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Guide to Selecting Pet Transport Services

Guide to Selecting Pet Travel Services
While we at PetTravelCenter.com do not transport pets, we do get a lot of questions about who to trust to transport their pets.  We understand that putting your loved one into the hands of a 3rd party while traveling is a big deal! Who do you trust and how to you know who to choose?  We've created this guide to help you answer that very important question.
Transporting pets, especially internationally, can be a very complicated procedure. Whether you want to fly with your dog, ship your cat by air or send your chinchilla across the country by ground transport, pet transport services can help eliminate the guesswork and make the trip as stress-free as possible for you and your four-legged friend.  Also, some airlines require a pet transport service to ship your pet.
A simple Google search will bring up a wide range of pet courier services for domestic travel, but how do you know which is right for your pet?  
Here we cover all the important areas that will help you choose the best one for your trip and your pet.   
Licenses and Certification
Pet Transport Services are subject to many of the same state and federal regulations of any professional shipping service. However, since they’re responsible for the safe transfer of live animals, the licenses and certification requirements are stricter. So before you choose a professional pet shipping service, it’s important to make sure they measure up to regulation. 
  • USDA License 
If a Pet Transport Service is handling “regulated” animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and others), they must be a licensed dealer with the USDA. For services that transport “unregulated” animals (such as reptiles, birds or fish), the USDA license is not required. 
  • Insurance Coverage 
It’s preferable if your pet transport service offers some amount of insurance to cover injury, loss or death of your pet in their care, most will refer you to a pet travel insurance program or affiliate. Coverage usually ranges from $100-$500 per pet, but doesn’t normally cover instances of illness or natural death that occur during transportation. 
  • IPATA Membership
The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) is an international network of pet shippers throughout the USA and around the world with over 350 offices in over 80 countries.        

IPATA members adhere to the rules and regulations of the Live Animals Regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and are registered with the applicable organizations within their own country. For example, in the US, IPATA members are registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and adhere to the rules and regulations of the USDA's Animal Welfare Act.
Pet transport companies that are a member of IPATA may provide an extra layer of vetting. You can search for IPATA’s member companies with their Find a Pet Shipper Tool
Experience and Success Stories 
It’s important to make sure the pet service has experience handing your type of animal since their needs can vary greatly. Also finding a transport service that has experience moving animals to the location you need is a plus, but not completely essential. 
Be sure to look for a service that has a lot of positive success stories to back it up. They may showcase some on their website, but also check out third party rating sites, such as Yelp. 
Cost
Of course the cost of the service is going to be a big factor in the decision making process for many people, but as always it should only be one of the factors. The price of a pet courier service will depend on mode of transport (ground or air), type of animal, the animal’s specific needs, and other factors. You should ask for an itemized quote from every transport service you consider. 
Boarding
If your pet has a long layover, or multiple days of ground travel, they will require boarding as well. This is usually something the pet transport service will arrange for you, but you should definitely research any third-party service they might use.
Some airports have boarding facilities for animals-in-transit. If your pet is transiting through an airport that doesn’t have one, then they will need to stay at a pet hotel or outside boarding facility. Your transport service can arrange for someone to take your pet to their hotel or boarding place, and bring them back to the airport in time for their connecting flight. 
Food and Supplies
Most pet transport services are very knowledgeable about the rules of how your pet can travel, and what they can have with them. 
All airlines and cargo services follow the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines for animal shipping, so be sure your pet’s crate meets their container requirements. 
How much food to send with your pet, how to store it, and what other items they can bring along with them will depend on the cargo service or airline, so check with them for specific requirements. 
Questions to Ask
This information provides an outline of the different factors you should consider when choosing a pet transport service. You should use this to ask the right questions that will make you feel comfortable before committing to any service. 
Here are some of the basic questions you can ask: 
  • How many years have you been transporting pets?  
  • Do you have any references from past clients I can review?
  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • Do you have any policies or procedures I should know about? 
  • What documents are required?
  • Does my pet need specific immunizations & tests?
  • Will you update me during the trip? How often?
  • What are your fees?
  • How often will you let my pet out of the crate? 
  • What if my pet needs overnight boarding? 
  • What supplies should I pack?
  • Are you willing to follow special care instructions from me? 
We hope this guide assists you in choosing a reputable and trustworthy pet transport service.
See a list of transport providers here
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