animals from the Whidbey Island shelter (WAIF) in Oak Harbor, WA, where many cats and dogs are simply left to fend for themselves when a member of the military is relocated (not that it’s always a member of the military). It’s heartbreaking to think that the ones who want to keep their animals are unable to do so because of these ambiguous restrictions.

  5. jumperpixie says:

    We are struggling with this right now… might have to find a home for one of our family members, Ellie (pit mix).  Lincoln military housing in Lemoore will not allow her.  I am heartbroken… and at a loss at the moment…

  6. BrendD says:

    There is another side to this. I work in animal rescue. While I have the greatest respect for the military (my stepson is presently in Afghanistan) every year at Ft Campbell, Ky hundreds of dogs are taken in to the Ft Campbell Stray Animal Impound and a high percentage of them end up euthanized. Every time there is a deployment there is an unbelievable number of strays because rather than go to the effort to find these animals homes, the people leaving turn these animals out to the streets to fend for themselves. i understand they have no control over where they are sent – but they do have advance notice.
    It is not as if they are told “OK Tomorrow you are being deployed.” Over the past few months Ft. Campbell has stiffened pet regulations on base in an effort to stop some of this. People are in the military because they chose to be there. These animals are innocent victims who do not chose to be brought on a military base and then killed.