How To Become an Animal Transporter: Requirements & Opportunities

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated October 3, 2023

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For many pet lovers, becoming an animal transporter is a dream job. Not only are you able to work with animals every day, but you’re also able to experience the joy of reuniting a beloved pet with its owner. Starting a career as an animal transporter isn’t difficult — especially if you get started on a pet transportation marketplace like CitizenShipper. But before you start your pet transportation journey, you should have a basic understanding of what’s required to transport animals. Without this knowledge, you may put yourself or the animals you’re moving at risk.

Regulations and Requirements for Animal Transporters

The good news is that there isn’t a long list of regulations and requirements to become an animal transporter. Your first step is to become familiar with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This set of laws covers a broad range of animal-related legislation, but most importantly for you it sets parameters for pet transport.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). APHIS enforces the AWA and licenses you through the USDA as a registered transporter. Most transporters fall under the category of being an intermediate handler — also known as an animal transporter. That means you need to be USDA registered — a simple and free process that doesn’t take long at all. CitizenShipper prides itself on working closely with the USDA to streamline the registration process for pet transporters.

If you’re a breeder or own a kennel, you’ll likely be required to obtain USDA licensing. This process is slightly more complicated than getting registered by the USDA. And while there’s a processing fee for USDA licensing, it’s a relatively modest amount — certainly a lot less than getting caught operating improperly, being shut down until you’re in compliance and receiving fines that are significantly more than the fee.

You don’t need professional experience or a formal, specific education to start a career as a pet transporter. That being said, it’s always a good idea to take any training courses to broaden your knowledge of transportation and animals. When you register for CitizenShipper, you’re able to build out an extensive profile page and list all the relevant experiences you have with pets. Consider pet CPR courses, animal training and behavior classes and any other specializations that help you stand out from the competition on CitizenShipper.

Transportation and Gear

It may seem obvious but it should be mentioned that one of the most important requirements of pet transporters is having a readily-available, reliable vehicle. Most pet transporters on CitizenShipper use their personal vehicle to transport pets, but others choose to rent a vehicle. Many others are flexible and take a combination of these approaches!

For instance, some transporters use a personal vehicle for shorter runs, but rent a vehicle for longer drivers in order to reduce wear and tear on the automobile. Others rent a van or larger vehicle when they see an opportunity to stack shipments and transport multiple animals in a single trip — also known as “trip stacking.” Trip stacking is a high-efficiency approach to animal transportation, allowing you to make more money without driving much further.

No matter what approach you take, have a strategy in place before you start bidding. Your bids should incorporate your own expenses. You may have to bid lower initially in order to win your first few transports. Once you’ve established your business on CitizenShipper you can start to bid higher and still win on the marketplace, because your reviews and experience will attract pet owners.

It never hurts to offer special equipment for pet transportation. The most important piece of equipment is the carrier. Many carriers provide their own carriers because it appeals to pet owners who don’t transport their animals often. Yes, purchasing your own carriers does add to the start-up expenses and sanitizing them after each transport adds some extra work on the back end. But it’s all worth it when you win more bids and can charge more for providing your own equipment.

Benefits of Becoming an Animal Transporter

The beauty of being an animal transporter is that there are so many benefits. While we could go on and on about the benefits and perks of signing up to transport animals using the CitizenShipper platform, we’ll stick to the four biggest reasons to make this career move.

You Have a Flexible Schedule and Dictate Your Hours

When you’re a transporter on CitizenShipper, you get to be your own boss. That means you decide when and where you transport animals. This means you have a more flexible schedule than the typical 9-to-5 job.

  • Many transporters on the platform have made moving animals across the country their full-time job.
  • Others, like teachers in the summer, take on transports seasonally when their “day job” is a little slower.
  • And some simply transport when they feel like it, perhaps taking a road trip every few weekends.

You Can Transport a Variety of Animals

While the most commonly transported species on CitizenShipper is dogs, you’ll have the opportunity to transport a wide variety of animals. Keep in mind that if you transport exotic pets, you may need to get special certification. CitizenShipper drivers have transported birds, reptiles, hedgehogs and more!

Unique Travel Opportunities

Another massive benefit of being a pet transporter is that travel opportunities are baked right into the job! You’ll be driving all across the country with your furry companions — one of our most successful drivers has visited well over 200 national park units while on the road.

There’s a Growing Demand for Animal Transporters

The fourth major benefit of becoming a transporter on the CitizenShipper platform is that there’s a growing demand. More and more people are becoming pet owners, and many of them are very specific in the breed that they want to own. Sometimes that means buying from out-of-state breeders, who need a professional transporter to get the puppy to its forever home.

Additionally, with the rising costs of living, many folks are opting to move to lower-priced areas. Moving is a major undertaking, and hauling a pet along with you can be overwhelming. The solution to moving with a pet? Hiring a pet transporter!

In the last year alone there were over 170,000 transports listed on the marketplace — and the average monthly revenue was between $6,000 and upwards of $10,000. There’s plenty of opportunity to make good money on CitizenShipper.

How To Start Your Animal Transporter Career on CitizenShipper

It may feel overwhelming getting started on a brand new employment journey as an animal transporter. But it doesn’t have to be! First, CitizenShipper has an incredible Driver Support team that will work with you on messaging and communication with customers, building a winning profile, bidding strategies and more! The team offers free onboarding workshops to get you set up for success, because their entire job is to help drivers like you succeed on the platform and build your own small business.

Sign Up!

It’s free to sign up as a driver on CitizenShipper and browse the different animal transportation listings on the platform. Your first 30 days are free and after that, there’s a $29.99 subscription fee for drivers, which is used to improve the platform and create great new features for drivers and shippers! There’s no cancellation or activation fee and you can pause or stop your subscription at any time.

Create a Profile

Once you’ve registered for CitizenShipper, it’s time to build your profile. One of the major components of a successful animal transporter on CitizenShipper is having a standout profile. Don’t just go for a generic introduction — the more details you provide about yourself, your experience with animals, any special equipment you have, the more likely you’ll be to win jobs right away.

Include photos of yourself and your vehicle because pet owners prefer to put a face with a name. If you have past experience working with animals, be sure to include photos of those experiences as well. People like to see you’re an animal lover and photos are a great way to demonstrate your dedication.

Once you start winning and completing transports on CitizenShipper, you build up a repertoire of reviews. It goes without saying that the more professional you handle each transport, the more likely you’ll be to get those coveted five-star reviews. Your reviews will live on your CitizenShipper profile, making it easy for pet owners to get an idea of your experience and approach to pet transport before they book.

Start Bidding

After you’ve finished filling out your profile on CitizenShipper, it’s time to start the bidding process! Our easy-to-use interface makes it simple to find transports near your home base, or if you’re already out on the road, transport jobs along your route. The key to winning bids initially is great communication, especially if you’re just getting started and don’t have many (or any) reviews.

Don’t just submit a price — instead, give the pet owner a strong sales pitch on why you’re the best person for the job. If you don’t have reviews, explain that you’re just getting started and dedicated to giving the pet and its owner the best treatment possible. You may find that initially you’re submitted extremely low bids, in the hope that as you gain more experience, you can start to charge more and more and really see those profits start to come in.

Hit the Road!

You’ve done it! You’ve signed up, created a profile, started bidding — low and behold, you’ve won a transport. Now it’s time to show the customers what you can do. Make sure that you’re responsive to any of their questions or concerns. Once you’ve won the bid, you’re free to exchange your preferred contact information (but keep in mind that it’s against CitizenShipper’s Terms of Service to exchange this information before that point). When you’re on the road, give regular updates about your location. Avoid delays but even when the unexpected happens, being in close contact with the pet owner will buy you some leeway, especially if it’s something completely out of your control like winter storms, traffic jams due to accidents or road closures.

Conclusion

Now that you know what requirements you need to get started as a pet transporter, the benefits of starting your own business as a pet mover, and how to get started on CitizenShipper, you’re ready! It’s time to become your own boss and experience the joys of working with animals. Whether you are taking this on as a full-time career or simply want to dip your toes into the industry as a hobbyist, CitizenShipper is the easiest and most supportive platform to get started as an animal transporter.

FAQs About Becoming an Animal Transporter

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.