Shipping your beloved pets can be a stressful situation, especially if it’s your first time. You love your animals like family, so putting your trust in a business you’ve never used before is worrisome, to say the least. The good news is there are many reputable pet shipping companies to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages. According to the Pet Transport Service Market, there are over 50 pet travel companies that are recognized by the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA).
Royal Paws Pet Transportation is an animal shipping service with over 20 years of experience. It specializes in private transportation, so pets will never share the vehicle with another animal. In addition to the luxury of this service, another benefit is not worrying about vaccines or a health check.
On the other hand, an exclusive cat or dog shipping service like Royal Pets offers is one of the priciest ways to transport your pet. If you’re looking for less expensive options, here are 10 alternatives.
What to Look for When Choosing Between Pet Shipping Companies
Choosing a professional shipping company is a big decision. As a member of your family, they deserve a travel experience that is comfortable and stress-free. There are several important qualities to look for when you’re choosing a pet shipping company.
- The company has an IPATA membership and USDA approval.
- Experienced companies with a good track record add peace of mind.
- Positive reviews help you learn about previous customers’ experiences.
- When you communicate with the company, look for ones that are friendly, responsive, and willing to accommodate special requests.
- Choose a company that specializes in the type of animal you want to transport – for instance, if you need to transport a cat, choose one with a track record of transporting felines.
10. Animals Away
Animals Away was founded in 1995 and transported tens of thousands of animals during that time. The company has a strong reputation as one of the older pet transportation services. Door-to-door transport is offered, and Animals Away boasts an A+ rating from the BBB, has an IPATA membership, and a USDA Handler’s License.
Pros of Animals Away
- Member of IPATA with a USDA Handlers License.
- Offers domestic and international pet shipping services.
- Provides customers with pet shipping containers.
Cons of Animals Away
- Mostly air transport service with some ground transportation in the Northeast.
- No ground transportation is available for most of the U.S.
- There’s no info about fees on the company website; you have to contact them for a quote.
With over 50,000 pets transported since 1995, Animals Away is certainly experienced. Unless you’re in the Northeast – where it provides ground transportation – you’ll have to ship your pet by plane if you hire Animals Away. If your pet isn’t able to fly because of size, breed, or health restrictions, you’ll need to explore other options.
9. Animal Land
The preferred shipping method for Animal Land is flight transport, though it also offers ground transportation. You’ll be connected with a personal move instructor, who will help arrange shots and get all paperwork in order. The instructor also ensures all international requirements are met for international shippers.
Pros of Animal Land
- IPATA member with almost 25 years of experience.
- Uses personal move counselors to help you through the process.
- Will take care of shots, paperwork, and booking the flight.
Cons of Animal Land
- Mostly an air-based pet shipping company.
- You have to purchase a carrier; Animal Land sells carriers.
- Your pet must ride in the cargo area, which isn’t suitable for puppies or certain breeds.
By handling all the logistics, Animal Land’s personal move instructor removes some of the uncertainty around pet transportation. Like the other air-based transporters, there are limitations based on breed, size, age, and other factors.
8. Happy Tails Travel, Inc.
Happy Tails Travel, Inc. is another air travel-focused pet transport company that’s been operating since 1995. The shipping business claims a 100% safety record. Employees of Happy Trails will handle the paperwork and processes that are required before air travel, which adds peace of mind.
Pros of Happy Tails Travel, Inc.
- Handles all logistics for a pet’s air travel.
- IPATA member since 1996.
- Offers a multiple animal discount policy.
Cons of Happy Tails Travel, Inc.
- Will only transport pets in the cargo hold.
- On weekends, you cannot ship an animal through Happy Tails Travel, Inc.
- There’s an up-front consultation fee.
Happy Tails Travel, Inc. has a lot of pet shipping experience and a strong track record. The company handles your paperwork, making the transport process easier. Like Animals Away and Animal Land, Happy Tails isn’t suitable for owners of certain species and breeds or animals with health restrictions. Additionally, both of these air transport companies have a higher price point than ground-based transport companies.
7. Starwood Animal Transport
With 50 years in business, Starwood Animal Transport has even more experience shipping pets than Happy Tails and Animals Away. It specializes in ground transportation and moves pets with specially-designed RVs. If you need door-to-door service, you’ll be charged a per-mile rate from one of its hubs.
Pros of Starwood Animal Transport
- Drivers must undergo TSA background checks.
- Provides 24/7 dispatch service.
- Uses RVs specially designed for pet travel.
Cons of Starwood Animal Transport
- Doesn’t have BBB accreditation.
- Door-to-door service charges $3 per mile from one of the company’s hubs.
- Starwood only has 15 hubs, so it can be expensive if one isn’t nearby.
While door-to-door service is offered, Starwood charges a per-mile rate which can be pricey if you’re not close to one of their hubs. If cost is important in determining which pet transportation company you choose, there are less expensive options than Starwood.
uShip is an online platform that helps people send everything from boats and motorcycles to pets through independent carriers. If you need to make a shipment, you can create a listing and carriers will offer bids. It’s free to create a listing on the site and once you select a bid you pay a flat rate. While uShip will connect you with pet shippers, most of the drivers specialize in shipping motorcycles and cars.
Pros of uShip
- You have some control over the price you pay for shipping.
- Drivers are vetted by the company’s Trust & Safety team.
- It has cargo insurance backed by Lloyd’s.
Cons of uShip
- Carriers are not employees of uShip.
- uShip is not a dedicated pet shipping company; its specialty is shipping motorcycles and cars.
- There may not be service, depending on where you live.
uShip offers pet shippers a bit more pricing flexibility. The process of creating a listing and accepting bids is simple and allows you to shop around. While carriers are vetted, they’re usually individuals and not dedicated pet shipping companies. This may cause you more stress and uncertainty when shipping your much-loved pet.
5. Airpets International
Airpets International is based in the UK and offers international pet shipping. With 50 years of experience, it’s well-regarded in the animal transport industry. The company is focused on air transport, though ground service is offered.
Pros of Airpets
- Airpets is backed by the USDA and has been an IPATA member since 2004.
- Add-ons like exercise and grooming can be purchased.
- Able to relocate many different species.
Cons of Airpets
- One of the pricier options – domestic moves start at $1000 and international moves at $2000.
- If you have a large animal, it must travel in the cargo area.
- Many airlines won’t allow brachycephalic breeds due to potential breathing issues.
If you’re shipping an animal internationally, Airpets is a solid choice. Otherwise, there are less expensive domestic ground transportation companies that provide additional upsides like more frequent bathroom breaks, personal attention during the drive, and more flexibility on the breeds that are accepted.
4. Pet Van Lines
What sets Pet Van Lines apart from its competitors is its fleet of larger vehicles. This is perfect for large dogs, and it’s unsurprising that the company doesn’t have breed restrictions. Price quotes are free, though no cost information is on its website.
Pros of Pet Van Lines
- Larger vehicles mean there aren’t breed restrictions.
- You can have your car and pet relocated with the Fly and Drive program.
- Free quotes on shipping prices.
Cons of Pet Van Lines
- Not an IPATA member nor a BBB-accredited business.
- Doesn’t assist with documentation and vet visits before travel.
- Ground transportation only.
Pet Van Lines is a good option for pet owners that need to ship a large breed of dog because of their larger vehicle and lack of breed restrictions. The extra space (and cost) is unnecessary If you have a smaller animal or breed, or your pet is comfortable in a smaller space. In those cases, you’ll be able to find less expensive pet shipping companies.
3. Pet Express
Not to be confused with the similarly-named pet store, Pet Express is yet another airplane-based pet transport business. This family-owned company has been shipping pets since 1978. Every step of the process will be taken care of, from selecting a crate to booking the flight to getting the pet medically cleared to fly. Pick up, accommodation, and delivery at the destination are handled by Pet Express.
Pros of Pet Express
- Provides international shipping.
- A “comfort stop” is provided if a long layover is unavoidable so the pet can be fed and exercised between flights.
- Its website has a “crate calculator” to help you choose an appropriate pet carrier for the trip.
Cons of Pet Express
- No pricing information is available on its website.
- Shipping by airplane may not be possible due to weather conditions or breed restrictions.
- Doesn’t provide ground transport.
Pet Express is a good option for international travel because every step of the process is handled by the company. If you need to ship an animal domestically, there are less expensive ground-based choices that won’t stretch your budget.
2. Worldwide Animal Travel
As the name suggests, Worldwide Animal Travel is an international pet shipping company. The company is based in Canada and ships to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Africa – just about anywhere in the world. If you’re shipping puppies to the U.S. from a breeder that’s based in Canada, this company will have you covered.
Pros of Worldwide Animal Travel
- Offers “comfort stops” for connecting flights
- Has provided pet travel services for over 20 years.
- Offers door-to-door service.
Cons of Worldwide Animal Travel
- No trips that originate outside of Canada.
- No ground transportation options.
- Pricier than Royal Paws and other alternatives.
Worldwide Animal Travel is a great choice for pet owners that need to ship an animal from Canada. Because it doesn’t offer any service for trips originating outside of Canada, it’s not going to work for most pet transport needs.
CitizenShipper is an online marketplace that connects people with transport needs for hard-to-ship items, including pets, with transport pros. The website is easy to use, it’s free to post a shipping job, and you’ll get bids within minutes. Detailed profiles and an internal communication system allow you to identify drivers that meet your requirements effortlessly. Because the website has so many carriers with unique shipping capabilities, there aren’t breed restrictions.
Pros of CitizenShipper
- CitizenShipper’s driver profiles feature photos, badges, and thousands of reviews from previous customers.
- Drivers are vetted and pass a stringent background check.
- It’s the only transportation service that offers a pet transportation protection plan.
- Less expensive than traditional pet shipping services.
- Select drivers have 24/7 vet access.
- You can hire an Air Nanny if you can’t use ground transportation.
Cons of CitizenShipper
- Doesn’t provide international shipping.
- Drivers are independent transporters and usually aren’t pet shipping companies.
While it’s not a pet shipping company, your pet will be just as safe and comfortable riding with a CitizenShipper driver. The internal communication system allows you to negotiate with the drivers and ensure that you’re picking one that meets all of your and your pet’s requirements. The company charges a booking fee, but generally, you’ll save money when you use CitizenShipper. You can compare the cost between CitizenShipper bids and traditional pet transportation companies by filling out a New Move Form.
Finding the Best Option for Your Needs: 10 Royal Paws Pet Transportation Alternatives: Comparing Features, Pros, and Cons
CitizenShipper stands out as the best alternative for domestic ground transport in the US due to its versatility, affordability, and range of vetted drivers. This online marketplace has no breed restrictions and offers a unique pet transportation protection plan for added peace of mind. Though drivers are independent contractors and not employees, the platform ensures they are thoroughly vetted, making it an excellent choice for pet transportation needs across the nation. With CitizenShipper, you can trust that your furry friends will be transported safely and comfortably on their journey.
|Online marketplace, no breed restrictions
|Affordable, pet protection plan, vetted drivers
|Independent contractors, not employees
|Versatility & Affordability
|Worldwide Animal Travel
|International air transport, door-to-door service
|Comfort stops, 20+ years of experience
|No trips outside of Canada, no ground transport, pricier
|International Shipping from Canada
|Air transport, international service, crate calculator
|Handles every step, comfort stops during layovers
|No pricing info, no ground transport, breed restrictions
|International Air Transport
|Pet Van Lines
|Ground transport, door-to-door service, large vehicles
|No breed restrictions, Fly and Drive program, free quotes
|Not IPATA member, no assistance with documentation
|Large Breed Ground Transport
|Air transport, international service, ground service
|50 years of experience, IPATA member, USDA accredited
|Pricier, cargo area for large animals, breed restrictions
|Comprehensive International Services
|Online marketplace, shipping for various items
|Control over pricing, vetted drivers, cargo insurance
|Not pet-specific, varying quality of drivers
|Flexible Pricing & Diverse Shipments
|Starwood Animal Transport
|Ground transport, door-to-door service, 15 hubs
|TSA background checks, 24/7 dispatch service, special RVs
|No BBB accreditation, per-mile charges, limited hubs
|RV-based Ground Transport
|Happy Tails Travel, Inc.
|Air transport, door-to-door service
|Handles logistics, IPATA member, multiple animal discount
|Cargo hold transport, no weekends, consultation fee
|Air Transport with Pet Discounts
|Air transport, personal move instructor
|IPATA member, move counselor assistance, handles paperwork
|Mostly air-based, purchase carrier, cargo hold restrictions
|Move Counselor Assistance
|Air transport, ground transport in Northeast
|IPATA member, USDA Handler’s License, 50,000+ pets shipped
|Limited ground transport, no fee info, contact for quote
|Northeast Ground & Air Transport
Is It Safe to Ship Your Pet?
You might need to consider pet shipping companies because you’re moving cross-country or you bought a puppy from an out-of-state breeder. Whatever your circumstance, you’re probably asking yourself, “Is it safe to ship my pet?” The short answer is yes!
You’ve heard tragic stories about animals being lost, injured, or dying during a long-distance trip, but the reality is these occurrences are very rare. There are valid concerns you’ll have and should address with potential shippers, but as long as you do your research and choose a service you trust, your baby will be safe and well cared for during the journey.
Air travel is the fastest way to ship a pet long-distance. Most airlines don’t allow for unescorted pet travel. If you aren’t able to be on the flight with them, you’ll need to hire an Air Nanny. For many animals, air travel is either not possible or presents challenges:
- Large pets can’t travel as a carry-on, so they’ll have to spend the flight in the cargo hold.
- Airlines won’t accept brachycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs or Himalayan and Exotic Shorthair cats.
- An air trip is usually shorter than ground transportation, but pets may end up spending several consecutive hours in their carrier, which can be stressful and traumatic for some pets.
- Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are short-staffed and are limiting the types of cargo they’ll accept.
Consider Ground Transportation
If your pet isn’t completely comfortable staying in a carrier for long periods of time, air travel isn’t the best option. Instead, you should consider one of the ground transportation companies discussed above.
Many ground shippers allow you to communicate directly with the driver, and the vehicles have GPS, so you’re able to track their location during the trip. When you use a marketplace like CitizenShipper, you can personally choose the driver based on criteria like pricing, responsiveness, and reviews from real customers.
Now that you have some idea of the different pet shipping companies available, you’re ready to get started! CitizenShipper offers the most flexibility for any type of domestic move, whether on the ground or through the air. Get a free quote today!
Content Writer at CitizenShipper. I’ve also been published on The Penny Hoarder, Mommy Poppins and mxdwn.