If you love animals and providing them with care, have you considered a career that involves transporting them? You might find that becoming a pet transporter is easier than you thought.
People are becoming increasingly mobile, moving around widely for their work. A thriving new business sector has developed in turn, granting pets similar freedom to travel as their owners do.
Here at CitizenShipper, we put people looking for pet transportation services directly in contact with qualified drivers. Every driver on the platform has gone through our background screening process. They have the accreditations and experience required to do this job with the care and respect that their charges deserve.
In this article, we’re going to look at what’s needed to get started as a pet transporter, so that you can decide whether it’s a job for you.
Pet travel isn’t as rare as it once was
People use lots of different booking tools and resources when they want to arrange a journey. These days, the same can be done for animals. That’s good news for anyone looking to retire in their dream location, or perhaps relocate for their work. 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 – an opportunity to turn this talent into a rewarding career.
Ground-based pet transport is now a viable alternative to air travel. With airlines introducing restrictions to pet transportation, owners are turning to their driveways. They’re looking for reliable drivers that provide quality care for their pets traveling from point A to point B. And how can they be sure that their beloved animals will be provided every comfort they require? Simple – by booking drivers that satisfy their high standards of service.
Ensuring consistency in pet transporter choices
In the US, professional animal transporters register with APHIS, an agency of the Department of Agriculture. Two regional offices, one based in North Carolina and one in Colorado, administer the licensing scheme. Their terms are laid down under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (FAWA).
The main reference for the federal laws relating to animal transportation is the so-called Blue Book. This document’s purpose is to “improve compliance among licensees and registrants and to enhance the consistency of inspections by field inspectors”.
These provisions apply both to “carriers” (persons or businesses which transport animals) and “intermediate handlers”. This second category covers anyone else “engaged in any business in which they receive custody of animals in connection with their transportation”. So the regulation applies to all companies offering their services through CitizenShipper.
Under the Act, animal transporters’ premises and vehicles can be inspected “at all reasonable times”. Every breach of the regulations renders them liable to a fine of up to $10,000.
Keep in mind that those regulations vary from state to state, and can change at any time. 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 and transporting them into any particular state.
Registering as a professional pet transporter
The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) administers a registration scheme for professional pet transporters. Under this, a business that 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. However, members first have to be “legally registered or licensed to conduct business in their country, state, province, or city.”
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 enroll in 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.
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.”
Pro pet transporters stay 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 crashes (at least 22%). 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 travelers. 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 included above will provide that 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 is a one-stop shop aiming to ensure that people receive top-quality personal service from trusted drivers. Here’s some of what we bring to the table:
- An online marketplace with hundreds of pet shipments listed daily
- A growing community of transporters and breeders
- Tools and tutorials for drivers looking to save money
- No transaction fees, just a modest monthly subscription
- A three-month free trial to help you get your bearings
To find out more about the CitizenShipper platform, click here. Once you sign up, you’ll be on your way to starting a career in pet transportation.
They say your love of animals can take you places. One thing’s for sure – in our online community, it will be appreciated and rewarded!
Last updated at May 31, 2022
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