Tips on Moving with Pets
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There are some simple rules for moving with your pets that we’ll talk about in this article and about the necessary planning as well. It’s worth taking the time to make sure you are prepared and not breaking the law. Otherwise, if you don’t comply with the laws you may be subject to prosecution.
Every state of the US has rules and laws applicable to the entry of cats, dogs, horses, parrots, and other pets, except tropical fish. Rules vary by states and there are usually representatives of the department of agriculture inspecting pets and checking the compliance at airports and border lines. Some states may have licensing and/or vaccination requirements, in some states they only check interstate health certificates and permits, while few states have border inspection of all pets, some of the states check individual compliance with the law, or depend on a set of the rules above.
No matter which state you are moving to, keep your pet’s health certificate and other documents handy, as you may be asked to show them anytime. You can refer to the downloadable guide table. We also recommend reading the full detailed information regarding pet import/export on the State’s website you’re moving from and to.
Start packing and preparing for your upcoming move as early as possible. Because the process might make your pets feel anxious, get panicked and escape the house. Or consider sending them away to your friend’s house or doggy day care for the time you’re packing up your house.
- Ways of Transportation
- Which is Best: to Drive or to Fly?
- Transporting Pets by Air
- Accompanied Pets
- Unaccompanied Pets
- Preparing for Pet Shipping
- Driving Your Pets
- Before the Move
- During the Move
- After the Move
- Short State-by-State Guide to Moving with Pets [PDF]
Ways of Transportation
There are only 2 ways of transporting pets:
- By air. Your pet can travel in a special container as air freight, or he can accompany you in the plan.
- By car. You can drive yourself and transport your pets in your vehicle.
Pets can not be transported on the moving vehicle, except guide dogs accompanying blind and visually impaired persons. Because they are not permitted on trains and buses.
You Can Also Hire a Professional Pet Moving Company
It’s the most expensive option, but using a professional mover makes sense when it comes to long-distance, logistically difficult or international moves. Average price can be around $1000 for a small pet for interstate moves.
Pet moving companies can research and deal with flight regulations and quarantines, and arrange best options and routes for transporting your pet. They can even transport your pet personally by car or private plane if needed.
Which Is Best: To Drive or to Fly?
Long-distance relocation obviously requires a flight, as the long travel can be stressful for your pet. But if you are moving locally and your new place is within driving distance, it’s better transporting your pets by car. Buckle them up with pet seat belts or put them in a kennel while transporting.
Flying with pets is not simple as it seems, because that means more than just showing up at the airport with your pet. Before flying with your pet, you should read the airline’s rules and regulations carefully, as well as state regulations you’re moving to, and keep your pet’s documents, health certificates, etc. handy. On some commercial flights dogs and cats of small sizes can travel under your seat. You’ll just have to pay a fee, that is around $100-150 one way. Let’s do a deeper dive into this topic.
Transporting Pets by Air
Download the checklist below on your phone, it will be helpful when preparing for a move with your pet.
Air Travel Checklist
- Pay the transportation charges
- Prepare health documents
- Book pet-friendly hotels
- Make sure the carrier is in a good condition
- Prepare the ID tag
- Take pet pictures
Additional checklist for pet shipping:
- Pay the fees
- Prepare shipping documents
- Prepare shipping container
- Check the ID tag is attached to the collar
- Make sure the consignee information legibly labeled
- Check if the leash is attached
- Securely latched
Things You Should Know About Air Transportation
- Kittens and puppies younger than 8 weeks cannot be transported by air, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, according to the Animal Welfare Act. If your pet is older than 8 weeks, airlines will accept them for transportation, and there are regulations covering their passage.
- Don’t forget to ask about transportation charges, pet insurance, and other important details prior to your flight, as the rules may vary by airlines.
- If you have a transfer with different airlines, check pet regulations of the second airline too, as there’s no through-checking of pets between airlines.
- Make your reservation as early as you can, because the number of pets permitted on the board is limited. Keep in mind that airlines accept pets on a first-come-first-serve basis until they reach their capacity.
- If your pets are not too big and can be kept in a carrier no larger than 21″x 18″x 8″, they can fly with you under your seat in a passenger cabin.
- If you have larger pets that cannot suit in such carriers, then they can travel as air freight or fly in the cargo area of a plane in kennels. Cargo area is a pressurized and temperature-controlled space in a plane.
- Before you go to the airport make sure your kennel complies with the regulations set by the International Air Transport Association and the Agriculture Department.
- In case you decide to transport your pets in cargo, it’s recommended to transport them in spring or fall. The reason is that the airlines do not transport pets when it’s colder that 45℉ or warmer that 85℉.
- Also, it’s better not to medicate your pets prior to flight for two reasons. First, medication and tranquilizers can be the cause of death of your pet during transportation. The other reason is that some airlines do not transport medicated dogs and cats.
Dogs and cats can be transported via cargo or air freight, but what about the other small house pets? Tropical fish, parrots, turtles, hamsters or gerbils, should be shipped via air express, it’s a division of air freight. It’s recommended to make shipping arrangements in advance as well. It’s crucial to choose late evening or early morning flights during moderate weather in spring or fall.
There are also rules and instructions for pet shipping that should be followed:
- Prepare health certificates and the shipping container. The container should be bump proof, have a leak proof bottom with absorbent layer and cross ventilation.
- Label the container clearly and durably with your and receiver’s information (name, phone number and address)
- Bring the pet to the air freight terminal, pay the charges and fees, sign shipping papers
- Pick the pet up at the destination or notify the receiver the flight number, arrival date and time.
Preparing for Pet Shipping
First of all, you should decide whether you leave first and ask someone you know to ship your pet later, so you can pick it up at the destination. Or ship your pet earlier before you leave and appoint someone to take care of it until you arrive.
You should prepare a shipping container at least 1-2 weeks before the departure date. Place your pet inside the container to let it accustom gradually. At first leave it for a few minutes with its favorite toy, then increase the time gradually day by day.
Do not feed your pet right before departure. It’s recommended to feed it 5-6 hours prior to flight and give water 2 hours before taking off.
Driving Your Pets
Pet Travel Kit
Pack a travel kit for your pet, you can use the downloadable PDF below. Just save the checklist on your phone, so you can refer to it anytime during preparation for a trip.
- Supply of pet’s regular food
- Can opener
- Pet’s food and water dishes
- Blanket and portable toys
- Flea or tick repellent
- Comb or brush
- Scooper and plastic bags (to clean up after your pet)
- Stake and long leash
- A few treats
- Seatbelt for your pet
- No-spill water bowl
- Seat cover to protect your car upholstery
- Towel, paper towels or a few newspapers
- Sedative prescribed by your veterinarian
- Spray-type room deodorant or air freshener
Earlier before your move, it’s suggested to start taking your pet on short trips until it gets accustomed to car motion. Sometimes pets can get car sick. In this case, feed your pet hours before you depart, and feed again only after you arrive at the destination. You’ll be stopping several times for bathroom breaks. Plan your route in advance, choose pet-friendly hotels or motels for your stops, if you are moving for a longer distance.
Start teaching your pets, particularly your dog travel manners. Your dog should sit quietly in its place or inside the car, keeping its head inside, should not annoy passengers or bark at other cars and vehicles. Don’t forget to cut your pet’s nails before your departure, as it can scratch the car seats, doors or other surfaces inside the vehicle.
Last Minute Car Checklist
- Prepare health documents and pet’s veterinary record
- Make sure the travel identification and rabies tags are attached to the collar
- Pack the pet’s travel
- Fill the water container for pet and for aquarium
- Make sure that the cage or carrier is fixed well so it won’t tip or slide around
Before the move
- Schedule a visit to the veterinarian for checkup and obtain necessary health documents. Make sure that vaccines are up-to-date and ask about anxiety medications to relieve the stress during the move. Get a clean bill of health before you depart.
- Make necessary travel reservations in advance. Before you book tickets, contact the airline and ask about their policy for pet transportation and associated fees. Find pet-friendly hotels along your route and reserve rooms in advance. Travel arrangements should be done ahead of time in order to reduce the departure day tasks. Appoint one person in your family to be responsible for your pet during the move.
- Check how your pet deals with stress. Put it in a quiet room or a crate for a few minutes to an hour every day before the move, increase the time gradually day by day. So your pet will get used to the noise and chaos of moving day in advance, that will help prevent an accidental escape during the move. Check your pet carrier carefully, make sure that all the locking mechanisms are in good condition.
- Prepare an ID tag. It should include your pet’s name and emergency contact numbers. Take pictures of your pet, in case you’ll need some photos to help others identify your pet. You can also consider microchipping as a backup in case if you lose your pet’s collar.
- Also, don’t forget to prepare some prepackaged meals for your pet before you depart. But don’t feed your pet right before travel. It’s recommended feeding it at least a few hours before the flight or drive, that’s a good way to prevent nausea.
During the Move
It’s important to transport your cats, small dogs and other pets in a secure and well-ventilated carrier. If you have a larger dog, always keep it leashed. Don’t transport them in an open truck bed, a moving van or the trunk of a car. You pets may run away in unfamiliar surroundings because of stress.
Don’t feed your pet, but give it fresh water and potty breaks whenever you stop for a break. Again, remember to keep it leashed during potty breaks.
After the Move
It’s important reassembling a familiar environment at your new place. Make your new home seem like your old house for your pet: set up its bed, food bowl and toys like it was before. Spend more time with your pet, explore your new neighborhood together if you have a dog. Introduce your dog to the new area and allow it to stop and sniff around everything. If your dog seems sad or uninterested in the new surroundings, remember that it needs some time to adapt.
Ask your veterinarian to recommend colleagues he knows at the place you moved to, ask your neighbors or find a new veterinarian yourself. Talk to pet owning neighbors for recommendations regarding the best dog parks or places to buy pet food in your area.
Monitor your pet how it acts, consult with your new veterinarian to help it acclimate to their new environment. If you have outdoor pets, keep them indoors for the first week. If your pet is anxious, the first few weeks keep it in a crate when you leave the house. Pets with separation anxiety may require more attention.