AFF is constantly receiving questions from army families about financial support and assistance with transporting pets to and from overseas assignments but under current policy pets are a personal choice and it’s not something that’s supported at public expense. However, in these unique and challenging COVID times, AFF is delighted to report a success story in Cyprus due to the Military Air Transport Service.

SSgt Carl Longmate says: “Commercial passenger flights between Cyprus and the UK temporarily ceased earlier this year as a result of COVID-19. Military flights continued, but this left families departing British Forces Cyprus in a heart-wrenching predicament as there was no outlet for their pets. With families refusing to leave their pets behind, the J4 movements team sought to find a solution with dogged determination!”

“After delving into military policy, it became clear that we were barking up the wrong tree as there was nothing in place for the movement of pets,” says Carl.

After exploring multiple avenues, the gov.uk website showed that in order to transport pets, defence would need to become an approved carrier with an approved route.

“After contacting the Animal and Plant Health Agency (a branch of DEFRA) to see how this could be achieved, it became clear that this would be no mean feat – or paw!” says Carl.

Several months and several stranded dog pictures later, we were able to gain approval, granting British Forces Cyprus a three-month waiver to move cats and dogs from RAF Akrotiri to RAF Brize Norton utilising Military Air Transport.”

“With the policy now built and in place, we roped in the British (Forces) Animal Rehoming Centre and the Military Working Dogs vet to help conduct the movements at minimal cost,” explains Carl.

This resource was open to all British Forces Cyprus personnel moving on assignment back to the UK, including service personnel, civil servants and teachers.

As this was unproven ground it was not without its issues as Carl explains: “Only specific aircraft frames are able to transport pets due to their ability to control the temperature within the hold. This led to multiple flights being cancelled last minute, which then had a knock-on effect on pet boarding and finding alternatives.”

Overall, the pet movements were a huge success, with a total of 129 animals moved over a three-month period. Not only did this give families one less thing to worry about during an already stressful time but it saved British Forces Cyprus personnel in excess of €150,000 compared to having to move their pets via civilian freight flights.

“We have just managed to extend this policy until 31 December this year, so wait out for our next update!” adds Carl.

There’s more information on the British (Forces) Animal Rehoming Centre at https://barccyprus.com

Main photo: The J4 Branch at HQ BFC – Flt Sgt Jamie Brown and SSgt Carl Longmate with Bertie 

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