How Can I Ship My Dog to Another State? Answered!

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated April 17, 2024

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Every day, hundreds of pet owners across the country are looking for ways to relocate their pets safely and swiftly. Whether it’s because you’ve purchased a new puppy from a breeder in another state or you are relocating the whole family to a new home — dog transportation doesn’t have to be stressful.

Many pet owners may believe taking the do-it-yourself approach to transporting a dog is the best bet. However, there are more moving pieces and stressors when it comes to multi-day, cross-country drives with your dog. Transporting a dog is a complicated task — that’s why hiring a pet transportation professional not only provides you with peace of mind, at the end of the day it can even be the more affordable choice.

However, there are several key things you must consider with each available pet transportation option. Let’s break down the pros and cons of some of the most popular methods of moving your dog, from hiring an Air Nanny to doing the driving yourself.

Contract a Professional Dog Transporter

Why is it more effective to hire a dog transporter? Here are a few of the biggest reasons:

1. Experience and Expertise in Transporting Pets

When you use a pet transportation marketplace like CitizenShipper, you can see firsthand the experience that each transporter has. Driver profiles include reviews from previous customers, so you can select a transporter with years of experience successfully relocating dogs.

2. They Have the Right Equipment for the Job

This is really important — to ensure your dogs safety while traveling on the interstate, you need to have the right equipment. You can just stick your dog in the backseat and hope for the best. If you drive the dog yourself, you’re going to want to buy harnesses or a carrier that can be strapped into the back. That way, in the worst case scenario of a car accident, your precious pooch is protected from harm. That equipment can be expensive, and has limited utility after you arrive at your destination. Plus it takes up a lot of space!

3. It’s More Humane than Air Cargo Transport

One of the worst ways to transport your pet long distance is putting them in the cargo area. You wouldn’t check your children as luggage on a flight, would you? Why do that with your beloved pet? When dogs fly in the cargo area, they have no idea what is going on, causing stress and anxiety that can even lead to physical injuries — and rarely, death. When you use a pet transporter to drive your dog to its destination, they’ll place their entire focus on your dog.

According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) the cost of an airplane ticket has jumped 25% over the last year, putting prices above pre-pandemic levels. Hiring a ground transporter to move your dog is significantly more cost-effective than air travel.

Benefits of Hiring a Pet Transporter Through CitizenShipper

  • Typically when you work with a pet transport business, you have no say in the actual driver that will be with your dog.
  • When you hire a transporter through a marketplace, you can speak directly with the driver, negotiating details of the trip.
  • Transporters on CitizenShipper have profiles featuring experience badges, reviews from previous customers and an About section with driver details.
  • You can exchange as many messages as necessary with drivers on CitizenShipper, allowing you to get all the information you need, from the size and type of their vehicles to their preferred payment processors.
  • Most posts receive a reply within minutes.

Constant Communication

The great thing about a personalized shipper is easy communication. Many drivers on the platform have GPS so you can get updates on your pet’s journey along the way and know exactly when he’ll arrive home. You might even be able to arrange for photos of your dog’s big journey with your driver so you can have a visual record too!

Do Your Research and Make a Solid Dog Transportation Choice

So if you’re wondering “How can I ship my dog to another state?” the answer should be clear. There are many methods available, with some less practical than others. For the most cost-effective, personal and safest option, hire a transporter through a CitizenShipper. It’s also a great option for transporting your cat or any other pet!

Drive the Dog in Your Own Vehicle

Of course, if you feel like you’re up for the task, have the right equipment and think it’ll be more cost-effective, you can drive the dog yourself. When you are the one transporting your dog on the road, the costs you have to worry about are gas, lodging, food for you and the dog, and pre-trip veterinary visits and vaccinations. To be sure you’re prepared for the journey, create a checklist.

Vet Visit and Vaccinations

If you’re traveling across state lines, be sure to research each state’s canine vaccination laws, specifically for rabies. Nearly every state requires a rabies shot (Minnesota, Kansas and Ohio are the exceptions), but some require booster shots more frequently. Other states like Florida legally require dogs be vaccinated against parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus and more. If your dog isn’t microchipped, consider getting one in the rare case your dog runs away during the trip. Make sure your dog is appropriately vaccinated for each state you’ll pass through; you don’t want to be caught transporting an under-vaccinated dog. This could lead to delays on the trip and even worse, being fined. Additionally, you’ll need to have the necessary veterinary certificates when crossing state lines. You should get a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), which is required in many states — check to see what your destination requires.

Plan Your Route Ahead of Time

Don’t just hit the road without a plan! When you’re traveling with a dog, you’ll need to carefully plan out stops along the route for exercise, feeding and bathroom breaks (for you and the dog).

  • Typically, pet transportation experts recommend stopping every four hours or so for these breaks.
  • If your trip is going to be longer than a single day, you’ll need to find a place to sleep at night.
  • Research dog-friendly hotels along your route and book ahead of time — there’s nothing worse than sleeping in a parking lot because the only hotel in town is overbooked.
  • If you’re the outdoorsy type, consider a dog-friendly campsite along the route.

If you’re driving alone with the dog, a major hurdle will be your own bathroom breaks. Obviously you can’t leave a dog alone in the car without air conditioning. Some experienced pet transporters suggest carrying two sets of keys with you, leaving the car running with the AC on as you use the bathroom at a rest stop. The issue with this of course, is bystanders who may not realize the car is running with the air conditioning on and alert authorities. Another great suggestion is to make stops at big box pet stores like Petco. These stores encourage you to bring in your dog and typically have public bathrooms.

Safety First

Just as seat belts are essential for humans, your dog should be restrained when in the car with either a pet belt or inside a crate. This is both safer for the dog and for you. Give your dog a comfortable surface to lie on. If your dog gets travel sick there are plenty of natural options such as ginger tablets to ease nausea. Try and keep your dogs routine as close as possible to its normal one on your journey to ease other stress. This might mean making your journey several days instead of one long drive. It will be worth it for your furry friends to also enjoy the trip!

A dog and a cat promoting free driver quotes.

How to Ship a Dog by Air

1. Large Pets Must Fly in the Cargo Area

While it’s not the most humane approach, the quickest way to transport your dog to another state is air travel. Flying thousands of miles only takes a few hours whereas driving the same distance will take at least a few days. On the other hand, air shipping is the most expensive dog transportation method. Airline fees for pets range from $80 to several hundred dollars. For most pet owners, the main concern isn’t affordability — it’s safety. Air travel simply carries more inherent risks than ground transportation. According to the Department of Transportation, in 2021 the rate of incidents involving pets transported by air was .82 per 10,000 animals transported, up from the rates in 2019 and 2020.

  • Checking your dog as cargo on a plane can be risky.
  • The change in temperature and pressure causes breathing problems or other stress reactions.
  • Every year, dozens of animals die or are injured in the cargo compartments of commercial airplanes.
  • While that’s a small percentage of the total number of animals that fly annually, the stories are harrowing. Few are willing to take that chance with their beloved pet
  • Many airlines refuse to transport dogs in the cargo hold and those that do have restrictions on the type of dog they’ll allow onboard.
  • Currently, United Airlines, Delta and American Airlines are the only three major commercial airlines in the United States that allow pets in the cargo hold.
  • Brachycephalic or “snub nose” dogs are not allowed to fly on commercial airlines.

If you find that your only option is to transport your dog in the cargo area of the plan, be sure to do your research. Look for airlines that have a good reputation with pets.

Understand the Pet Air Travel Rules and Regulations

Flying with your dog is not just as simple as arriving with a carrier and buying your dog a ticket. There are rules and regulations you must follow before your pet can board the plane.

  • Your pet must be over eight weeks of age.
  • His rabies immunization must be up to date.
  • A veterinarian-issued health certificate that states the animal is in okay condition for air travel.
  • The certificate must be issued within 10 days of the flight.

Airlines will not hesitate to turn you and your pet away unless each and every one of these rules is met. Typically older dogs or those with pre-existing health conditions won’t be certified for air travel. In those cases, you’ll have to find another dog transportation option.

Make the Trip Successful by Planning Ahead

Airlines suggest you provide the dog with several items to ensure the trip is a successful one. These items keep your pet comfortable, hydrated and fed.

  • Ensure the carrier is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around while inside.
  • There are no wire sides to the cage — this prevents your pet from sticking out a paw and getting injured.
  • The carrier must be well-ventilated; 14% of the carrier’s surface area must be ventilation holes.
  • A third of the ventilation holes must be on the top of the carrier.
  • There should be grips or carrying handles on the carrier.
  • The floor of the carrier should be leak-proof and lined with a blanket or towel to absorb any accidents.
  • Mark the carrier with your name, address and phone number. If there’s a separate contact at the destination, include their info as well.
  • You’re required to offer your pet food and water four hours before departure.
  • There should be a document certifying the dogs or cats were offered food and water during the four hours proceeding check-in of the animal. The document should include the time of the food and water offering, the date and a signature of the cosigner. There should also be food and water instructions for the animals for a 24 hour period.
  • Additionally, you need to include two empty bowls for food and water, the dog’s food and instructions for feeding.
  • The food and water bowls must be securely attached to the inside of the crate and have the capability to be filled without opening the crate door.
  • If you’re required to provide your own water, many airlines recommend sending the water frozen to prevent spilling.

2. Travel with the Dog in the Cabin

If you own a smaller breed of dog, there’s a much more desirable option available. If she meets some size and weight requirements, your dog can fly in the cabin under your seat.

  • The dog carrier must be able to fit under your seat.
  • For example, United Airlines requires that hard sided be no larger than 12″ tall, 17.5″ deep and 7.5″ wide.
  • Soft sided carriers are required to be no larger than 11″ tall, 18″ deep and 11″ wide.
  • There may be some slight variation between airlines but generally their requirements are similar.
  • The pooch has to weigh under 15 pounds to fly in the cabin.
  • Most airlines allow qualifying pets to fly in cabin.

Not only is in-cabin travel safer for your dog, it’ll cut down on your anxiety levels. With cargo travel, you won’t see your pup between check-in and arrival at your destination. You’ll have no idea how they are doing and if they’re being properly taken care of. When your dog is under your seat, you can periodically check in and make sure she’s doing okay. You can monitor her breathing and anxiety level while providing comfort during the flight.

Air Nanny

When you want to transport your dog via airplane but aren’t able to make the flight, there’s another great option: Air Nannies. Essentially, an air nanny is someone who will flying along with your dog and ensure the safe delivery at the destination.

  • Air Nannies usually accompany pets that are flying in the cabin.
  • However, they can also accompany pets flying in the cargo area. It’s against FAA regulations for the air nanny to be in the cargo area, so they’ll fly in the cabin.
  • You’ll have to pay for the one-way pet ticket as well as a round trip ticket for the Air Nanny, making this the most expensive option.

Keep Calm and Carry On

IMPORTANT: The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that you should NEVER sedate your pet during a flight because it can increase the risk of heart problems. Most airlines will refuse to let your dog on the plane if she’s been sedated. There are several ways to keep your dog calm that won’t risk her health:

  • Ensure the crate is as comfortable as possible.
  • Place a thick warm blanket on the bottom of the crate and have something to cover the crate to mimic nighttime.
  • Provide your dog with an exciting chewy toy that will keep her occupied throughout the flight.
  • Make sure you have a way to give her water if the flight is longer than an hour Just like us, the conditions inside the cabin can be very dehydrating for your pet.

Once you land, allow your dog to relieve itself as soon as possible and get lots of attention from you. If possible, have someone meet you at the airport so you can spend some time with your puppy on the journey home. Different rules apply for animals that are certified as comfort or aid dogs. Again, check with your airline for all the information before committing to the tickets.

If you need to move a dog cross-country, create a free listing on CitizenShipper today and find out how much you can save on safe, reliable and affordable dog transportation!

Can my dog fly in the cabin of an airplane?

Airlines have specific protocol for the size and weight of a dog that can fly in the cabin. Most airlines require a dog to weight between 20-25 pounds or less (including the carrier) and fit beneath the seat in front of you. 

Is it possible to transport a dog in the cargo area of a plane as checked luggage?

Most airlines no longer allow pets as checked luggage. Now, they require large dogs to fly in a special cargo area of the plane. This cargo area is generally very safe because it's pressurized and temperature controlled like the main cabin. 

However, there are many restrictions when it comes to flying a dog in cargo. According to the USDA, the air temperature at the arrival and departing airport cannot be above 85 °F (29.5 °C) or below 45 °F (7.2 °C). Additionally, brachycephalic (aka snub-nosed) breeds are not allowed to fly in the cargo area.

What do I do if my dog cannot fly to its destination?

You can always drive your dog yourself to the destination. For most people this isn't a reasonable solution. Instead, consider hiring a ground-based pet transporter. You can find a transporter with the right level experience that fits your budget by using a two-way dog transportation marketplace like CitizenShipper. You'll be able to vet the transporter by reading reviews, viewing their profile and chatting through an instant messaging system.