What happens when you have to leave your pet during a military deployment or an unplanned hospital stay? Well, there aren't a lot of options. If you have a close family member or friend who can take care of your furry family member, that's great! But if you don't have someone to care for your pet for an extended period of time, you might be forced to put your pet into boarding or even given them to a rescue group for adoption. Well, PACT, which stands for People + Animals= Companions Together, work hard to make sure that people who are serving their country or focusing on restoring their health don't lose their pets during their times of absence.
PACT took a few moments out of their busy day helping our US military service members and those facing lengthy, unexpected hospital stays to tell us about their foster programs.
What is PACT and what does the acronym stand for?
PACT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, temporary, long-term pet foster care to all five branches of the U.S. Military worldwide and hospitalized patients from infants to senior citizens. The acronym stands for People + Animals=Companions Together, reflecting our mission to champion the Human-Animal bond through temporary crises occurring in people's lives.
Where is PACT located? What are your service areas?
Our headquarters are located in the Greater Philadelphia Area, but we are a national organization and our services extend throughout the United States.
What is PACT's Military Foster Program?
PACT's Military Pet Foster Program is a foster care service for pets of our nation's military and veterans. When a soldier cannot find foster care for a pet before leaving to serve our country and their only choice is to put their loving companion in a shelter, never to be seen again, or when a veteran becomes unexpectedly ill, PACT fosters their pets. We assist not only military personnel on deployment, but also those in training or on PCS somewhere that does not allow their pets.
Why was the Military Foster Program started?
Buzz Miller started our program after he retired from a successful law practice to champion the Human-Animal Bond. Through the years he spent volunteering in shelters after retirement, he saw countless military personnel tearfully surrendering their pets because they had no long-term fostering options. Buzz was determined to create an alternative to the shelter system so that these loving companion animals of our military would be waiting in wonderful foster homes for their owners' return.
Do you have any success stories about animals who have been in the Military Foster Program?
We have hundred of success stories available on our website and multiple videos of our foster reunions on YouTube. Each story shares the same theme: pets and owners elated to be together again. Regardless of their backgrounds, or why they needed foster care, pets and owners share an unbreakable bond. The first video we ever made featured Michael King and his two dogs, Bandit and Ruger. On Master Sergeant Michael King's very last deployment before retirement, he was faced with the option of surrendering his beloved dogs to a shelter, or being arrested for failure to follow orders. While Michael was a career military man and loved his work, he was seriously considering fleeing to Canada to protect his pups because they were the reason he had not ended his own life years before. When Michael had returned from Afghanistan six years previous, he was suffering from depression and PTSD, and contemplating suicide. Michael walked into an animal shelter and found a beautiful Rottweiler, Bandit, on the euthanasia list. Bandit was afraid of every other person that came in that day, but Michael saw something in that death-row dog that he connected with and understood, and he went into the run. Bandit crawled over on his tummy and laid his head in Michael's lap, and gave Master Sergeant Michael a reason to live that day, and every day after that. When Michael had no one else who could watch his dogs, he found PACT and drove 17 hours, through 4 states, to place his pets in a safe foster home. When he returned, he ran a fundraiser for PACT for Animals as a thank-you for saving his dogs' lives, and at that fundraiser he met the woman who would become his wife -- they were married a year later on the very farm that fostered his dogs while he was deployed. It is for military men like Michael and their families that PACT for Animals' programs are so important. We literally save beloved pets' lives when they are sentenced to death by something as impersonal and unavoidable as a soldier's housing orders.
What advice do you have for military service members who have pets but cannot bring them on their deployments?
Please fill out an application for pet foster care, or give us a call at (610)-581-4141. We will do our best to keep your beloved pets safe in a loving foster home until you come home from deployment, training, or PCS.
Do you work with the military or government agencies to help service members learn about the Military Foster Program?
Yes, in fact Major General John Gronski is a member of our board. We are invited to speak at all the military deployment programs in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and we hope to speak at more military programs nationwide.
What is the Hospital Foster Program?
The Hospital Pet Foster Program is designed to foster pets while their owners receive treatment for life-threatening illness. This program was founded in 2012 when social workers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) called PACT to help with one of their patients. A 15-year-old boy who needed heart surgery was devastated when he found out his mother had to surrender his dog to Animal Control because the Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH) are unable to take pets. The boy was upset to the point of being inoperable until PACT rescued his dog from Animal Control, and assured him the dog would be there after his surgery was over. Since that first foster placement, PACT has placed pets for patients in CHOP, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Jefferson Hospital, Temple University Hospital, and many more hospitals throughout the country.
How can someone apply to be a part of the Military Foster Program or Hospital Foster Program?
It's easy! Our application to be a foster family is available online. If you do not have access to a computer, or cannot fill out the online application, please feel free to call us at (610)-581-4141 to receive a paper application in the mail. We will then contact you about the next steps -- we do reference checks or personal home visits of all our potential fosters, to ensure they will be a safe foster home for pets in need. We also need volunteers who can help with the home visits so critical to our work, so we can assure people in crisis that their pet's foster home is a safe and loving place.
What can people do to help PACT with their mission to help people and animals?
We are always looking for foster homes and volunteers nationwide. We desperately need donations to fund our work and continue expanding our ability to help people and pets in need. Pet service providers can partner with us to offer discounted services to PACT foster pets. It is our aim to ensure that all beloved pets can be taken care of in a foster home through their family's temporary crisis. This goal, however, is not possible without the help of individuals like you. By volunteering or donating, YOU can save beloved family pets from unnecessary surrender, provide them with safe housing through a crisis, and reunite them with their families once the crisis is over. Please go to PACTforAnimals.org and join us today!
By Sara Stuart
About the Author
Sara Stuart is a lifelong animal lover with a passion for rescue pets. Sara lives in Los Angeles, California with her family, including the head of her house–an adopted corgi mix, Buddy Cruiser.