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Step-By-Step Guide: How to Become a Licensed Animal Transporter

animal transporter

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has played a pivotal role in preventing animal cruelty and promoting animal rescue since its establishment in 1966. The Act lays down strict guidelines concerning the transportation, sale, and handling of certain animals. It is the primary federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers.

According to a study conducted by Statista, there has been a significant increase in pet ownership, with over 66% of American households owning a pet. This increase underscores the importance of the AWA in today’s society, where pets are often considered members of the family.

What is an animal transporter?

An animal transporter is a professional responsible for ensuring the safe and comfortable journey of animals. This role is much more than just driving; it requires an extensive understanding of and commitment to animal welfare. Animal transporters work across various sectors, including pet relocation services, animal rescue organizations, zoos, research facilities, and even the entertainment industry where animals are featured.

There are requirements that one must fulfill to transport animals. You must be at least 18 years old, though some organizations prefer individuals over 24. A valid, clean driving license is vital, and having a strong driving record with substantial experience, ideally over 5 years, can be advantageous. 

Moreover, having auto insurance is necessary because it offers protection in the event of any accidents occurring while you are driving. Physical endurance is also essential because the work frequently entails loading animals of various sizes and weights into vehicles. Some organizations may also require a criminal background check to ensure the animals’ safety.

In some regions, you might need Certificates of Veterinary Inspection, completed by federally accredited veterinarians. Once these requirements are fulfilled, you might need to register with regulatory bodies like the USDA if you plan to operate under specific animal welfare acts. 

Main Responsibilities of an Animal Transporter

An animal transporter’s role includes a wide range of responsibilities:

Safety and Comfort

Throughout the journey, the transporter must make sure the animals are secure and at ease. This includes secure placement within the vehicle to prevent injury and providing comfortable bedding or crates.

Legal Compliance

They must comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including the Animal Welfare Act, to ensure the humane treatment of the animals during transit.

Provision of Basic Needs

During long journeys, the transporter must provide food, water, and rest stops for the animals. They must also be aware of specific dietary requirements or medication schedules if applicable.


It is critical to keep the transport vehicle clean and sanitary in order to prevent disease transmission. Regular cleaning and disinfection are part of the job.

Emergency Handling

In case of a medical emergency or unexpected situation, the transporter must take appropriate action, which may include contacting a vet or animal rescue service.

The role of an animal transporter is pivotal in various sectors, requiring not just logistical skills but a genuine commitment to the welfare of the animals they transport.

Estimated Salary of an Animal Transporter

The income of an animal transporter can vary greatly depending on several factors, including:

Distance of Travel

Longer trips generally mean higher pay. While some transporters are compensated per mile, others might charge a flat fee for the entire trip. 

Type of Animal

Transporting exotic or large animals may require specialized skills or equipment, leading to higher pay.

Specific Requirements

If special care, such as administering medication or handling animals with behavioral issues, is required during transit, this can also affect the pay.

On average, animal transporters in the United States can expect to earn between $8,000 and $10,000 per month. However, those with more experience or specialized skills may earn significantly more. Additionally, running your own animal transportation business can also lead to higher income, although this also involves additional responsibilities such as marketing, customer service, and business management.

Licensing Your Animal Transportation Business

It takes careful planning and adherence to various legal requirements to launch your own animal transportation company. Here is a more thorough step-by-step manual to assist you with the procedure:

1. Business Registration

Before you begin operations, you must register your company with the appropriate local government agencies. This process typically involves:

  • Choosing a Business Name: Make sure the name you choose is unique and reflects the nature of your business.
  • Selecting a Business Structure: The structure of your business (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, etc.) will affect your taxes, paperwork, and personal liability.To determine the best structure for your needs, it is advisable to speak with a business advisor or attorney.
  • Filing the Necessary Paperwork: Once you’ve chosen a name and structure, file the necessary paperwork with your state, county, province, or city’s Secretary of State office or equivalent agency.A registration fee will probably be required.

2. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues each business with an EIN as a tax identification number. To apply for an EIN:

  • You can apply for an EIN online by visiting the IRS website.
  • You must include information about your identity and your company, such as the name, location, and organizational setup.
  • Once the application is completed, you’ll receive your EIN immediately.

3. Apply for a USDA License

You must obtain a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license to transport animals. The process includes:

  • Completing an Application: Fill out the appropriate form provided by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
  • Providing Proof of Business Registration: You’ll need to show that your business is legally registered in your state, county, province, or city.
  • Passing an Inspection: The USDA will inspect your transport vehicle to ensure it meets its standards for animal welfare.

4. Insurance

It is essential to have the appropriate insurance coverage to defend your company against potential liabilities. Here’s how you can secure it:

  • Identify Your Needs: Consider the risks associated with your business, such as accidents during transit, injury to animals, or property damage.
  • Find a Provider: Look for insurance providers that offer coverage for animal transportation businesses. Ensure that they are aware of the particular requirements of your sector.
  • Choose a policy: Select a policy that covers all potential risks and fits within your budget. Read the small print to determine what is and is not covered.

Starting an animal transportation business involves several steps, but with careful planning and attention to detail, you can successfully navigate the process and begin providing a valuable service to animal owners in your community.

Enhance Your Animal Transportation Business through IPATA Membership

Once you’ve established your animal transportation business, joining professional associations and pursuing further certifications can significantly enhance your credibility and business growth. Among them is the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA).

Joining IPATA can provide numerous advantages, including networking opportunities, access to industry updates, and the ability to participate in seminars and training programs. This can help you stay on top of the latest best practices in animal transportation, ensuring that your services are always up-to-date and compliant with industry standards.

Further certification, whether it’s in animal behavior, first aid, or any other relevant field, can also boost your business. It not only adds to your expertise but also assures clients of your dedication and competence in handling their beloved pets.

Above all, remember that the animals you transport deserve the best possible care and respect. They may be pets moving with their families, rescue animals finding new homes, or creatures contributing to important research. Each animal is unique and requires a personalized approach to ensure its comfort and safety during transportation.

Getting an animal transportation business up and running is just the start. You can make sure your business grows and the animals you transport get the best care possible by continuing to learn, getting more certification, and joining professional groups like IPATA.



  • Diane Silva

    Diane is a travel enthusiast, content creator, and master storyteller, capturing her adventures through captivating blogs and engaging vlogs. With a passion for the great outdoors and a love for literature, she brings a unique perspective to the travel world. Whether she's exploring hidden gems or discussing the latest trends, Diane is your go-to source for all things travel and beyond.