For as long as he can remember, former high-powered attorney Buzz Miller dedicated his time to improving the lives and well-being of pets. It was while working at animal shelters that he witnessed heartbreaking scenes of military personnel deployed overseas forced to surrender their beloved pets because they had no one to look after them while they were serving for periods stretching for six months to two years.
“I couldn’t stand the idea that these young men and women being deployed to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan and risking their own lives had no choice but to surrender their beloved pets to shelters and hope that they would be able to find new homes and not face euthanasia,” Buzz says.
In 2011, Buzz formed PACT (People + Animals = Companions Together) and set about recruiting people willing to take in military pets for as long as they needed looking after.
“PACT initiates and supervises the placement of pets in a suitable foster home so that deployed pet parents have peace of mind knowing they will be safe, loved and well-cared for during their absence,” Buzz explains. “Initially, we used to vet foster homes with a personal visit but technology has now freed us up to do it via Skype. Thus, we have been able to establish a network of over 700 foster homes in 48 states.”
Sandra Volkert of Bedford, Texas, is fostering her second pair of cats — Otis and Mac. They have been with the Volkerts for nine months and will be under their care for another 10 months.
“I first heard about PACT when a friend who works at an animal shelter called frantically looking for homes for two cats who had been turned out onto the streets by the person who was supposed to care for them while their cat daddy was in Kuwait,” Sandra says. “They were in very bad shape and had been picked up by animal control. They had been at the shelter and their future was bleak, as they were a day away from being euthanized.
“Because they were microchipped, the shelter was able to reach out to their dad and explain that they had found a secure foster situation for them until his return to the United States.”
Sandra looked after the cats for six months and, along the way, found herself “adopting” their military dad, too, striking up a friendship and sending him care packages during the remainder of his tour of duty.
“I come from a military family and it seemed natural to adopt the pet parent, too, as I am already bonded via their pets,” she explains.
Sandra keeps her current fosters separate from her own pets in order to maintain peace and harmony.
“They take turns with my pets to have the run of the home,” she says. “Otis and Mac are very loving and affectionate so it’s very easy to shower them with love and affection.”
Technology makes it easy for Sandra to keep in touch with Otis and Mac’s mom, via text messaging and photo updates. Their cat mom has set up an Amazon auto ship for needs like food and litter, so packages arrive on the Volkert doorstep every month.
PACT’s network offers 24-hour support including veterinary and emergency care, plus helps with transportation and pet travel grants to make the process easier for pet parents in need of a foster arrangement.
PACT’s website pactforanimals.org details everything military personnel need to know about working with PACT as well as what it takes to be registered as a foster parent.
In spite of its canine-centric name, Dogs on Deployment, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, also assists deployed military personnel by fostering their cats while they are deployed or have other service commitments.
The organization was founded by Shawn Johnson, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, and his wife, Alisa Johnson, an active-duty Marine Corps aviator stationed in San Diego, California. Several years ago, as a dual military family, the Johnsons found themselves in a situation where they needed someone to care for their pets. This was the impetus to found this organization in 2011. Get more information at dogsondeployment.org.
The SPCA is actively involved with military personnel with pets. Their Global Rescue Program oversees Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide, which rescues cats (and dogs) befriended by U.S. service members on deployment around the world and helps with travel costs to bring them back home to the United States. And its Operation Military Pets program provides grants to military families who have been given a permanent change of duty station to help pay the transport costs to move their pets internationally.
“However, when it comes to military personnel seeking temporary assistance, we work closely with Dogs on Deployment,” explains Meredith Ayan, executive director of the SPCA’s International Global Rescue initiative.
Meredith applauds people who are prepared to open their hearts and homes to military pets on a temporary basis, adding that, “the most important criteria for fostering pets is love, commitment and follow-through no matter what, so that you don’t cause the military member the unexpected hardship of finding a new foster home while they are deployed halfway across the world.”
For more information on these programs, visit spcai.org.
Linda Spurlin-Dominik founded Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet in 2005.
“I read an article about a soldier who was looking for someone to take care of his dog, named Scooby Doo. I was so touched by his story that I started doing some research only to learn what a huge problem finding proper care for pets was for military personnel leaving the country on a tour of duty. It broke my heart when I discovered that in desperation many were simply being abandoned or surrendered.”
Since getting her nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, Linda and her team have found foster care of 1,122 pets. Apart from cats, the organization has helped with dogs, horses, rabbits and even ferrets. Learn more at gafsp.org.
Seer Farms in Carneys Point, New Jersey, also works with active-duty military personnel as well as veterans who require temporary care for their pets.
“Although we generally serve the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Delaware/New York area, we have had service members from as far away as Mississippi bring their pets to us for temporary placement because they had no other options,” says founder Laura Pople.
Become a foster parent. All of the organizations have comprehensive application forms online.
Give a one-time donation or a monthly amount. Check to see if the organization you’ve selected is linked to online shopping charitable programs, such as Amazon Smile.
Host a fundraiser.
Donate your time and skills. All organizations can benefit from a variety of career skills that can help a welfare organization function better. It’s a matter of reaching out to see whether you have the expertise and talents they can use.
Top photograph: ljubaphoto | Getty Images