Move one child and two adults from Arizona to Alabama. That was the easy part. The hard part:
One bearded dragon
One royal python
One guinea pig
We had no trailer, no truck, no van with which to transport these animals. The tools at hand included a car and a credit card. A compact car won’t carry much. The credit card had a rather small balance left. Our solution was either evidence of our ineptitude or sheer genius. You decide.
All animals traveling by air require health certificates. Dogs and horses require them whether traveling by air or ground. A canine health certificate costs between fifty and seventy dollars, depending on your vet.
Each state has its own laws concerning the transportation of livestock. These can be extensive. The universal rule is that all horses require a Coggins test as well as a health certificate, each costing as little as fifteen dollars or as much as thirty.
Travel By Air
Shipping rates vary by animal type. Each airline has its own restrictions concerning pets as baggage, in cargo, or in cabin with the owner. Our dogs were all well over thirty pounds, and therefore ineligible to ride in the cabin. Cargo shipping is much less comfortable for the animal and costs more than many travelers expect. For example, flying our dogs, over fifty pounds each, with American Airlines would have cost more than one thousand dollars (American Airlines). Tack on the costs of each of the other animals, include the risks, and it comes to a sum much larger than we could spend.
Animal Shipping Companies
A good animal shipping company is well worth the expense. These people know how to handle the animals and ensure their comfort. Some may provide toys, sleeping mats, and even pictures from the pet’s road trip.
Finding a reputable company means research. Asking your vet, boarding facility owners, kennels, and friends should yield results. There are also Web sites devoted to the subject, such as Traveling Horse Transport and Stables Directory and Pets on the Go.
However, shipping animals does cost. The horse shipping company quoted fifteen hundred dollars. That’s as much as I paid for the horse. I wanted that horse. We paid the fifteen hundred.
This bumped the cost up enough that shipping the other animals became impossible. For them we had to find another solution.
We came up with Cruise America, an RV rental company. That’s right, a twenty-eight foot RV housed two adults, a child, and all the animals listed above, save for the horse. Four days and three nights on the road in an RV converted into The Ark may sound crazy – that’s because it is.
Although, consider that dog handlers and owners use RVs to travel with their dogs to and from shows all the time. Often, there are several dogs in the vehicle, plus a whole family. Ok, so maybe they aren’t housing reptiles, birds and rodents as well. The principle is the same.
Still, other animals take special consideration. Crates won’t do the trick for some.
Traveling with reptiles
Many reptiles do not need elaborate housing to survive. Smaller animals often ship in deli cups. Snakes traveling shorter distances often do so in snake bags. With this in mind, we moved the animals from the tanks to smaller plastic containers with air holes.
Reptiles do require specific heat and humidity levels. We wanted to make the trip as comfortable as possible. We used heat packs to maintain the temperature. A few specialty pet stores carry these convenient reptile shipping packs. Big Apple Herps sells them online. The Uniheat brand lasts only forty to sixty hours, which meant we needed several. They held up very well.
Birds and rodents
These were the easiest of all. Our lovebird required nothing more than placement of his cage in a secure place. We used the RV’s shower. The cockatoo traveled in a bird carrier. The mice and rat traveled in their cages. The guinea pig used a pet carrier, as did the chickens.
That just leaves the cat. He had his own carrier, but chose to sleep with the dogs while we were on the road.
We made use of blankets to protect surfaces from dog claws and paw prints. Diligence in cleaning cages should be the norm in any case, but it became even more important in the RV. Upon arrival in Alabama, we cleaned the RV thoroughly after off loading the pets.
We didn’t lose so much as a single mouse, and all animals were healthy upon arrival.
The RV cost thirty-two cents per mile, eighty nine dollars per night, with a one way fee of five hundred dollars. The price does vary depending on travel dates. Gas for the trip cost seven hundred dollars.
Horse shipping came to fifteen hundred, as previously mentioned. The horse stepped off the trailer safe and sound.
Health certificates: 292 dollars
Road food: We brought some food along in a cooler. Tack on another hundred for stopping once a day.
Heat packs: 12 dollars
The total was about 3240 dollars.
Of course, some animals can be mailed via USPS. This means special packaging considerations. Some animals do not ship well and they will not receive the same care they are used to at home.
Moving across state lines with many pets takes more planning and cash flow than some might realize. For us, traveling almost 1500 miles became something of a storybook quest. Richard Adams might have been proud.
Nina Ubide. Equine Medical Center of Ocala. Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Coggins and Health Certificates
Nancy S. Loving DVM. The Horse. Staying Legal on the Road.