Moving With Pets

Most pet owners wouldn't dream of leaving these much-loved "family members" behind when they move.

But pets, like people, are happiest and most content when in familiar surroundings. Many have an instinctive fear of a new environment, even though they may adjust to it quickly.

Careful pre-planning will minimize or avoid relocation problems. In this document, we offer suggestions for simplifying the transfer of your pet, including a checklist of things to do and a special section on horses and ponies.

You can depend on us for knowledge and experience in helping you prepare for your move. We'll be happy to assist you, answer your questions, and work closely with you to make your relocation as effortless as possible.

Pre-planning for the transfer of your pet, as well as for your household goods, should begin as soon as you know you are going to move.









State Laws

Nearly every state has laws applicable to the entry of dogs, cats, horses, psittacine birds (birds of the parrot family) and other pets. Tropical fish are the only exception. It is important to comply with the law of the state to which you are moving; otherwise, you may be subject to prosecution. We suggest contacting the state veterinarian in the capital of your new home state well in advance of your move for specific laws concerning entry of your pet.

A few sates have border inspections of all animals being imported; other have random inspection by department of agriculture officials or the state highway patrol; some check interstate health certificates; many depend on individual compliance with the law; and a number rely on a combination of these methods. Representatives of the state department of agriculture are usually present at airports to inspect any pets arriving by air.


Local Regulations

The majority of communities in the United States have enacted pet control and licensing ordinances. In many instances these relate only to dogs, but increasing numbers of cities are applying them to cats as well. Local laws may limit the number of dogs or cats permitted in one household.

Most communities prohibit the stabling of horses, ponies and other livestock within the city limits. Where permitted, minimum distance from your barn to your and your neighbors' houses may be specified, as well as size of pasture required. You may have to stable your animal(s) outside the city limits.

License fees and the length of time a new resident has in which to obtain a license for a pet vary from place to place. Contact the city clerk or town hall at the destination city for specific information.







The documents pertaining to your pet's health are important. You may be asked to show them at any time, especially when traveling, so it's advisable to keep them handy. Any or all of the following may be required.


Health Certificate

Interstate health certificates must accompany dogs and horses entering nearly all states. About half have the same requirements for cats, birds and other pets.

In some cases, advance receipt of the health certificate by the destination state's regulatory agency is a prerequisite to entry of the pet.

The health certificate must include a complete description of the pet, list all inoculations it has had, and state that it is free from infectious diseases.

Have your pet examined by your veterinarian well in advance of departure so there will be time for any treatment or inoculations recommended. If pet is excitable, or prone to motion sickness when traveling, ask the vet to prescribe medication. Also ask if he will recommend a colleague in your new area.



Some pets must have entry permits issued by the destination state's regulatory agency. Either you or your veterinarian may apply for the permit, for which there may be a charge. Receipt of an interstate health certificate from the state of origin may be required for insurance of the permit.


Note: Validity of health certificates and permits is strictly limited in several states. If you are moving to one of these, be sure your pet arrives within the valid period.


Rabies Tag

The majority of states require dogs to have a rabies inoculation, and most have the same regulation for cats. State and local laws usually stipulate that the rabies tag must be securely attached to the pet's collar.







In addition to permanent identity and rabies tags, both dogs and cats should be provided with special travel identification tags. A luggage-type tag with space on both sides for writing is excellent for this particular purpose. The tag should include the pet's name, your name and destination address, and the name and address of an alternate person to contact in case you can't be located.

Birds are sometimes identified by leg bands, while brands, tattoos, color photos and/or health registration papers are used for ponies. The pet's health certificate may also be used for identification purposes.







Pets cannot be moved on the moving van. Nor, except for guide dogs accompanying blind and/or deaf persons, are they permitted on trains or buses. So ways of pet transportation are limited to two:

  • your personal motor vehicle; and
  • by air, with the pet either accompanying you or in an appropriate container traveling as air freight.


Caution: The Animal Welfare Act prohibits air transportation of puppies and kittens less than eight weeks old and prior to weaning, whether accompanied or unaccompanied.

If you choose air freight, you must also:

  • decide whether to ship the pet before you leave and have it cared for at destination until your arrival; or
  • leave it with someone for shipment later when you'll be able to pick it up at destination yourself; and
  • appoint someone reliable to take charge of the pet at either origin or destination point.

Be sure to discuss the transfer of your pet with us. We can help select the best way to transfer it, offer helpful suggestions and assist with, or take care of, any necessary shipping arrangements.

We may recommend a pet handling agency that will take care of all the details of shipping pets, including boarding, pickup and delivery. Costs vary according to services rendered.







This is the key to an easier transfer, regardless of the mode of transportation chosen. Travel arrangements should be completed as far in advance of moving day as is practical, keeping departure day tasks to a minimum. One person in the family should assume responsibility for the pet.

The following checklist will serve as a reminder of things to be done, and will provide some tips and hints for air and car travel.

  • Check destination state's pet entry regulations. Contact your local and state government agencies in charge of animal health.
  • Take pet to veterinarian for checkup and health document – apply for entry permit if one is needed; inquire about sedation for pet; obtain pet's health record; schedule second visit to vet if necessary; ask vet to recommend a colleague in the new city.
  • Obtain and prepare travel identification tag.







Airlines that accept pets for transportation have specific regulations covering their passage, whether they are accompanied or unaccompanied. When making inquiries, be sure to ask about the airline's requirements, transportation charges and pet insurance.


Accompanied Pets

Some airlines permit pets in passenger cabins if they can be kept in a carrier stowed under the seat. Check with your airline to see if this is allowed and the maximum kennel size permitted. Larger pets must travel as air freight (see “Unaccompanied Pets” on the next page).

Reservations should be made well in advance of the departure date as the number of pets permitted on a flight is strictly limited, and pet approval is granted on a first-come, first-served basis. A guide dog, properly harnessed, normally travels in the cabin at its master's feet. However, the airline must be notified in advance that the dog will be on the flight.

If your pet is to travel in the cabin, take it with you when you check in. If it goes as air freight, it must be delivered to the freight terminal in time to ensure inclusion on your flight.

Should your trip require a transfer between airlines, check pet regulations of the second airlines in advance to be sure that pets are carried. There is no through-checking of pets between airlines, so it will be your responsibility to see that connections are made at the transfer point. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the transfer.


Unaccompanied Pets

Dogs and cats should be shipped via air freight; birds tropical fish, and small pets such as hamsters or gerbils by air express, a division of air freight. Make shipping arrangements as far in advance as possible, so space can be reserved and detail about the flight settled. Follow all shipping instructions carefully.

You will be responsible for:

  • advance payment of shipping charges;
  • providing the shipping container, legibly and durably marked with both your and the consignee's (person to whom the pet is being shipped) name, address and phone number;
  • providing required health documents;
  • signing of the Air Waybill (shipping papers);
  • delivery of pet to the air freight terminal on time;
  • pickup at destination; and
  • notifying consignee as to airline and flight number the pet will be on, as well as place, date and time of arrival.

The kind of pet you have and its size will affect the type of container used. All containers, however, should be capable of withstanding freight falling on them. In addition, the container should be clean, escape proof, well ventilated and leak proof with an absorbent layer in the bottom.

Travel kennels are available at pet stores and through the freight departments at airlines. According to the Air Transport Association, the following are guidelines when using a kennel:

  • only one adult dog or cat per container and only two puppies or kittens less than six months old.
  • place a label reading “Live Animal” on the container with letters at least one inch high.
  • mark the top with “This End Up”.
  • include an empty water dish which is accessible from the outside of the container.
  • attach feeding instructions or state “don't feed or water”.
  • appropriate food, if any, should be placed in a bag and attached to the outside of the kennel.

Tropical fish are best “packed” for shipment by pet suppliers specializing in tropical fish. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Tropical Fish” and “Aquariums and Aquarium Supplies”.

Regulations for shipping pets by air were formulated to ensure that all pets arrive at destination safely. The weather is a major concern. It's better to ship pets only during moderate weather. They should be in proper carriers, sedated only if the veterinarian so advises, and picked up without delay at destination.

Generally, tranquilizing pets for air travel is not recommended. While tranquilized, dogs and cats can't regulate their body temperatures as well as they normally do and could become hypothermic in a chilly cargo hold in winter. In addition, tranquilization can also contribute to pressure buildup in the ears. If your pet is especially nervous, your vet may administer an anti psychotic drug rather than a tranquilizer.

The pet should be picked up at destination within a reasonable time; if not, it will be boarded at the owner's expense at a kennel or other appropriate place.


Pre-Planning for Air Travel

  • Make flight reservation. Follow airline instructions carefully.
  • Obtain shipping container or carrier (for dog or cat) a week or two prior to departure date. Accustom pet to it gradually. Pet's nap time is a good time to start, and placing its blanket or a favorite toy in the carrier helps.
  • Purchase shipping container for bird or small pet from pet supply company.
  • If pet is being shipped via air freight and your departure precedes that of pet, make boarding and shipping arrangements at point of origin.
  • If pet's departure precedes yours, make any necessary pickup and boarding arrangements at destination. Be sure consignee has complete flight schedule and name of airport where pet will arrive (some cities have more than one airport), as well as the Air Waybill number.


Day of Departure

  • Feed pet no less than six hours before flight time; normally, no additional food is required for dogs for at least 12 hours. Give pet a drink of water about two hours before takeoff.
  • Deliver pet to air terminal on time. Check with your airline in advance to determine if your pet should go to the passenger or air freight terminal and the cut-off time for the flight.
  • Exercise pet on leash at airport and administer any necessary medication before confining it to shipping container. Attach pet's leash securely to outside of container.
  • Be certain that names, addresses and telephone numbers of those responsible for pet at both destination and origin cities are legible and durably marked on the container, an on pet's travel identification tag.
  • Notify consignee that pet is on the way. Pet can usually be picked up within an hour to 90 minutes after arrival of the flight. It's advisable for consignee to phone the airline's cargo office in advance to be sure flight is on time. The Air Waybill number is useful when making inquiries.
  • Within two hours of landing, cats should be offered both food and water; dogs should be given a small amount of water immediately upon landing to moisten the mouth after panting during the flight.


Last-Minute Air Travel Checklist

  • All health and shipping documents in order?
  • Identification tag attached to pet's collar?
  • Shipping container in order? Securely latched? Legibly labeled? Leash attached?
  • Consignee given all information needed?







This is a practical way of transferring your pet, particularly if the distance you are moving is comparatively short – a day's travel or less. Overnight travel is more involved and includes making and confirming advance reservations at motels or hotels that permit pets.* If camping, find out whether pets are permitted in the public or private campgrounds at which you expect to stop.

* A list of motels and hotels that permit pets may be obtained from auto or hotel/motel guides. If time permits before your move, you may want to request the directory “Touring With Towser”. To receive a free copy, send your request to “Touring With Towser”, Heinz Pet Products, 1 Riverfront Place, Newport, KY 41071. Supplies are limited to two copies per person. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.


Dogs and Cats

Unless your dog or cat is already conditioned to car travel, start taking it on short trips to accustom it to car motion and teach it travel manners.

A dog should be taught to sit or lie quietly in its own place, to keep its head inside the car, not to annoy the driver or passengers, or bark at passing vehicles.

Most cats are frightened of car travel, but usually become accustomed to it quickly. You can allow the cat to find its own niche in the car as long as it doesn't interfere with the driver or passengers or let it ride in its own carrier.

For either a dog or cat, a carrier or portable kennel is one of the most useful items you can have on an overnight motor trip. It becomes the pet's “home-away-from-home” while staying in a motel or hotel room. Folding kennels, as well as crates designed especially for station wagons, are available.

Condition your dog or cat to the restraint of a leash. Cat harnesses are available at many pet shops. A stake with a long leash attached will be useful in keeping your pet restricted outdoors – an especially good idea for campers, as most campgrounds do not permit pets to run free.

Have your dog's nails clipped before the trip to prevent scratches and upholstery damage to the car.

Attach pet's travel identification and rabies tags firmly to its collar.

For your convenience, pack a travel kit for your pet. Include:

  • pet's food and water dishes
  • supply of pet's regular food
  • can opener if needed
  • a few treats
  • favorite toy or two
  • blanket
  • comb and/or brush
  • a sedative prescribed by your veterinarian
  • a mop-up towel, paper towels or a few newspapers
  • flea or tick repellent if you'll be in rural areas
  • spray-type room deodorant or air freshener if you'll be taking your pet into a motel or hotel room during the trip
  • scooper and plastic bags to clean up after your dog at motel or campgrounds
  • a litter box, bag or litter and scooper for your cat


Trip Tips – Some Do's and Don'ts

  • Don't feed or water the pet just before starting. Try to keep to established walking and feeding routines. A few treats will do for snacks during the day.
  • Administer a sedative or tranquilizer if veterinarian has a prescribed one.
  • Take a container of fresh water along; a sudden change in drinking water may cause a temporary upset in some dogs.
  • Plan stops at regular intervals to give your pet a drink and a short run. Wayside rest areas make good stopping places.
  • Never let your dog or cat loose in a strange place. Exercise it on leash. Always attach the leash before opening the car door and detach it after the pet is back inside and the door closed. Take care when stopping at gasoline stations and restaurants. Don't give an excited pet a chance to bolt and become lost – it may be gone forever in spite of identification tags.
  • Keep car windows rolled up enough to prevent your pet from jumping or falling out.
  • Don't let your pet hang its head out of the window. Sore eyes can be caused by dust, grit and insects in the air; inflamed ears and throat by too much wind.
  • Your pet should never be left unattended in a vehicle. However, if you must leave pet in the car on a warm day, park in the shade, open all the windows an inch or two for cross ventilation, leave water and check on pet every hour or so. If the day is hot, do not leave pet in the car at all. Heat can quickly become excessive in a parked car even if it's in the shade, and animals can suffer from heat prostration.
  • Keep strangers, especially children, at a distance if your pet seems to be nervous. Even the most gentle pet can be provoked into growling or snapping.
  • Don't permit your pet to do things to antagonize people:

    • Keep it out of restaurants, and on a short leash in motel or hotel lobbies and other public buildings.
    • Walk it away from manicured lawns, gardens and swimming pool areas.
    • If left alone in a motel or hotel room, it might disturb others, chew on the furniture, have an “accident” or escape when the maid opens the door to clean the room.
  • Notify the management if you must leave the pet alone in your room. Expect to pay for any damage it might cause. And just before checking out, spray the room with air freshener to eliminate any pet odors that might linger.


Birds and Other Small Caged Pets

Birds and small pets, such as gerbils and hamsters, can generally travel in the cage they use at home.

Remove the water container from the cage to avoid spills. Place the cage in the car out of drafts but with plenty of ventilation, and be sure it will not tip over.

Give the pet fresh water at every stop – small pets become dehydrated very quickly, particularly during hot weather. Feed at the usual time.

Travel tends to have adverse effect on birds. They are very susceptible to drafts and sudden changes in temperature, as well as being easily frightened. To keep the bird calm, its cage should be covered while on the road.


Tropical Fish

Tropical fish are susceptible to an abrupt change in water temperature, and their condition is directly affected by overcrowding. To transport tropical fish by car, it's best to remove them from the aquarium – unless it's a small one of five gallons or less that can be moved without too much danger of breakage.

An unbreakable container of a size easily handled when it's half-full of water (minnow bucket, lidded container with air holes in the lid) makes a convenient carrier. Or, use a leak proof plastic bag closed with a rubber band; place it in an outer bag of similar size to prevent accidental leakage; then into a sturdy container, such as a plastic foam picnic cooler. This system is handy for stabilizing the water temperature for up to 48 hours.

When transferring them to the container, remember that fish need air; fill the container or plastic bag only about one-third full of water.


Use the water from the aquarium. Add the fish (don't overcrowd) and close the top. Open the container or plastic bag every four or five hours to freshen the air supply.

It probably won't be necessary to feed the fish. Many species can go without food or as long as a week with no ill effects.

Plants and snails from the aquarium can be carried long in plastic bags with a small amount of water. The aquarium accessories should be carefully packed by either you or the mover.

If convenient, take along in a separate container as much of the aquarium water as you have room for.

At destination, replace water and fish in the aquarium as soon as possible. Add tap water a little at a time to fill the aquarium to the proper level, letting the fish adjust gradually to the new water. New water may need treatment before use to neutralize any chemicals it might contain. Neutralizers can be purchased at most pet shops, as can liquid healing agents for use if fish become bruised while traveling.

If the fish must be moved in the aquarium itself, remove about half the water, the aerator, heater hood, and anything else that might shift and cause the glass to break. Cover the top with plastic film to keep the water from splashing out. To avoid breakage, take care that the bottom of the aquarium is solidly supported while it is being lifted and moved.

It's advisable to place the aquarium into a corrugated carton and paid it with crushed paper. Wedge the carton in the car so it will not slide during the trip. Replace the aerator immediately upon arrival at destination.


Last-Minute Car Travel Checklist

  • Necessary health documents and pet's veterinary record on hand?
  • Travel identification and rabies tags attached to pet's collar?
  • Pet's travel kit packed?
  • Stake and long leash in the car? Scooper and plastic bags?
  • Cat litter and litter box?
  • Water container filled for pet? For aquarium?
  • Cage or carrier fixed in place to it won't tip or slide around?
  • Sedative or tranquilizer administered to pet?
  • Hotel reservations verified?







Your horse or pony can be transported commercially via air freight, or by a horse transporting company. Or you can tow it in a horse trailer behind your motor vehicle. In any case, if you are moving out of state, you'll need the health documents required by the destination state.



Towing your horse or pony in a trailer behind your motor vehicle is a handy way of transporting it to your new location. In addition to the animal, the trailer will hold a reasonable amount of feed and tack. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Trailers – Horse”.


Caution: Driving with a horse trailer takes skill. It's inadvisable to attempt it unless you are familiar with trailering, or have plenty of time for practice before departure.

On trips that will take more than a day, it's best to plan overnight stops in advance. Be sure to inquire about local facilities for the care of horses when booking accommodations. If you are camping, make certain that horses are permitted in the campgrounds or somewhere nearby. Motel managements, particularly in rural communities, will sometimes grant permission for a horse and trailer to be kept in the parking area overnight.

A horse or pony can generally be boarded overnight at reasonable cost at stables along the way. All well-run stables will ask to see the animal's interstate health certificate and negative Coggins (equine infectious anemia) test before admitting it. The stable management may be able to advise as to where you can obtain stabling for the following night.


By Air

A cargo airline that accepts your horse or pony for transport will accommodate it only on a non-stop flight between origin and destination cities. An attendant must accompany the animal. You will be required to provide a shipping stall constructed according to airline specifications and, if necessary, loading and unloading ramps. Any tack shipped must be labeled and weighed separately.

You will be responsible for prepayment of shipping charges and attendant's fare, delivery of animal and tack to the air terminal on time, and pickup at destination.

Some horse transporting companies will, for a fee, make all the necessary arrangements for air shipment of your horse or pony. Transporters are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Horse Transporting”.


By Horse Transporting Company

Companies engaged in the interstate transportation of horses are required to have Interstate Commerce Commission operating authority. Transportation charges are based on a point-to-point mileage system with door-to-door pickup and delivery.

Minimum insurance is usually included in the rate quoted; additional insurance is up to you. Shipping requirements vary from one transporting company to another, but in general:

  • Some tack may be shipped with the horse at no additional cost.
  • You may be required to furnish hay.
  • Drivers are experienced in the care of horses.
  • During the trip, horses are exercised at regular intervals, depending on your instructions.
  • Any overnight accommodation necessary can be arranged.
  • At least a three-week notice for pickup is preferred.
  • Depending on company policy, transportation charges are either payable in full at the time of pickup or delivery. Charges are payable in cash, certified check or money order.







Among the more unusual pets are monkeys, boa constrictors and other snakes, lizards, alligators and skunks. These can be transported by air, adhering closely to airline instructions for crating, or in your motor vehicle.

However, many states have specific regulations covering the entry of wild or exotic animals. It's wise to contact the regulatory agency of the destination state prior to moving to be sure which animals are allowed.







The pet should be confined until it realizes that this is the new home and that the family is going to stay, or it may wander off and try to return to the old home. This is especially true of cats, which should be confined for several weeks.

To speed that “at home” feeling, use the pet's familiar food and water dishes, bed, blanket, toys, etc. Try to put them in the same sort of location as they were in the old home – water dish by the back door, food dish in a particular spot in the kitchen, etc.

It's best to keep your bird where it will be undisturbed until it becomes used to its new surroundings. Other small pets usually have few or no adjustment problems other than becoming used to a change in the water supply. This is also true of tropical fish – to avoid harming them, test the water for similarity to that in your old home and adjust it to the requirements of the fish.







Once settled in your new home, locate a new veterinarian. When you've chosen one, give him your pet's veterinary record. Having this information on hand will save time and confusion should your pet require emergency or other treatment.

To select a new veterinarian at destination, ask your previous veterinarian to recommend a colleague, check with your new neighbors who own pets or contact the American Animal Hospital Association for a referral. With affiliated hospitals located throughout the country, AAHA members are required to have extensive training and excellent facilities. For a recommendation of a new vet, call the AAHA at (800) 252-2242 and ask for the Member Service Center. Or, mail your request to the association at P.O. Box 150899, Denver, CO 80215-0899. You should provide the ZIP code of your new hometown when calling or writing.












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