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Can I take my pets on relief and development jobs?

April 14, 2014

I have been thinking of this kind of job but I have a dog I’m very fond of and would hate to get rid of are there ways to take a pet with you? – James

Hi James – thanks for your question!

First off – I don’t have any definitive numbers on the number of expatriate aid workers with pets, but there are certainly some. Some adopt (usually) cats or dogs on assignment, others bring the animals with them from home. It’s certainly possible to take your dog with you, but let me give you my rather personal take on this.

When I worked as a desk officer for a major relief and development agency one of the things that I was responsible for was making sure that everything landed in the right place when we were moving expats, their families, and possessions around the world. In the region I worked on we had a handful of expats who had pets, and from time to time I would have to defrag issue related to shipping, handling, and even medical care for their dogs. I have a friend who once even coordinated an evacuation in which he had to get a dog on the manifest of a UN flight. In general the people who do this tend to have a level of seniority that gives them a certain amount of leeway to get the support from their organization that they usually need, but that’s not always the case.

Now understand that I’m not a dog or a cat person, and that my attitudes to this are shaped by the fact that I’ve worked a lot in cultural environments where dogs are not kept as pets, but I have to wonder sometimes at the implicit ethical messages we’re sending when some of our staff spend more on their pets than a typical family spends on food. I think I’m especially uncomfortable with the situations where I’ve seen staff draw-downs where expats and their pets are flown to safety but national staff members are left behind. There are good reasons for this, but the perception of it makes me uncomfortable.

So – the short answer to your question is “yes – it’s possible” – the longer answer is that I don’t think it will increase your chances of getting your first job in this line of work. One of the strategies I advocate is to be as easy to hire as possible, and introducing the idea of shipping animals around the world makes you a more complicated proposition. When you’re a little more senior it’s easier to get away with, but for entry level positions it could put people off. I’d also ask you to really think through whether you want your animal with you in this kind of environment, and how that will look to the local population.

Thanks for the question,

Let us know how you do,


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2014 9:35 am

    I agree, taking your pet with you is too much of a hassle, and I don’t think it’s very nice on the pet! Where I am now, my boss has a dog (that she adopted during another mission), and although the dog leads a nice life, they always worry about what will happen if she ever runs away etc (they eat dogs here)..

  2. May 21, 2014 11:37 am

    Thanks M – I would love to hear more about your experiences if you felt like writing a guest post!

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