4 Reasons Not To Get A Pet


Like many other military families, we are the proud owner of a fur child. Her name is Annie, and she is a black lab. She is gentle, loyal, great with our kids and the best company a girl could ask for. She kept my husband’s side of the bed warm during his 15 month deployment to Iraq.

But if you asked me if I could go back in time, would I get a pet? The answer is “no” While pets can bring a lot of joy to a military family, they can also bring more complications to an already complicated life. Here’s why:

You never know when you are going to PCS overseas. The military will pay to ship many things overseas. One thing they do not pay for is pets. Even if you can afford the expense of overseas shipment, many countries subject animals to lengthy quarantines.

Stateside PCSing with pets is challenging, too.┬áIf you are driving a lengthy distance to your new destination, you will probably require at least one overnight stop. Finding a hotel that accepts pets is both more difficult and more expensive. When you get to your new duty station, you may be required to live in temporary housing for an extended period of time. Most temporary lodging facilities have limited pet friendly quarters. You may be forced to find more expensive lodging or pay to board your pets locally. Finally, it’s harder to find a rental home. If you are able to find a pet-friendly home that meets your needs, you are most likely subject to a hefty (and often non-refundable) pet deposit.

Pets need love, too! When our servicemembers are away, we spouses are often strapped thin. When my husband is traveling or on a deployment, I am overwhelmed by chasing my girls and picking up all the household duties. My dog often gets the short end of the stick. Not only is it more stressful for me, but it’s not fair to Annie who does not get the TLC she deserves.

It’s more expensive to visit friends and family. Many military families are frequent travelers. Since we are most often stationed away from our friends and families, we tend to hit the road to see our families when the opportunity to take leave arises. It’s often hard to find someone to pet sit and having to board your animal makes an already costly trip even more expensive.

So — is having a pet really worth the trade-off to you?

About the Author

Erin is an Army wife of seven years and the mother of two little girls. Her Army wife resume includes five deployments, five PCS moves, four duty stations, and a few stints volunteering with the family readiness group. She has been documenting her family's military life experience since 2008 on her blog The Unexpected Army Life.
  • Sarah

    I love my petS, yes we have TWO. And we take them across the country, and home for visits. My family knows if they can’t come we aren’t coming. Pets give comfort people can’t, in my opinion. People try to “get it”, pets just love you and lick away the tears from your cheeks. I would never get rid of my dogs because of our lifestyle. Kids are a hassle too and that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from having them. Not saying pets and kids are the same but overall when speaking in terms of ease of life, kids make life a lot harder than pets do. So yes, my pets are 110% worth the trade off.

    • Do you HAVE kids? There really is no comparison.

      We have two kids. Yes, we have a dog. Yes, I adore her!! Yes, we live overseas. Yes, we will take the dog to the next duty station, and the one after that, and the one after that, etc, etc. But if there were ever a time when I had to choose between what was in the best interests of our family/kids and what was best for the dog? Sorry, dog. We’ll find you a new and very loving family. We would never, ever, ever, ever leave her with someone we don’t trust…. but yes, it’s in the back of my mind that the dog would get the short end of the stick if it really came down to it. Dogs are NOT people.

      • Sarah

        no I DONT have kids, and if you read my comment you would see I am not comparing the two. There are a lot of things that are a hassle but people do it anyway. Kids, college, careers, even gardens. Doesn’t mean you don’t do it. Some people prefer kids, I prefer pets.

      • guest

        We do have kids and I agree 100% with Sarah, the kids are a bigger PITA then the 4 pets. Just like kids I would NEVER imagine giving one of them up just because it was difficult, they are children in their own right. Frankly, if you feel differently, you shouldn’t be owning pets.

    • shaka

      i have kids and several pets and while obviously kids are different (she’s not an idiot ya’ll she knows there is a difference) she is right!

  • We have 2 dogs and they’re definitely worth it to us! Yes, it’s a hassle to board them when we go places, but they cuddle with me, run with me, fill the other half of the bed during deployments, and are just generally awesome. Yes, they’re expensive, but that’s something I understood and prepared for when we adopted them. If I could go back in time, I’d definitely still get dogs. Heck, I’m trying to convince my husband we should get another one!

    Oh, and while rentals and temporary lodging are a pain with dogs, overnight stays at hotels don’t have to be — several hotel chains (Motel 6, some Baymonts and La Quintas) welcome pets and don’t charge extra. When I drove from GA to CA with my 2 fifty pound dogs, we stayed at two hotels and neither charged anything above the normal room fee at all. You just have to make sure to plan in advance, because you can’t randomly pull into a hotel when you have pets with you :)

  • Amy_Bushatz

    Count me in for “not worth it.” But honestly we bought the dog so that my son would grow-up with a pet … not because I wanted a dog. The dog is therefore just extra work me. And while I do plan to move with her, etc. stateside no — we will not be taking the dog overseas. Sorry, dog.

    • mel

      Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten the dog. I believe in accepting fully the responsibility, for their entire lifeftime, of each pet I bring into my home. People who do not take the responsiblity seriously should not get the pet. I have had 2 cats with complicated medical issues and I accepted the additional work and cost because I brought them into my home and committed myself to taking care of them. I look at pets as a for better or worse commitment and they are a part of my family. My kids are learning those same values and when they are on their own I hope that they will also be responsible caretakers of the pets they bring into their homes.

    • SemperSteen

      I really, really hope you’re trolling. People like you are exactly why shelters are hesitant to adopt animals out to military families- because so many military families seem to consider living, breathing animals to be accessories to throw out when they’re tired of them. It’s disgusting.

  • Syven

    While I respect other people’s decisions, I have always taken the stance that pets are not disposable anymore so than children are. The decision to get a pet should be taken very seriously and with the intent of it being a lifelong companionship, regardless of the hassles, expenses and lack of occasional play time.

    No, I don’t have children. But that was a conscious decision on my part, the same as adopting my cat and dog were. Dogs in particular have a harder time rebonding after they bond with one family so you are putting them through sorrow and loss even if it is with “another loving family”. What if that family is military? If you can’t commit to a pet, don’t get it. They have feelings, too.

  • mel

    I have found that cats are more compatible with my current lifestyle. I grew up with dogs and miss having them around, but at this time in my life I do not feel that I can devote the time needed to give them a good life. My day to day life isn’t exactly consistent and my cats aren’t as demanding for constant human companionship. It’s been easier to find people to take care of my cats when I am away, since they only need to have someone come by once a day. Also, it’s not an issue to leave them alone for a weekend as long as I leave out big bowls of food and water. Also, I don’t have to worry about banned breeds and weight restrictions like I would if I had dogs. I plan to get a dog when my husband retires and we finally settle down somewhere. Also, I will make sure that the “forever” home we buy will have a nice big yard for a dog to enjoy.

  • Fred

    You are just too lazy to do a little paper work in order to take the pets with you. I brought two dogs to Japan which has the most stringent laws and it was only a little extra work. I can’t believe military.com would put this on their homepage. The reason there are so many homeless pets is because of laziness!

    • maureen

      Rather someone admit to their reluctance than to trash another animal! I agree that it’s just some paperwork, but I would rather this person admit that they’re unwilling rather than have an unhappy, maybe neglected or abused critter hanging about. Animals need to be wanted and appreciated and if this writer can’t summon the gumption to do so, God bless her for admitting it rather than taking an animal for which she can’t provide.

  • Tips From The Homefront

    Our pets are worth it! We took our dog to Japan and she did an at home quarantine here in the states before we left.

    I feel like in our every changing world as a military families our pets offer something consistent to our children especially our dog who we have had since before we were married. They bring me comfort when I have to sleep alone (nothing like a bed full of fur to make feel a little less alone).

    To each their own I suppose…… I have recently written two blogs about owning pets and give tips to make it possible to own them because they are worth it if that is what you feel is important to your family.

  • Sonja

    I grew up in a mil family that every time we moved we had to give away our pets. I swore that when I grew up I would never do that. I haven’t either. When I was single, my cat traveled everywhere with me, even when I backfilled during Desert Storm. My pets are my children. We have chosen not to have the 2 legged type. We travel with them and have never had a problem finding a hotel to stay. When we wanted to adopt a rescue dog, the lady almost did not want to let up adopt because we were military. People we have a BAD reputation when it comes to pets. She did allow us to adopt and we had our wonderful dog for 9 years. When he died we did not get another one. Husband was getting ready for a deployment and I went to grad school with my two cats. When he returned he wanted a dog but we decided that neither of us would have the time a dog takes and I worried that the cats would not accept one. So we are waiting. These two cats will be with us until they take their last breath.

  • MsCamo

    I have never understood how people can just “give” away their fur babies. It is heartbreaking if it becomes necessary to find a new home for a pet. And I mean necessary for the animal’s health and well being, not your own. I will keep any pet I have (and have done so) until they die, they are my responsibility and I cherish them and every minute I have with them. I have decided that I will not take my current dog with me overseas if that happens, but he will be going to stay with Grandma while I’m gone, just like one of his predecessors did 20 years ago when I went to Germany for 3 years (she lives on a farm, so it will be like permanent summer camp for him). She is also the only person I leave him with if I have to go anywhere he can’t go. I just drive to her house first (she is 4 hours away), it is worth it to know that he is taken care of and I don’t have to worry about him. Finding a kennel is like finding a babysitter, hard, hard, hard. So if you can’t take the responsibility to be a pet’s forever home or wouldn’t take them if you had to go overseas (without a back up plan) then you shouldn’t get the pet in the first place. Oh, and spay and neuter, no reason in the world, not to.

  • Camille

    I have THREE pets. Two cats and a Dog. The cat has traveled with me everywhere I’ve gone for eight years. The two dogs I’ve had for three years and a year and a half. We will be ETSing soon. I also have three sons. Maybe it’s just me and the way I am, but I see no reason to get rid of a dog due to a deployment. My dogs were actually a welcome extra distraction to me and my boys. Would I go back and change weather or not I got them? Never. They are my children just as much as my boys are.

  • W. S.

    Hey, if we can go cross country with a three month old baby, two dogs, a cat and a HORSE then anybody can do it with any animal.

    • Erin

      Two years ago, we did a cross country PCS journey with a 6month old, two cats, and a dog. Don’t get me wrong, it is doable. But it definitely makes logistics more complicated.

  • SemperSteen

    While I definitely believe no one should adopt a pet unless they are absolutely committed to giving an animal a “forever home,” I think a pet can be a military spouse’s best friend. My husband and I went through a whole lotta hassle and spent a good deal of money to get our dog and cat overseas to Hawaii, which has very strict (and costly) quarantine requirements, but they are worth it and when we adopted them we made a promise to them to care of them, no matter what. And they are worth it all. My guy’s deployed right now and I can’t imagine not having our little fuzzballs snuggled up to me every night.

  • CDS

    I don’t think these are reasons not to get a pet as much as they’re reasons not to do so LIGHTLY. You do twang to go out and get a pet because you’re bored. Myself, I was brought up with the idea that this is a commitment I make to this animal for its lifetime. All these factors played a part in the MONTHS I spent considering whether or not to adopt my dog. It’s definitely something you want to give a lot of thought to, especially because of these added military factors, except for the last one which applies to all pet owners.

    • CDS

      That’s “You don’t want to go out and get…”. Thank you auto-correct.

  • Julia

    I love spousebuzz, but this was a pointless post. And it is discouraging for new military families. What it is saying is “you’re a military family, just in case your life isnt abnormal enough, it’s stupid to have dogs so just don’t”… It’s hard and costly to PCS with kids too, but no one in their right mind would tell you to not have them of you’re in the military too.

  • Hannah

    We have two dogs and two cats. We are their forever home, even if we go overseas. We have discussed the possibility of it being too expensive, but my inlaws have graciously offered to keep them for us if necessary. I could NEVER give up my fur kids to a shelter or to another family though. I’d always be worrying about if they were happy and being well taken care of. I think the pros of having pets (if you are an animal person) definitely outweigh the cons for military families. Pets graciously absorb our stress and problems while returning 100% unconditional love, acceptance and joy.

  • wanderlust14

    Bahahaha, you failed to mention a few things such has the ability to finding pet-friendly housing options, breed bans to name a couple

    I just PCS 1500 miles with 1 dog (All 125 pounds), 2 guinea pigs, chickens, 2 fish, 2 kids, 2 cats and 10 bottle-feeding kittens)…. My husband decided to take the Uhaul. This is our 10th PCS with our Zoo. We have done mutiple overseas tours with with 3 dogs (A Bull Mastiff, A rottie/shepherd mix, and a Shepherd MIx (2 have passed away at the great age of 12 and 14), and 2 cats. I would do it 100x over.

    I think a major issue that was failed to be mentioned is if you can’t make the lifelong commitment to a pet. Please contact your local 501 animal rescue organization. They are general in desperate need of foster homes for homeless dogs, cats, reptiles, furry rodents, i.e. and often times they will provide the food and supplies. Along with vet care for the animals.. And you forgot the fact it is diffcult to find understanding landlords :)

  • Rquick

    Hell yeah its worth it!! But I fully agree if you can’t handle it then don’t get a pet. To many people see them as disposable and not a real commitment. or they get puppies and their feelings sour when they turn in to dogs. But I am fully willing to pay for vet visits, boarding, pet deposits. Things may be harder but not impossible.

  • Angela

    My husband and I have two 9 year old English Bulldogs. Together we have been through an OCONUS PCS, two cross-country PCS’s, and many road trips. We kept their shot records up to date and never had to quarantine them. The only expense we incurred with an OCONUS PCS was the shipping (about $300 total). We knew about the shipping costs and summer restrictions and planned for them, just like with any other PCS travel expense.

    We have NEVER had an issue finding a hotel. We have stayed at Sheraton, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, La Quinta, Motel 6, Super Eight, etc. and never had to pay an extra fee. Usually, when my husband shows his military ID card, we end up with a discount and a “Thank you for your service”. At some hotels, we have even been given doggie treat bags and special bedding. Every hotel we’ve stayed at has also had a designated pet “relaxation” area for them to take care of business.

    We have also never had any issues finding civilian rentals or getting into housing. Maybe we have been lucky? We have lived in Europe, TX, CA, and DC and have never been homeless because we have dogs.

    When we visit family, we take our boys with us. Family has never turned us away and we’ve never had problems finding a hotel along the way. Although that works for us, I realize some people can not travel with their pets all the time. In that case, SitterCity.com can help you locate a sitter for your pet. Some Petsmart locations offer pet lodging and so do a lot of vet clinics. It’s not THAT difficult or challenging to have a pet.

    If I could re-write this post, I would say the #1 reason not to get a pet is if you don’t view having a pet as a commitment. If you view a pet as an accessory or something to occupy the kids, you have no business getting a pet. Leave the dog at the shelter for someone who can give it a forever home.

    The #2 reason would be if you aren’t in a position (financially) to deal with possible medical issues. If you can’t afford to pay for vaccinations or doctor visits if your pet should become sick, you need to wait until you can. There’s no point in making your pet suffer or putting yourself into debt. Just like all parents should consider the financial impact of having children, all pet owners should consider the financial impact of having a cat or dog. Healthcare can be expensive.

    The #3 reason would be if you don’t have time to devote to the new member of your family. This is the only reason I agreed with from the original poster. If you can’t handle the dog, kids, work, the house, etc while your spouse is traveling or deployed, then leave the dog at the shelter for someone who can… or for someone who values the pet enough to make sure they don’t feel neglected.

    Overall, being in the military has not made having pets difficult or challenging for us. Then again, we never viewed them or treated them as anything less than family.

    • patty

      well said!

    • Guest

      Hi there,
      How did you ship your english bulldogs (OCONUS) for such a reasonable price? We have a move coming up with one english bulldog (2 years old) and nobody will fly her at all :( I’m curious as to how you went about it.

  • Having a pet is about long term commitment. Don’t get one if you don’t want to deal with the “hassle” of possibly moving overseas (or anywhere really) with them. We drove cross country with two cats and even managed to camp in Yellowstone in tents with them. A little more complicated yes but worth it. I love my boys.

    We have two cats and two dogs and i can’t imagine life without them. They will be with us until they die. As for visiting people, we have friends who will keep the dogs while we’re gone and check on the cats a few times. In return, we watch their pets while they’re on vacation. Yes, 4 dogs can get crazy but it’s worth it. If we have to we can board them but we’re thankful to have friends who will watch them too. I know they’re spoiled rotten and well taken care of while we’re gone.

  • pjdisney

    I am deeply insulted. Would you make the same claims about children? They are expensive to keep, they can keep you from traveling, and require an enormous amount of your time and effort.
    My wife and I are the two in the cover photo with the shar pei, the yorkie, and the pomeranian. The photo was taken as an example of being great “pet parents.” We were horrified to find that our stock photo was used to outline why NOT to have pets.
    We have pets because I am unable to have children, thanks to a series of devastating combat injuries. You see, our pets ARE our children. We have moved to England and back with a cat and a dog, and further moved to our current location with two dogs and two horses.

    For those of you who see your pets as an accessory, Erin’s “not worth it” title may hold true for you. But, I can safely say that for anybody in a similar position as my wife and I, your pets are worth every single second and every single penny. I would rather be flat broke than to have never experienced the love and adoration of every single member of my family…fur and all!

    • patty

      i couldn’t agree more!

      • pjdisney

        I agree with you both! Pets are certainly not for everybody in the military, but then neither are children, spouses, or Corvettes…LOL!!! However, for those of us who enjoy their companionship and are willing and able to accept the added cost and responsibility, pets are a true blessing!

        Thank you for your thoughts and well-wishes!

  • patty

    i couldn’t be reading this at a more perfect time! my husband and i live in germany and have two dogs who have moved with us to three countries.

    we just returned from eating in a local restaurant where unfortunately, two children were allowed to run wild. the restaurant manager even talked to them to pipe down with not a word from the parents. one of the little ***** then started picking her nose and wiping her boogers all over the tabletop.

    frankly, you keep the kids; i’ll take my dogs!

  • A great resource when looking for pet friendly lodging is http://www.petswelcome.com/ . They list hotels by state. We have a dog, a hamster and a variety of crabs. My husband always says it is “my dog” because he did not really want one, but my now he spoils him as much as I do *lol*. Yes, life would be easier without a pet sometimes, but when you take on an animal you are aware of the costs and obstacles or else you should not do it. What it comes down to is to see if you can afford the commitment for the next decade or more and make an informed decision.

  • sarah

    I wouldn’t trade having my basset hound for anything! =o] Granted I had him for about 5 years before getting married and “joining the Army”, but I still wouldn’t trade having him with me for anything. He was instrumental during my hubby’s deployment as my battle buddy. Dogs especially are so intuitive to their people’s moods and feelings and things they are going through. When I didn’t have a friend to go to, it was so comforting to just have him there to shed some tears and I knew he wouldn’t look at me any different. Even though I’m a very active person, when I got sick he also got me out of the house to at least get walks in on a daily basis.

  • naureen

    We did all the moves and hassles with a 200 lb Great Pyrenees that we rescued. When we had to put him down because a neighbor posiened him, we rescued a magnificent Black Lab. Our son said, “Well, Max helped to raise me this far, and Micky can help the rest of the way. There wasn’t a hassle big enough to part us from our dog.

  • mysomerdai

    My husband and I own FOUR large dogs, all of which are typical “BSL” breed. I owned three when we met, and when one passed we then over time adopted two more. They all came from horrendous backgrounds and we refuse to rehome them even when it gets hard. Though my husband always stresses about finding housing we have never had a problem finding a house within our budget in a safe neighborhood. They are all rescues from bad backgrounds and DESERVE a forever home.

    When we had the chance to apply for a Spain placement, we declined because of breed ban laws. But if we had to his parents offered to care for them. And when my husband volunteered to go to Afghanistan, they were there for me to alleviate the loneliness, and I even fostered other dogs while he was gone to do more good in the world. I think sometimes that he missed them more than me!

    If you see a pet as a money pit, as a dirty animal, as a waste of time, or just “for the kids” then DON’T get one. They aren’t kids, but they ARE members of our family and are not disposable.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with this article for me personally. I respect other people’s decision to have pets. Pets are not for me. I will gladly leave pet ownership to other people.

  • Brittney

    these articles amaze me. everything i’ve read on this website is purely opinion. there’s nothing factual. i might as well be on facebook.