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How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Dog? (2023 Relocation Costs)

Soft-sided dog crate

Introduction

In recent years, the cost of relocating a dog has risen significantly. The impacts of the COVID pandemic, including disruptions to flights and higher costs as well as increased shipping costs and gas prices, mean that the cost of relocating a pet has gone up. An overall estimate cannot be given, but rather an estimated cost must take into account factors such as the distance of the move, if it is domestic or international, size of the dog, and type of transportation used.

Of course, moves can be infinitely complex, especially when they are international. Each country has its own regulations and costs related to moving dogs across its borders. Generally speaking, the regulations are much stricter, more complex, and more costly when it comes to moving dogs than when moving cats.

This article will consider the costs of moving a dog domestically inside of the United States or bringing a dog home to the United States.

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Dog Shipping Costs: Domestic & International

When budgeting for a move, the dog shipping costs will generally be the largest portion of your budget, though be careful because the other costs can also add up quickly! Costs will vary, and the best way to get a clear picture of the cost based on your unique moving situation will be to contact a pet relocation service and request an estimate based on the factors involved in your move.

For domestic moves, there are two primary options. The first is to have your pet travel by air either by themselves or accompanying you on your flight. The other option is for the pet to travel by ground, typically through a bespoke pet relocation service that provides special drivers to escort your pet along set routes. Costs will vary based on the length of the move and size of the dog, as well as any special needs that must be taken into account.

For international moves, the primary option is to send your pet by air. Shipment by sea may be available but is rare and not often used due to the length of time and stress of the journey. This article will not cover the costs associated with traveling with your pet on a cruise ship.

Anytime you move your pet by air, the cost will also depend quite a bit on the size of the dog. On some airline carriers, you can bring a small dog into the cabin with you or purchase an additional seat specifically for them. For medium-sized to large dogs, they will travel below in the cargo hold in the large crate you ship them in.

dog in a crate
Image Credit: Chewy

Be aware! With recent restrictions on many flights in 2022, many airline carriers have only a few dedicated spots for pets per flight. These are highly sought after, especially on international moves, and need to be booked as soon as possible to secure a spot.

Do not book your own plane tickets and then hope to add your pet to the flight last minute. You need to request a pet booking as soon as you have booked your own flight to make sure you both can travel on the same plane.

Domestic Shipping
By Ground Transport Appx. 10 hours $2,200 – $2,400
Cross-Country $6,000 – $6,400
By Air Small Dog $275 – $300
Extra-Large Dog $1,000+
International Shipping
By Air Various Sized Dogs $300 – $2,000+

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Vaccinations

dog getting a vaccine
Image Credit: Syda Productions, Shutterstock

CDC regulations for the US on the import of dogs from foreign countries depend on several factors. Some of these include:

  1. Determining if your dog has been in a high-risk country in the last six months (see the CDC for a list of high-risk countries).
  2. Age of dog
  3. Number of dogs being imported
  4. Vaccination records

For many vaccinations, but especially for rabies, the US differentiates between a rabies vaccine that was administered in the US (and has a valid, non-expired certificate to prove this) and rabies vaccines that were administered by foreign countries.

Cost of Rabies Vaccine in the US

There are two types of rabies vaccine for dogs, a 1-year vaccine and a 3-year vaccine. The cost varies depending on which type you get. Some shelters or states also offer low-cost or free shots to encourage pet owners to comply with the regulations. Remember to keep the rabies vaccination up-to-date.

If your dog has been out of the country for more than three years but initially had its vaccine given in the US, the CDC considers this when you are bringing your dog back to the US. You will still need a valid rabies certificate that is up-to-date from the country you have been staying in, but it is slightly less complicated if the initial vaccine was given in the US—so keep all your records!

Cost of Rabies Vaccine in the US $15 – $75

Other Vaccinations Needed

At this time the CDC website only lists the rabies vaccination as necessary for an application to enter the US. However, having your dog fully vaccinated can cover all risks and address any issues in the application process. The vaccines to consider are rabies and distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHLPP). There is some differentiation made between importing one’s personal pet and importing dogs that are destined for resale or adoption; the latter requires more vaccines and paperwork.

The core vaccines include distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza. These vaccines are given to puppies in their first year. These cost estimates include distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza. A rabies vaccine is required in the US, and that cost is in addition to the core vaccines. For older dogs, boosters are also needed for some of these shots, so please check with your vet.

Core Vaccines $75–$100

Microchipping

veterinarian microchipping beagle dog with syringe
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

All dogs entering the US need an ISO-approved microchip. Dogs moving domestically will not need a microchip, though it is always a great idea to get one to improve the chances that your pet is found and returned if lost. Costs of microchipping in the US vary and also may include some registration fees. Without registering the microchip to a US database, it will not work to identify the dog in any way.

Cost of Microchip $20 – $75
Registration Appx. $20

A Dog Import Certificate

Depending on where you are importing your dog, if it is on the list of high-risk countries and the status of your dog’s rabies vaccine record, you may need to apply for a dog import certificate from the CDC.

Cost of Import Certificate No Cost
Requirements for this certificate include:
  • An ISO-compatible microchip
  • A valid rabies vaccine issued by a foreign country
  • A valid rabies serologic titer from an approved laboratory

Please note that all documents submitted must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

Cost of Translating Documents Cost varies according to the country
Cost of certifying documents Check with your local US Embassy

Dogs from high-risk countries with an import permit must enter the United States through one of the 18 airports with a CDC quarantine station. Depending on your dog’s specific case, they may need to be quarantined, which has its own associated costs. They will also require an exam and revaccination for rabies upon arrival.

Buying or Renting a Travel Crate

Welsh corgi pembroke dog in an open crate during a crate training, happy and relaxed Image Credit: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock

Dogs traveling by ground or by air will require a robust travel crate. The only exception to this is if you have a small dog and your airline allows it to fly in the cabin with you, which will only require a normal travel bag or small crate.

Travel crates for moving are larger and built stronger than a typical crate you might use around the home or in the car. The crate needs to be ventilated on all sides, and there should be enough space for your pet to turn around and be in a natural position. The crate should NOT have wheels. There may be a requirement that your crate is IATA-approved. You should also check with the airline you are using or a ground transport company to see their requirements before purchasing any crate.

Cost of Travel Crate Small Appx. $50
Large $300 – 400

To reduce costs, you can also look into renting an IATA-approved travel crate. Costs vary depending on location. Because it is not easy to return the rented crate to its original location, it is best to inquire about a rental from your pet relocation agency as they can best address this issue.

Customs Charges

Many countries charge extremely high customs fees to bring a dog into the country. These fees may also be in addition to permit fees that are required for import. If you are looking to move your dog to an international location besides the United States, check the local regulations at your chosen destination. At this time, the US does not charge customs duties on dogs, cats, or turtles, but other animals may have fees. For a domestic move, there will be no issues with customs charges.

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Agencies for Pet Relocation

To ensure a smooth relocation for your pet, your best bet is to work with a pet relocation agency or service. The logistics of relocation can be very complex, and with all the factors to consider in a big move, it can relieve some stress to let an agency handle your dog’s move. This article has given costs related to a move within or to the United States from another country. If you are moving your pet internationally, such as to Australia, the UK, or somewhere in Africa, Asia, or any other part of the world, the costs can become much more as many of these places have higher fees and more complicated requirements for importing dogs.

For ground transport in the US, a relocation agency can provide a safe and guaranteed trip for your pet with experienced handlers and drivers.

For international moves, an agency can help with anything from booking the airline travel to arranging all the paperwork and customs requirements and fees.

Another great aspect of using a pet relocation agency is their experience with how pets handle a move. They can make several recommendations such as helping with a recommended diet for your pet on a long move, working with your vet if your pet needs sedatives or anti-anxiety medication for a move, or any other aspects of pet health and wellbeing you should consider during extended travel.

Some agencies to consider:

Also, a great resource is the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, IPATA. The website Move Hub also provides good information about pet relocation.

Pet relocation services may cost a bit more (it varies, so it is difficult to provide an estimate here), but they can save you stress, energy, and even money in the long run. They may be able to negotiate lower shipping costs, and they can anticipate any unforeseen or hidden expenses that might be included in your move.

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Conclusion

Whether moving your dog domestically or internationally, the costs can vary greatly depending upon several factors. The United States has relatively low costs for bringing your dog into the country, but there are still many regulations and requirements you must fulfill for a successful move. With the recent COVID pandemic still impacting travel in 2022, costs may be greater, especially for ground transit or airline travel. There also may be a number of limitations or restrictions on travel at this time, making planning ahead of time important.

Bringing your furry friend home is of utmost importance, so it is good to get the most up-to-date information regarding travel and relocation based on the exact circumstances of your move. Whether you are doing a DIY move or using a relocation agency, there are several costs to consider in a move. With a lot of planning and a little luck, your move should proceed smoothly and with the lowest cost possible!


Featured Image Credit: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

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