Air Force updates housing pet policy

by Mike W. Ray
Tinker Public Affairs

9/30/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- A policy issued earlier this year that puts more teeth in Air Force pet regulations will have little effect at Tinker Air Force Base, because the edict is almost identical to the established policy of the company that manages family housing.

The update to Air Force Instruction 32-6001 "standardizes pet policies across the Air Force and is compatible with policies of other services," Lt. Gen. Loren M. Reno, DCS/Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, explained in a memorandum.

Only cats, dogs, fish, birds, hamsters and guinea pigs are allowed in Air Force housing, and only two pets are permitted per home at Tinker AFB. The only animals permitted in Tinker dormitories are fish, in a 5-gallon fish tank, said Tech. Sgt. Trenell Brown, Unaccompanied Housing noncommissioned officer in charge.

No exotic pets may be kept in Air Force housing. Blacklisted critters include ferrets; reptiles, such as snakes and lizards; arachnids, such as tarantulas; hedgehogs; pot-bellied pigs; monkeys; skunks; raccoons; opossums; rodents (including squirrels and mice but excluding hamsters and guinea pigs); and farm animals. At Tinker, that includes rabbits. Last year an Airman sneaked a pet rabbit into his family housing residence and it chewed on the baseboards, causing $1,500 damage.

"We were not aware of the situation and damage until after he'd moved out," said LifeWorks Coordinator Patrick McVey of Balfour Beatty Communities.

Residents of base housing also are forbidden from boarding dogs of any breed that are deemed to be "aggressive or potentially aggressive." The Air Force policy expressly mentions pit bulldogs (American Staffordshire bull terrier or English Staffordshire bull terrier), rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, and wolf hybrids. Balfour Beatty Communities proscribes Akitas, as well.

At Tinker, any dog that is "a percentage of pit bull or rottweiler -- up to half-breed of these types" -- is also banned. "This is our company-wide policy," Mr. McVey said.

Exceptions are accorded to any certified military dog that is boarded by its handler/trainer with the written approval of the base commander. Animals trained for use by handicapped persons are acceptable, too, because they are not considered pets, Mr. McVey said.

Any dog that "demonstrates a propensity for dominant or aggressive behavior" can be banished from an Air Force installation. Those are defined as any dog that bites or scratches someone, runs along a fence line when people are in the vicinity, jumps over or crawls through a fence to chase a stroller or jogger, and any animal that barks, growls or snarls at people as they approach it.

In addition, "A dog that barks constantly or habitually violates the leash law can be deemed a nuisance and banished from the base," Mr. McVey said.

Any Tinker resident who was boarding a pet banned by the new directive prior to Balfour Beatty's takeover of base family housing in July 2008 is exempted and may keep the animal, unless it violates the policy on aggressive behavior.

According to Mr. McVey, Balfour Beatty has lost only a few housing applicants at Tinker AFB because of its stance on pets.

"We make it clear when they apply for housing, and certainly before they move in, what our policy is so that there is no misunderstanding," he said.