How To Avoid Risks Involved in Long-Distance Pet Transport

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated February 23, 2024

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A dog enjoying long-distance pet transport by looking out the window of a car.

Every day more and more people are researching the safest and most efficient ways to relocate their fur babies. Whether you’re making a big cross-country move, snowbirding in Florida or a breeder sending a puppy to their new forever home, long-distance pet transport can feel like a daunting task.

Even as a positive thinker, it’s easy to get caught up worrying about everything that can go wrong. Luckily, planning ahead of time and learning how to avoid the risks of long-distance pet transport can go a long way towards alleviating your anxiety.

Let’s begin with important steps to take before your dog steps one paw into their next adventure.

Get a Checkup

It’s very important to ensure your dog is suited for long-distance pet transport before they’re on their way. Your pet should be in good health with no signs of illness or disease.

  • If your pet is a senior or has pre-existing conditions, ask your veterinarian about what type of special accommodations they might need.
  • While you’re there you’ll also want to ensure your pet has all of the correct immunizations and paperwork required from their destination.
  • Each state has different laws regarding immunizations and paperwork required upon entry.
  • You can find this information on a state-by-state basis through the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.

Purchase a Suitable Crate

Keep in mind that your pet will be spending extended amounts of time inside the crate you choose for their travel. There are a variety of different styles and sizes, you’ll need to know their dimensions and weight to find the right fit. It is also important to familiarize your pet with the crate if it is newly purchased, so the transition is less stressful on the road or in the air.

Here are some guidelines for appropriate long-distance travel crates provided by Air Transport Association:

  • Enough space for your pet to move around freely in the sitting, standing, and laying down position without touching the sides or top of the crate.
  • A structure made of wood, metal, or plastic. (Keep in mind, some airlines no longer allow plastic fasteners, so metal or wood may be necessary).
  • A secure structure that will keep your pet completely inside the crate.
  • Separate bowls for food and water inside the crate.
  • Leak-proof material lining the inside of the crate.
  • Proper ventilation on all four sides.
  • A label with your pet’s name and your contact information.

For ground travel, most of the same crate requirements above apply. Comfortability and ventilation sustainable for a long duration of time is key.

Be Aware of Pet Shipping Scams

Waving Red Flags

Pet shipping scammers may have several apparent red flags when you view their websites, but they’re becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Some might provide you with what appears to be a suspiciously good offer to get your attention. Let’s dive into some clues that will help you avoid a pet shipping scam.

When researching pet shipping companies online, avoid those that:

  • Try to sell you a puppy. They may offer to send you a puppy for free if you pay for the shipping price. You may feel like you’ve struck a good deal, but this is the most common scam.
  • Have poor spelling or grammar on their website or in their email communication.
  • Have a website name, logo, or layout that is very similar to an already established shipping company, but something seems slightly off or the prices are extremely reduced. This is called a pirate website.
  • Ask to receive payment in unusual ways: money transfer (e.g. Bitcoin, Western Union, Moneygram), gift card, or prepaid debit card.

Identifying Safe and Efficient Pet Delivery

Now that you know how to avoid pet shipping scams, let’s look at the bright-side; there are pet shipping companies that are legitimate and have years of experience in the industry. If a company is verified with the Better Business Bureau, has tons of positive user reviews and transporters that are fully licensed and trained, these are all green flags!

CitizenShipper is the largest and highest 5-star-rated pet shipment marketplace after 14 years of operation and over 77,500 pet transports. The goal remains the same: to bring your pet home to you, safely and efficiently.

To ensure the most seamless pet delivery possible there are some key features that set CitizenShipper apart:

  • Booking assurance guarantee: CitizenShipper offers refund protection, a driver replacement guarantee and full support for your specific needs.
  • Transporters you can trust: All CitizenShipper transporters go through an extensive background check and become USDA-certified before they drive. Only reliable, competent and responsible transporters will be with your furry friend on their journey.
  • Transparent with reviews: Prior to booking, you can view each transporter’s profile that will detail their experience, services and past customer reviews.
  • Stellar customer support: CitizenShipper’s customer support agents respond 324% faster than the industry average, and are ready to address any concerns or questions you may have.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Preparing for any possible outcome is always helpful. Make a list of things that your pet might need in any event, that way you can ensure maximum comfortability and less scrambling later. No one likes the feeling of forgetting something at home.

Here is an example of a packing list:

  • Collar, leash, and ID Tags
  • The correct size crate for your mode of transport
  • Doggie bags for potty breaks
  • Adequate food and water (plus dishes for each)
  • Prescription paperwork and medications (enough for length of travel)
  • Vaccination records and paperwork
  • Favorite blankets and toys

Determine the Best Way to Travel

There are a few modes of long-distance pet transport that you can choose from, but some have more advantages than others. Let’s review the safety risks of each and assess our options.

Air Travel

Air shipping your furry friend as “checked baggage” in the cargo area of the plane is not only the most expensive method of transport; it also comes with the most health and safety risks of all transport methods of all long-distance transport methods.

Airplane crews are not specially trained to tend to the needs of your pet, and you will not be able to check in on your pet until landing.

When in the cargo area of a plane, your pet may experience:

  • Fluctuating air temperature and pressure
  • Loud noises
  • Unexpected turbulence
  • Very little light
  • Cluttered or overcrowded space
  • Possible mishandling by plane crew

These types of abrupt changes to your pet’s environment can cause stress that leads to further illness.

Some breeds of dogs are not suited for flying; for example, “snub-nosed” dogs such as English and French bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and more are not allowed on commercial flights due to the higher risk of oxygen deprivation or heat stroke.

If you wish to take your dog as a “carry-on,” their carrier needs to fit on the floor in front of you and under your seat, and your dog must weigh 20 pounds or less. The carrier must also remain under your seat for the duration of the flight.

Due to a recent change in Covid-19 protocol, some flights have temporarily put pet cargo travel on hold. You’ll need to research your specific airline ahead of time as regulations change with the virus’s status

Ground Transport

Ground transport can be a much safer, easier, and customizable option. For example, with the pet transport services provided by CitizenShipper:

  • You get to choose exactly who will be handling your pet based on the unique aspects of a driver’s user profile.
  • You’ll have consistent communication with your pet’s transporter through CitizenShipper’s internal messaging system. You may even receive cute pictures of the passenger along the way
  • Your pet will never be left unattended.
  • Drivers schedule routine stops for pets to “go” and stretch their legs.
  • All transporters are experienced in handling animals and are happy to spend time with your puppy pal!

Puppy Carpool or VIP?

You may be wondering how many other furry passengers will be riding with your pet. Some long-distance pet transport services “stack” shipments to efficiently deliver several pets that live along the way — think of it as puppy carpool. If this is not ideal, another option is VIP transport. Although this can be more expensive, your pet will be riding solo with the driver, so their individual needs are front and center.

There are several reasons you may want to choose a VIP service:

  • Age: Puppies and senior dogs may need more attentive care.
  • Health conditions: Your pet may have diseases that are transferable to other canines, or a condition that will require several stops and continuous care.
  • Demeanor: Some pups need their personal space, experience anxiety or have trouble making new friends.
  • Comfort: You may just also prefer the most comfortable ride possible for your pal, and one-on-one care eases your mind.

Adverse Weather

Something that is often overlooked is the time of year during which your pet’s long-distance pet transport occurs. The summer or winter months, for example, are the most extreme in terms of extreme heat and freezing temperatures.

Since dogs range in coat types, colors, health and age there is no set temperature that will be perfect for everyone’s pet. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re uncomfortable with the temperature, your furry friend most likely is too.

Additionally, puppies, senior dogs and dogs with underlying health issues may have trouble regulating their body heat. You can ask your veterinarian what temperatures are most appropriate for your pal.

Freezing Temperatures

For us humans, the cold is often a manageable hurdle. We throw on coats and some wool socks and all is well. Unless you have a pup biologically adjusted for colder climates, like a Siberian Husky that loves to bound around in the snow, this may be a concern for your pet while traveling in the winter.

Spending too much time in temperatures below 20°F is not safe for any dog, as it could cause hypothermia or frostbite. Above 45°F is ideal. If the fur becomes damp, your dog can quickly chill and become sick.

Extreme Heat

Inversely, hot temperatures are equally if not more dangerous than the cold. Animals that are very young or old, overweight or have pre-existing health conditions are particularly at risk for heat stroke when in temperatures that are 80°F or above.

With these risks in mind, there are ways to overcome adverse temperatures:

  • Check with your veterinarian: It is important to know if your dog has any conditions, like arthritis, that may worsen in cold weather.
  • Expand your puppy’s wardrobe: A coat or sweater will keep short-haired breeds warm in colder months.
  • Provide plenty of food and water: Dogs do burn more calories in the cold so keeping a normal amount of food handy is optimal. Keeping your dog hydrated during the hotter months is extremely important.
  • Manage the air temperature: Keeping the temperature in the car at a consistent and safe level is key.

Long-distance pet transport services should be well-prepared for health emergencies, should they arise during travel.

CitizenShipper is the only pet transport platform that provides a free pet protection plan and 24/7 Televet care for all pet shipments through FirstVet, proving that safety is their top priority. Long-distance travel can be taxing, but having access to a licensed veterinarian can put everyone’s mind at ease.

The Risks of Long-Distance Pet Transport Don’t Need to Outweigh the Reward

CitizenShipper is committed to providing a service that’s easier on everyone involved. Their qualified transporters have over 100,000,000 miles under their belts, and a genuine love for pets like yours — it’s why they do what they do!

If you are interested in transporting your dog, create a free listing for pet transportation on CitizenShipper today to receive quotes within minutes and start your new adventure!