Pet Adoption Transport & Relocation Service FAQ

What is Pet Transport?

Pet transport is the transfer of adoptable pets from over-populated areas to regions of the U.S. where demand for adoptable pets is high. The ultimate goal of pet transport operations is to address the imbalance in the supply and demand of pets nationwide.

Generally speaking, transport pets originate in the southern United States and travel north to receiving shelters, rescues and fosters.

In most cases, pet transport is conducted on a shelter-to-shelter basis. In these instances, by the time the pet reaches the adoption floor, potential adopters aren’t aware that the pet has traveled hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles. To learn more about traditional pet transport programs, you can review the Association of Animal Welfare Advancement’s Companion Animal Transport Programs Best Practices.

Pet Transport on Petfinder

Petfinder has seen a growing population of rescues and individuals who are moving pets out of areas with limited resources and low demand for pets, predominantly in the southern United States, posting them for adoption prior to their transport, and in some cases, adopting pets prior to meeting their adopters, then transporting them to the adoptive home.

In an effort to support the changing landscape of pet transport in the animal welfare industry, Petfinder has updated its search criteria to allow potential adopters to decide if transport pets are of interest to them. By including transport pets in their search results, potential adopters will see a wider range of pets available to them. Not all will currently reside in their geographic region, however.

Who pays for pet transport?

That varies. In most cases, the rescue or group sending the animal covers the cost of transport. In some cases, an independent, non-profit group transports the animal and covers its costs through fundraising.

But, in some instances, groups are adding all or part of the cost of transport to the adoption fee. Potential adopters must clarify with the group posting the pet for transport to determine how transport is being paid for prior to finalizing your adoption.

What should I ask about a transport pet?

With the changing face of pet transport groups, it is important to be an informed adopter when you are in the market to adopt. To make sure you don’t encounter any surprises, be sure to ask about:

Adoption Fees and Contract:

  • Is there an adoption contract? (There should be, and you should receive a copy electronically prior to finalization and payment.)
  • Are transport fees included in the adoption fee of the pet?
  • Are there any additional fees or costs added to the adoption fee?
  • Are fees paid in full at the point of adoption, or will additional fees be due when the pet arrives?
  • Will the transport person ask for any compensation at the meeting place?
  • What does your adoption fee cover? Does it include:
    • Spay/Neuter
    • Vaccinations
    • Flea/Tick Treatment
    • Heartworm Test/Monthly Prophylactic
    • Microchip

Veterinary care

  • All transport pets should have a veterinary health certificate to travel across state lines. This will certify that the pet is in good health and is safe to travel.
  • Virtually all pets in a transport program should be spayed or neutered prior to transport. (The only exclusions to this list are puppies and kittens too young for sterilization. In those instances, the pet is likely too young for transport as well.) Be sure to ask if your transported pet is spayed or neutered, and require proof of surgery prior to finalizing any adoption.
  • All transport pets should have vaccinations prior to transport. At a minimum, vaccination from Rabies is required. Best practices would also include vaccines for Bordatella and Distemper.

The rescue, group or individual sending the pet should be able to confirm that the pet is traveling with a complete veterinary history that contains the date and type of care administered by a licensed veterinarian. You should request and expect that these records can be shared with you electronically prior to transport of the animal.

Transport process:

It is important that transport pets are transferred safely, legally and with reasonable accommodations. Prior to finalizing a transport adoption, confirm:

  • How far the pet will be traveling.
  • If pets will be checked periodically for health and stress during transport (every 2-4 hours is the minimum best practice with access to water during each check).
  • If the trip is multi-day, where and how will animals be housed overnight. No more than twelve traveling hours in a day is best, and not holding animals in the transport vehicle overnight. (Unloading, boarding overnight, then reloading is best practice.)
  • If pets are housed in individual spaces during transport, or grouped together (individual spacing is best practice).
  • If pets are provided ample space (the pet should be able to stand up, turn completely around and lay down within the space provided).
  • If a process is established for emergencies along the transport route (i.e. emergency veterinarians identified along the transport route, a veterinary technician on the transport team, etc.)

What happens if the adoption doesn’t work out?

Prior to finalizing your transport adoption, be sure to ask about the rescue’s return policy. In the event that this pet does not bond with you or your family, lifestyle, schedule, or other pets, what is the group’s preference or process to surrender the pet?

Many (most) shelters and rescues require that any pet adopted be returned to the same shelter/rescue if the adoption does not work for any reason. For pet transports, this becomes logistically difficult. Make sure you fully understand the group’s expectation for surrender of a transport pet.

  • Should the pet be returned to the group? If so, how?
  • Does the group have a local foster network to accept surrenders?
  • Who pays for return transport?
  • How long does it take to return a pet?