Going through a long-distance move or corporate relocation can be a very challenging project for a family with a pet. Anyone who has undergone the moving or vacation process with a pet knows about the additional complications this brings: the nuisance of traveling day, anxiety from bringing the pet on the plane, strict airline regulations on where and how a pet can board.
Some situations are trickier than others are. Animals with special needs, older or larger pets are harder to transport. If your animal's vaccinations or veterinary records aren't up to snuff or if it's in the wrong size crate, you may not be allowed to bring your pet on the plane. If you happen to be moving overseas, bringing your pet means overcoming a daunting list of export restrictions and quarantine rules, the details of which vary from country to country.
Even a more routine day-to-day movement involving animals, such as a midday trip to the vet, can turn into a difficult task. Some cities restrict animals, except for service animals, on their public transit systems. Yellow cabs often refuse to pick up passengers with leashed pets. These situations can try the patience and resourcefulness of pet owners.
Pet traveling services exist to help families deal with the logistics of transporting their animals safely and conveniently. Live animal shippers, pet taxi services and professional pet relocation companies are meeting increasing demand.
The pet transportation industry is growing at a healthy pace. These services can be costly, but if a pet is a cherished part of your family, it stands to reason that no effort or expense should be spared ensuring the animal's comfortable movement. Let's look more closely at how these operations work, starting with pet shipping services.
Pet Shipping Services
When the owner cannot accompany the animal, a professional pet shipping service will ensure that the pet reaches a care provider at the destination. Ground transportation, when available, is frequently considered the preferable method. But every year, thousands of animals travel unaccompanied on passenger planes as air freight.
Due to recent Federal Aviation Administration regulations, commercial airlines can only accept cargo from known shippers, so a professional pet shipper is required in such situations [source: International Pet Shipping].
Look for a shipper that belongs to the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA), a network that provides oversight for the industry and helps maintain common practices and ethics. When shipping long-distance, shippers work with other IPATA member organizations at the destination.
Shipping live animals requires a lot of advance planning and attention to detail. This is where professional involvement is most helpful. The shipper will make sure that you obtain the requisite permits, import/export licenses, health certificates and other documentation, following the specific requirements of the jurisdictions on both ends of the journey.
Some airlines ban live animal cargo and others are poorly prepared to handle live freight. The seasoned shipping services are familiar with the preferred carriers and routes, as well as the timing considerations involved in booking a flight for your pet.
Animals shipped as airfreight travel below the cabin in the cargo hold: an insulated, pressurized, climate-controlled environment. Air travel is generally as safe for animals as it is for human beings.
Transported pets must travel in a secure kennel, small enough to fit in the cargo deck but large enough to permit the animal to stand, lay down and turn around. Airlines charge customers by the weight of the animal plus its crate, at rates varying from about $200 to more than $500, excluding fees and handling charges [source: Delta Air Lines].
Only going on a cross-town trip? Read on for shipping services of a more local nature.
Pet Taxi Services
"You can't take dogs on cabs or subways, unless you pretend you're a blind person," pet taxi service owner Larry Reilly told the New York Times [source: Lee].
He may be stretching the point a bit -- small pups, with their heads peeking out of handbags, and animals in carriers can usually get a ride. But Reilly's quip does point to a serious issue. According to New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, taxi drivers are required to admit guide dogs but are entitled to refuse service to other animals.
It's not hard to figure out why cabbies would turn down prospective passengers with leashed pets: bad smells, shedding or even a dreaded accident -- and not the kind involving another car.
On the other hand, there are all kinds of situations in which people might need to hop in a cab with their pet, such as vet or grooming appointments, rides to or from the kennel or a trip out to the family's weekend house. And urban professionals without cars may need to bring their pets to a doggy day care facility that's too far away for a walk.
Pet taxi services have sprung up to meet this demand. Reilly started Pet Taxi in New York in 1995. Competitors quickly followed, and the idea has spread to cities around the country.
Pet taxis are climate-controlled vehicles usually equipped with crates, water dishes and safety devices for animals. Many also serve as pet ambulances, with stretchers and ramps for animals with special needs. Some taxi services also offer pet boarding, grooming, walking and day care.
Pets may ride with or without the accompaniment of their human companions. Pet Chauffeur of New York advertises that it can schedule regular visits to escort a pet to the vet or the groomer, so its owner need not take time off work.
These rides tend to cost significantly more than a regular hired car. Pet Chauffeur charges more than $100 to deliver up to two pets and their owners from Manhattan to New York's Kennedy Airport, and $180 for an airport pickup without the owner [Source: Pet Chauffeur].
Pet Moving Services
Pet relocation companies function like full-service travel agents for pets, coordinating all phases of the move.
The process begins with initial meetings to discuss the specifics of the pet's move and the regulations that apply, plan the itinerary and outline the necessary documentation. The agent, or pet relocation specialist, will take responsibility for finding and booking the optimal travel arrangements and preparing the import-export documents.
Before a move, pet owners must make sure their pet's health records and vaccinations are in order; they must show a health certificate issued by a veterinarian no more than 10 days before the departure date. And, they must get their pet accustomed to their crate ahead of time. The more a pet is crate trained, the less stress the animal will undergo during the hours in flight.
On moving day, the relocation service usually takes charge of delivering the animal to the airport, checking it in and supervising the boarding procedure. This may be true even when the owner is accompanying the animal in flight.
Some airlines permit certain smaller animals to travel as carry-on luggage under the passenger's seat, but many animals do not meet the requirements and must travel in the cargo hold.
Relocation representatives will meet the animal at the destination site, guide it through customs, and deliver it either to its new home or into transitional boarding. Many nations -- including the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia -- impose mandatory quarantine periods on imported pets [Source: DogTime].
The process sounds straightforward, but things do not always flow smoothly in air travel. One man booked his overseas move four months ahead, then belatedly realized his cats needed vaccinations six months before they could travel. A service called Puppy Travel helped him board his cats in a kennel for the extra two months, then arranged their flight and got them on the plane [source: Hanes].
Planning for such unexpected contingencies is what makes the relocation specialists worth their weight in gold-and worth the price tag of $350 or more. For many people, it's a small price to pay for their beloved pets and their peace of mind.
For more information on pet travel, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Coder, Maria. "Taking the High Road." (Accessed January 2, 2009) http://www.pamperedpuppy.com/features/200504_pettaxi.php
- Delta Air Lines. "Pet Travel Shipping Rates." (Accessed January 2, 2009) http://www.delta.com/planning_reservations/special_travel_needs/pet_travel_information/domestic_international_pet/pet_shipping_rates/index.jsp
- DogTime, "Pet Shipping and Pet Relocation." (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://dogtime.com/pet-shipping-dog-transport-basics.html
- Hanes, Stephanie. "When Fur Needs to Fly, These Folks Help." Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 2005. (Accessed January 2, 2009) http://www.csmonitor.com/.
- International Air Transport Association. "Recommendations for Shipping Your Pet - Dog or Cat." (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://www.iata.org/NR/rdonlyres/2C690582-8CBD-41EC-9F90-527B346D59A1/0/recommendations_shippingpet.pdf
- International Pet Shipping. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://www.ipetship.com/faq.html
- Lambert, Bruce. "This Taxi Will Brake for Animals." New York Times, April 23, 1995. (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com.
- Lee, Denny. "New York Up Close: The Howl of These Ambulances is From the Inside." New York Times, September 29, 2002. (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com.
- Pet Chauffeur. "Pet Chauffeur." (Accessed January 2, 2009) http://www.petride.com/
- Pet Express, "How Pet Express Works." (Accessed January 2, 2009) http://www.petmove.com/howPEworks.htm
- Pet Relocation, "Pets as Cargo?" (Accessed January 4, 2009) http://www.petrelocation.com/pets-as-cargo