What do I Need to Become a Pet Transporter?

If you love animals, and caring for them, have you ever considered a career involving transporting them?

As people have become increasingly mobile, moving around widely for their work, so a thriving new business sector has grown up dedicated to ensuring that many pets have similar freedom to travel with their owners.

Here at CitizenShipper, we put people looking for pet transportation services right across the US directly in contact with those with the right accreditations, qualifications and experience to do the job with care and respect for their charges.

In this article, we’re going to look at what’s needed to get started in work as a pet transporter, so that you can decide whether it’s a job for you.

Pet travel is now not so rare

Just as people use lots of different advice and booking tools and resources when they want to arrange a journey, the same can now be done for animals.

That’s good news for anyone who is looking to retire in their dream location, or relocate for their work, as it means they don’t need to leave behind their beloved pets when they do so.

It’s also a boost for anyone who genuinely enjoys looking after dogs, as there are opportunities for them to turn this into a rewarding job.

Animal transporters in the United States have to be officially registered with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is an agency of the Department of Agriculture.

Two regional offices of the APHIS, based in North Carolina and Colorado, administer the licensing scheme, whose terms are laid down under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (FAWA).

Inspectors help ensure consistency

The main reference for the full Federal law relating to animal transportation is the so-called ‘Blue Book’, whose purpose is “to improve compliance among licensees and registrants and to enhance the consistency of inspections by field inspectors”.

The provisions of the law apply both to ‘carriers’, i.e. the person or business which transports animals, and ‘intermediate handlers’. This covers anyone else “engaged in any business in which they receive custody of animals in connection with their transportation”. So, for example, this will not cover Citizenshipper, but does apply to all the companies whose services offer through this website.

Under the Act, animal transporters’ premises and vehicles can be inspected “at all reasonable times”, and at least once a year, and every breach of the regulations renders them liable to a fine of up to $10,000.

Remember too, that exact regulations can change at any time, and from state to state, so you should always check the latest applicable rules relating to working as an animal transporter. This page of the APHIS website is where you’ll find details of the latest restrictions on importing dogs into the US from other countries, and transporting them into any particular state.

Get registered as a professional

The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) administers a registration scheme for professional pet shippers. Under this, a business which takes animals into its care and transports them by road or air is classified as an ‘Intermediate Handler’.

IPATA also offers a mentoring scheme, designed to help those new to the sector to determine their own policies and practices in the light of existing best practices.

It accepts membership applications from anyone already registered as a long-distance ground or air pet transporter, but members first have to be “legally registered or licensed to conduct business in their country and in their state, province, or city, if applicable.”

Other details it needs before accepting an application to join include those of the company’s principal owners, the type of company structure – e.g. whether a sole trader, partnership or corporation – and a copy of the company’s registration.

A good starting point for you if you’re considering setting up a pet transportation business could be to attend an IPATA regional meeting, or enrol on one of its separate one-day ‘Pet Shipping 101’ workshops. These are specifically designed for companies new to the pet shipping business, or new staff of existing companies who use the workshops to supplement their own training.

As well as providing some basic information, these workshops also concentrate on telling you where you can find answers to any specific questions on animal shipping-related topics.

There is also the Animal Transportation Association, set up in 1976, and existing as “an important opportunity for individuals, businesses, organizations and groups involved in any phase of animal transportation to become part of an international effort to find solutions to a variety of problems related to the transport of animals”.

Part of its stated aim is also to encourage “uniform and effective international regulations and humane handling of live animals”.

Get up to speed with regulations

While it does not directly govern and impose standards for overland pet carriers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the umbrella body for airlines and other businesses involved in moving people, animals or goods by air, also runs a number of training courses covering live animal transportation. For example, it offers a three-day course in Live Animals Transportation which could be useful.

On the physical, equipment side of the business, there is definitely a long list of requirements if you’re to carry domestic pets safely. Firstly, you won’t get far unless your vehicle is a suitable size to accommodate the animals, along with their carriers and restraining equipment – see below.

Any animal carried in a vehicle must, by law, be kept restrained at all times – and not just in an appropriate pet carrier. So your pet-carrying business must invest in good quality pet carriers, dog cages or guards and seat belt harnesses. The same regulations noted above also stipulate that “no person shall transport animals or cause animals to be transported in a way likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them”. Those general terms also apply if you are operating a pet transport business.

But again, individual states have slightly different requirements concerning vaccinations etc., so be sure to check out the state-specific information pages on the APHIS website, as the rules listed on these individual pages also apply to the animals you carry as a pet transporter. For instance, Californian state rules state: “All dogs over four months old [entering the state] must have a certificate of current rabies vaccination stating the type, manufacturer lot number of the rabies vaccine used, and the date of administration.”

To be absolutely sure of staying on the right side of the law, the State Veterinarian’s Office of any state will have full details of immunisation and other requirements.

Staying focused

The growing trend for us to record what’s going on inside our vehicles is also responsible for uncovering some alarming statistics – such as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s finding that driver distraction is a contributory factor in more than one in five (at least 22 per cent) of crashes. So a high level of concentration is a must if you want to stay safe while carrying any animal in your vehicle, as you have to be prepared for them to react in unpredictable ways to any sights or sounds.

Safety aside, using a range of cages, carrying baskets and harnesses can also help reduce the suffering of any animal being transported, as it has been shown that many suffer from motion sickness.

Of course, this all adds to your overheads as a business – but your investment in good quality restraints and animal cages, as well as in cleaning materials to keep them and the interior of your vehicle hygienic between outings, is likely to be repaid by the trust your clients place in you once they know you take the right care of these precious cargoes.

Remember, too, that rest stops are just as important for dogs as for human travellers. So you’ll need to be clued up on places on any route with good dog exercise and catering facilities. This article gives just a taster of the cream of the crop along some of the country’s busiest Interstates.

To wrap up…

As someone earning a livelihood from moving animals, it’s your responsibility to know the laws which apply in any part of the country in which your business operates.

Many of the links in this article will provide more information. But as your animal transportation business develops, you should expect to have to take on board more variations of the basic regulations in order to stay on the right side of the law.

Citizenshipper.com is a one-stop shop which aims to ensure that people receive top-quality personal service from trusted drivers. Check here to find out how you can become a Citizenshipper.com driver, and start a career where your love of animals can really take you places – and will certainly be appreciated and rewarded!

Dog Shipping

This puppy’s a happy puppy!


5 thoughts on “What do I Need to Become a Pet Transporter?

  • I have my own petsitting business and have been in business 10 years. Starting to think about changing career when son graduates high school next year. Very interested in learning about this aspect of pet care. Will need to learn what type of vehicle to buy and customize. Live 30 minutes west of Raleigh NC. Can someone in your company contact me to help me with this learning curve? I caery my oen insurance for my business

  • This site has been very informative! I drive a bus for a large Pet facility! I would be interested in learning more from and about citizen shipper! I have often thought of going out on my own and this is providing me valuable information! Thank You! Please get in touch or include me however that works ❣️

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