Shipping Pets Safely: “Why Does it Cost So Much?”

Pet Transport CostsBreaking Down the Costs of Pet Transport Services

Moving a pet isn't cheap, and here at PetRelocation we're often asked why. Isn't it just a matter of booking a flight? Why should it have to cost so much?

Door-to-Door Services

“Door-to-Door” pet relocations contain a surprising number of moving parts. Those unacquainted with the service initially balk at the price tag, but when each individual expense is taken into account, it's clear why a safe and successful pet move can be a little pricey.

Here are a few of the components that make up a typical pet move:

Import Permits - Emigrating to a new country often requires that you obtain formal permission from the government to bring your pet along with you.

Government Endorsements for Health Certificates - In addition to obtaining health certificates from your veterinarian, they must be certified by relevant governing bodies as well, such as the USDA or the correct Consular Offices.

Pick-up and Delivery - Pets are transported in a safe and timely way from your home to the airport and from the arrival airport to the new home on the other end.  Hiring a trusted driver with a climate-controlled vehicle (picture your pet in their very own private car!) is an important part of the process, and time spent in traffic or driving longer distances as well as fuel costs must also be factored in when budgeting for this part of the service.

Your Pet's Plane Ticket - The bulk of the cost associated with moving a pet is the airfare. While you may be able to hop on a discount flight to your destination without worrying about routing or stops, pets have to be carefully routed to ensure they are only flying in and out of airports that have pet-friendly airlines. Any layovers that last more than a few hours must include a comfort stop for the pet, typically at a pet hotel.

These pet hotel fees, combined with the rising cost of fuel and the higher rates airlines charge for live animals due to liability (and the added amount of attention they require from the airline staff), can make what seems like a simple flight booking cost considerably more.

Airport Check-In - It often takes a few hours to get past the check-in counter before departure, which requires specialized assistance to ensure that paperwork is in order and pets are properly looked after.

Customs Clearance - Once pets have landed it's not over yet; entry procedures must also be negotiated and tariffs, taxes and country-specific fees are paid at this time.

Personalized Care  - Your Pet Relocation Coordinator becomes your single point of contact for everything related to your pet's move. Specialists research the flight options, contact the airlines, make the bookings, establish communication with customs offices to make sure they'll be open when needed, secure approval for import when special permissions must be granted, and keep you, the customer, informed throughout the process.

No Regrets

It's natural to want to cut costs where you can or to feel hesitant about spending a substantial sum of money on something you could potentially handle yourself, but pet owners often tell us how happy they are that they chose to hire us. Take a look at what a few of our clients had to say after their pets were delivered safely to them:

“The dogs were treated impeccably through their entire journey. The people they met along the course of their travels was each informed of their past, and the dogs were shown kindness and compassion throughout their entire travels.” Read More

“Polo and Luca arrived to Shanghai happy and healthy on schedule! They love their Shanghai home! We all have adjusted well.” Read More

“Once we knew we were moving, we searched for someone to help us move Lilly and Ruby. It was going to be stressful enough moving ourselves without worrying about having the right crate, the right paperwork, and organizing their flights.” Read More

Like building a deck or planning your wedding, it comes down to pinpointing what you're willing and able to do on your own and then deciding that it might be better to let a specialist handle things more efficiently.

Precious Cargo

Many people do end up choosing the cheapest option (handling the move themselves), but many others decide that their energy would be better spent elsewhere and decide to hire us. After all, moving the furriest member of your family requires far more care and attention than moving your household belongings, so it makes sense to let someone more experienced step in.

It's true that you're not going to find “bargain-basement” prices when it comes to moving a pet. But, while it may not be cheap to engage our services, ultimately you get what you pay for.


Ready to talk about how to ship your pet safely? Contact us for a pet travel consultation.


Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2011 and has been updated with new information.


PetRelocation Team





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By Laura Hearne on August 14, 2018 at 8:41 am

I paid for pet shipping, which while not in the thousands was three time the cost of excess baggage. I did the paperwork, certificates checkin, pet care upto boarding.My lovely dog was treated like excess baggage and was in fact with the oversized bags in Frankfurt. No one supervised his pick up I found when I heard him barking.He would have been just as well off going excess bag on the plane I rode over on. If fact he did- I just paid for more.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on August 14, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi Laura - thanks for your feedback! Many clients, like yourself, decide to self-manage their pet move instead of hiring a company like ours to oversee the process. It is very valuable to have your personal experience so we appreciate you sharing!

By Bonnie Cortes on August 14, 2018 at 8:13 am

We shipped three dogs last year during our move from San Antonio, TX to Mons, Belgium. We used United's PetSafe program out of Houston. We shipped our American Staffordshire Terrier mix unaccompanied direct from Houston to Amsterdam. Because of his breed, we had to purchase a reinforced crate. The folks at Houston PetSafe were great. The only issue is my husband did not know where to meet the dog once at Amsterdam so it took some calling around at 1 am Texas time to locate where Max was delivered. Our other two, a Bernese Mountain Dog who also required a custom crate due to his size and height, and our Maremma flew with me from Houston to Newark to Brussels. They received a comfort break in Newark which was good as we flew on probably the coldest day of the year. The shipping costs alone for all three dogs was over $6,000, not including crate costs, vet fees, custom fees, etc. It can be expensive, especially if you have big dogs. And although United received a bad rap over the summer, I have nothing but kudos to them for getting our dogs to our new home.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on August 14, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Hi Bonnie! That's wonderful news. Moving pets is definitely an investment but totally worth it to have your pets safely reunited with you at your new home. We're fans of United's pet program as well. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

By Zlatina Nikolova on August 14, 2018 at 7:17 am

We relocated our husky last year for 1500 euro from Bulgaria to Ireland.He travelled with two Lufthansa flights and stayed one night in pet hotel in Frankfurt.Both bulgarian and irish pet relocation agencies worked in perfect synchron and I am very happy with their services.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on August 14, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Hi Zlatina! Thanks for sharing! Glad your pup had a great experience on his first international trip!

By Maureen Gerrard on May 16, 2018 at 2:24 am

Please could you tell me roughly how much it would cost to send 1 sausage dog and 1 car to the UK from South Africa.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 17, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Hi Maureen! Many thanks for your inquiry and the opportunity to assist! As you may be aware, there are a number of variables that impact the final cost of a pet relocation. These consist of distances from the home addresses to the airports, travel crate size, airline being used, routing and travel date to name a few. All moves are customized to fit the needs of our clients, so if you'd like to get a quote for our services, please fill out our Arrange A Move Form here. Looking forward to speaking with you soon!

By brandy mertin on April 13, 2018 at 11:23 pm

Wondering if your company gives out "coupons for free shipping ever "?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on April 16, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Hi Brandy, Thanks for your email. We do not have coupons for our service. Unfortunately, you might be a victim of a "pet shipping scam" and I'd suggest reviewing this blog post here. Hope this is helpful!

By Dina Bockhart on December 26, 2017 at 5:38 am

Please give me a quote to move my 7 month old Jack Russell from Durban, South Africa to Heathrow, UK.I have read the rules and am complying to them. I just need a quote.Thank youDina Bockhart

By on December 26, 2017 at 10:38 am

Hello Dina,

We'd be happy to provide a quote, but need a little more information from you to best advise. Please fill out our online consultation form (it's free!) here and one of our consultants will reach out to you with further details.

Thanks for commenting and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

By Sandy Beykirch on November 28, 2017 at 3:22 am

Hi there. I will need to move both my dogs to the UK from South Africa probably within the next three months. They are both jack Russels cross with fox terrier. Aged 14 and 12. Going from Durban in sa to york in England. I just need an indication of the cost involved for now. I know there are all sorts of rules and regulations surrounding this. Regards sandy

By on November 28, 2017 at 11:26 am

Hello Sandy,

We'd be happy to provide a quote, but need a little more information from you to best advise. Please fill out our online consultation form (it's free!) here and one of our consultants will reach out to you with further details.

Thanks for commenting and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

By Alma Charlotte Van Belkum on October 29, 2017 at 2:32 am

You don't move animals from South Africa?

By on October 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

Hi Alma!

We can and have moved pets from South Africa. If you're interested in learning about our service options and pricing for an upcoming pet move, please fill out our free consultation form.

Thank you for reaching out to us!

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