If you are a pet owner, moving to a new home also means relocation for Fido, Tabby, possibly a menagerie of birds, gerbils, tropical fish or even your favorite boa constrictor. The most common methods of transporting pets are be automobile or airplane. Due to new, more stringent U.S. Dept. of Agriculture rules, some railways (Amtrak, for instance) have discontinued carrying pets on board. Most bus lines do not carry pets, but we suggest you check bus and rail service in your area just to be sure. There are companies that specialize in moving pets which you might wish to contact.
Whatever mode of transportation you choose, visit the veterinarian first to have your pet pronounced fit for travel. If the animal is high-strung or susceptible to motion sickness, the veterinarian may prescribe medication.
Airlines, which offer safe, speedy transportation, will carry most species of animals and offer guidelines for shipping. Discuss all aspects of your pet’s shipment with the airline well in advance of your planned move. Airlines do regulate the shipping of warm-blooded pets based upon temperature control; these carrier restrictions vary.
If possible, you will want to book a weekday flight during slack periods when there is more room in the plane’s cargo compartment; and the airline personnel have more free time to assist. Make your reservations several days in advance and select a flight schedule that has the least number of transfers and a minimal amount of confinement.
A health certificate and rabies inoculation are required in many states. Ask your veterinarian or the Dept. of Agriculture about requirements in the state to which you are moving. Some destinations require a quarantine at the pet owner’s expense.
If you ship your pet by air, two copies of a health certificate will be required on all warm-blooded animals and on birds. The health certificate must be signed by a licensed veterinarian and cannot be more than ten days old. Some airlines also require a rabies record to accompany the health certificate. Selecting the proper container for transporting your pet by air is important and should be approved by the USDA. For dogs, cats and other four-legged pets, the container should be very sturdy, with good locks and open ventilation. The bottom must be leakproof and lined with highly absorbent material. The water and feeding dishes should be fastened securely in place and should allow for fill from the outside. Proper size is important so that the container does not restrict the animal’s movement. There should be room for the animal to stand up, turn around and/or stretch.
If you’re shipping a dog, remove the leash. Don’t leave it inside the kennel where the dog can get tangled in it. Replace the dog’s collar with one that is flat and lightweight. A flea/tick collar is recommended. Be sure to attach an identification tag – a good idea for your cat, too.
The airlines may sell approved containers for four-legged pets that meet all requirements for safe handling.
If you are shipping a bird, you will need to contact your local pet shop for a sturdy container. Some of the heavy cardboard containers are good and quite acceptable. Again, proper ventilation is required. Shipping in a common bird cage or flimsy container would not be acceptable by the airlines.
Shipping pet snakes will require a sturdy, escape proof container. Wood construction is acceptable.
Attach a label to the top of the container listing the animal’s name, the address of your new home or the animal’s destination, a phone number where you can be reached and any special handling instructions. Attach another label that says "Live Animal."
Photography by Rich Wimberly