Service members would be allowed reimbursement of up to $4,000 for the cost of transporting their household pets when moving to or from a duty station abroad, under a proposal to be considered by Congress.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., submitted an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would allow the services to reimburse service members for pet transportation costs when they are ordered to make a permanent change of station move to or from overseas. The reimbursement would apply to each PCS move.

The amendment uses the word “may,” not “shall,” which means the services would have discretion in whether to reimburse for these costs.

A similar provision is included in the House version of the defense budget policy bill, with notable differences. The House version uses the term “shall” for the reimbursement, but it also establishes a cap of $2,000.

Booker’s amendment will be considered for inclusion in the fiscal 23 defense bill at a later date. Since a provision for reimbursement is included in the House version, House and Senate lawmakers will have to consider whether to include the new benefit in law as they hammer out differences, and what the reimbursement amounts could be.

“It’s been a constant issue for military families for years,” said Kelly Hruska, government relations director of the National Military Family Association. “With airlines, it’s getting more and more expensive, and it’s getting more difficult to transport pets.”

There has been reduced capacity for shipping pets to and from overseas, leaving many military families scrambling to find transportation for their furry family members. Pet transportation costs have soared.

The military relief societies have implemented financial assistance programs to help defray the costs. For example, Army Emergency Relief offers zero-interest loans of up to $5,500 for eligible soldiers.

While the military does have a lower-cost PCS option for shipping pets with their families on government-contracted Patriot Express flights going to and from overseas, it’s space available only for pets, and first come, first served. Service members will in some cases need to use pet shipping services, which can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the pet, where it’s located and where it’s headed.

The Defense Department defines household pets as cats and dogs.

DoD regulations currently allow up to $550 reimbursement to service members for mandatory pet quarantine fees.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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