If you are a pet owner, sooner or later, you will need to transport your pet, either with or without you. Pet owners take vacations; they relocate to new countries; they rescue disadvantaged pets. In all cases, there are 2 important questions to ask: what do I need to do and what is the cost to ship my pet dog, cat or other animal?
Obviously, all pet owners would like to ship their pet the best way possible, imposing the least amount of stress on them; however, cost is always an important part of the equation as transporting a pet can be quite expensive, especially internationally. Certainly, budget preparations should be made in advance.
Options to Ship a Pet Dog, Cat or Other Animal
Ground transport may appear to be one of your best options for moving your pet, especially if you can accompany it; however, this option may not necessarily be the best option for your pet for many reasons. Being removed from its environment can be stressful for many pets, so the length of the trip is important when considering what type of transport you use for your pet. Ground transport may accommodate shorter trips, but not all trips can be short.
Depending on your route, auto transport may take a lot of time and expense, especially if you need to hire someone to drive your pet. When you consider the cost of the driver’s time, fuel, meals, overnight accommodations, auto or van rental and return travel, the cost can add up quickly. Also, being confined in a car for very long periods of time can be acceptable for some pets but not for others.
Although this is not the case in all countries, the availability of bus and train transport in the US is limited, and carriers like Amtrak will only accept small cats and dogs under 20 pounds. If these forms of transportation do not serve your destination, then you need to find other options when you disembark.
Find more information on transporting a pet by ground.
Transport by Sea
Certainly, ground transport is not always possible, especially if your destination is across a large body of water like an ocean. Very few commercial vessels will accept pets unless they are service or emotional support animals. The Queen Mary 2 is pet friendly if it accommodates your route.
Commercial Air Transport
Air transport is the quickest option for traveling pets. Costs will vary significantly based on airline pet policies, the class of service used, size and weight of your pet as well as your route and destination country. Many pet owners share concerns with flying their pet, especially in the cargo hold, but safety is every airline’s first priority when it comes to shipping live animals and, considering the number of live animals flown each year to the number of incidents, flying is a viable option that should be considered as long as your pet can be acclimated to a carrier or crate.
There are 3 classes of service to ship dogs, cats and other animals on commercial airlines. Note that not all 3 options are available on all commercial airlines.
- In-cabin – generally for small dogs and cats weighing less than 18 pounds and less than 19 inches high when standing (will vary according to airline pet policies
- Checked Baggage – for larger dogs and cats (and sometime other animals) accompanied by an adult passenger. Weights are generally between 19 and 100 pounds but may be less) Travel will be in a special area of the cargo hold which is temperature and pressure controlled.
- Air Cargo – unaccompanied dogs, cats and (sometimes) other animals or pets bound by destination country regulations or requirements. Travel will be in a special area of the cargo hold which is temperature and pressure controlled.
Generally, the cost to ship a pet dog, cat or other animal in the cabin or as checked baggage is a fixed price and the cost is charged for each direction of the flight. So, if you were flying from JFK to Paris round trip, your airline will impose a separate cost to fly to Paris and another similiar cost to return to JFK, no matter what class of service your pet was flying under.
Some airlines will tier their pricing based on the length of your route or the size of your pet, if flying either in-cabin or as checked baggage. Lufthansa and Philippine Airlines are examples of airlines that use this type of pricing.
Note that several airlines will impose an additional pet fee if the flight has a layover, even if your pet is staying on the same airline. (Air France is an example). Also, if your pet changes airline companies during a layover, another pet fee will always be imposed by the airline operating the next leg of the journey.
In-Cabin and Checked Baggage
Here are some samples of costs imposed by major airlines for pets flying in the cabin and as checked baggage. Note that these costs may change, so it is always best to contact your airline to confirm recent costs and make a reservation for your pet. Note that these are not round-trip costs; they are charged for flying in each direction.
- American Airlines – $125
- Delta Airlines – $125 (US/Canada/Puerto Rico), $200 (International/Virgin Islands), $75 (Brazil)
- United – $125 (more for longer trips with multiple layovers)
- Southwest – $95 flat fee
- Lufthansa – $59 (domestic w/in Germany), $69 (w/in EU), $92 (to/from N. Africa/Asia/Mediterranean Countries), $103-126 (intercontinental), $100 (to/from Japan)
- KLM – EUR 30 to EUR 200 depending on destination
- Turkish Airlines – 80 TRY w/in Tturkey, $70 USD (minimum) international
Checked Baggage Cost
- American Airines – $200 all routes ($150 to/from Brazil)
- Delta, Southwest & United – checked baggage service for pets is not offered
- Lufthansa – $92 (domestic w/in Germany), $115 (w/in EU), $149 (to/from N. Africa/Asia/Mediterranean Countries), $172-218 (intercontinental), $200 (to/from Japan)
- KLM – EUR 30 to EUR 200 depending on destination
- Turkish Airlines – 120-260 TRY (depending on size of pet) w/in Turkey, $140 USD (minimum) international
To estimate the cost to ship your pet dog, cat or other animal via air cargo is where things get complicated. Most airlines charge by dimensional weight which includes the weight of your pet including their crate and the dimensions of the crate. The algorithms used by cargo departments can be pretty complicated and very hard to estimate, especially for international transport as many factors affect the estimate including the cost of fuel which can vary frequently. United Airlines offers a dimensional weight calculator which is easy to use.
Simply put, the cost to ship your pet as air cargo is going to be considerably more than flying with it in the cabin or flying it as checked baggage. Why is this? Basically, because, when flying as air cargo, your airline will track your pet via an Air Waybill from the origination airport through layover airport(s) to the destination airport. The airline is responsible for the care of your pet from the moment it is checked in at the cargo facility. This arrangement is a bit different than pets flying as checked baggage where the owner has more responsibility to provide for care at layover airports when applicable.
In addition to the cost involved, almost all commercial airlines will require that an agent book your pet’s transport as air cargo. Agents will charge a fee for this which can vary significantly depending on the services required and the extent of documentation involved. As shipping a pet can get very complicated, the peace of mind knowing an expert is handling your pet’s transport is worth the cost.
If you need an estimate of the cost to ship your pet as air cargo, then you may want to contact an agent who can assist you with cost figures for your specific route and pet. The International Pet and Animal Transport Association is a worldwide organization of licensed transporters who can help you ship your pet safely. You can search for an agent by name, country or airport on their website.
You can also contact us if you have any questions about shipping your dog, cat or other animal as air cargo.
As the costs to ship your dog, cat or other animal as air cargo are significantly more than in the cabin or as checked baggage, why would a pet owner ship their pet using this option?
- The destination country requires it. (examples are UK, UAE, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and others).
- The owner or their representative cannot accompany their pet.
- The pet is being shipped for commercial purposes.
- The dog or other animal is very large (generally over 100 lbs. including crate).
- The airline does not offer checked baggage services for live animals.
Private Jet Charter
Chartering a private jet is the ultimate in shipping a pet. Your dog, cat or other animal can fly with you in the cabin, relaxing and enjoying the trip either on your lap or right next to you, depending on their size (of course). Here are some of the benefits of chartering a private jet:
- You can book your trip according to your schedule.
- No security or check-in lines at the airport.
- Temperatures are not a concern.
- Any size pet can fly safely in the cabin with you.
- There are no distractions from other pets or passengers.
- You can choose in-flight options.
- You have 2 private captains to serve you.
As you can imagine, the cost for a private jet is considerable; however, it will be the experience of a lifetime for both you and your pet. You can click here to find sample prices to ship your dog or cat via private jet charter.
Other Important Costs
There are other costs to consider as well when transporting a pet, especially internationally. Some of these include:
- Cost of a crate or carrier and accessories
- Veterinary and lab costs for tests, vaccinations and health certificates
- Import permits (if required)
- Government endorsement (if required)
- Pre- and post-travel inspection (if required)
- Quarantine costs (if required)
- Entrance fees (if required)
- Value Added Tax (VAT) (depending on the purpose of travel)
With all considerations involved, it is best to start early when planning to transport your pet because the costs can be notable. Certainly, it is worth the cost to ship your pet dog, cat or other animal when you relocate to a new destination, take an extended vacation or rescue a pet who does not have a home; however, costs can be sizeable when traveling far distances and being aware of those costs early on will allow you the ability to budget for them.