Moving to Another State with Pets: A Comprehensive Guide

Approximately 85 million people, or roughly 67% of households, own at least one pet. Your dog, cat, ferret, bird, or lizard is a member of your family. Their safety and health are a top priority while planning your long-distance move. Transporting pets over state lines isn’t always as straightforward as ensuring you have ID tags and a sturdy container to keep your pet safe. There are rules and regulations to follow. While packing, decluttering, and researching long-distance moving companies, take the necessary steps to safely and legally transport pets from one state to another.

moving with pets

Preparing for the Big Move

The average American requires at least three to six months to plan a successful long-distance move. In the midst of securing low-cost packing materials and searching for a reputable moving service, you need to start preparing your pets for the big move. This preparation includes ensuring you have the proper documentation to legally relocate your pets to a new state and finding the right pet transportation company. If you are driving and taking your pet with you, preparing for the road trip is critical to ensure your pet is safe, whether you are moving to Los Angeles or moving to Phoenix.

health certificateSecuring a Health Certificate for Your Pet

Each state has its own pet transportation laws, so before you move to any new state, you familiarize yourself with that state’s laws before transporting your pet into that state. Regardless of where you are moving, you will need to acquire an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection, otherwise known as an interstate health certificate.

You must visit a federally-licensed veterinarian in your area to receive the certificate. The vet will examine your pet and ensure that it is up-to-date on all its required vaccinations, particularly its rabies vaccine. If applicable, a rabies tag will be provided during this examination. This certificate aims to prove that your pet is healthy enough to travel and is not harboring any infectious diseases or vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Contact your veterinarian several weeks before your planned moving date to ensure the certificate is up-to-date and you are not scrambling to secure a veterinarian appointment at the last minute. Remember, the vet must be federally certified. Otherwise, this health professional cannot legally sign the health certificate.

hiring moversChoosing the Right Pet Transportation Company

In addition to legally crossing state lines, all reputable pet transport companies require you to provide a recent interstate certificate of veterinary inspection in addition to other documentation, including further proof of vaccination. However, should you hire a pet transport company, and how do you find a reputable company in your area?

There are many pros and cons to hiring professional pet transportation. For example, hiring a professional to transport pets is often safer and more convenient if you are planning a cross-country move, such as a move to Maryland. If your pet is older or requires medical attention for a chronic illness, it is typically best to travel with it instead.

Depending on the distance from your current home to your new home, the transport company might transport your pet in a van or by air travel. Your pet will be taken to the air freight terminal, where it will be safely placed in the plane’s cargo area for the duration of the flight. No matter how your beloved pet is transported, ensure the transport company is USDA certified and has an excellent reputation and reviews.

Many airlines have strict recommendations and requirements that you, as a pet owner, must follow, even if you are hiring a professional transport company. The pet must be old enough and healthy enough to handle the journey. Airlines recommend certain types of crates and carriers, but ultimately, the carrier must be approved by the IATA or International Air Transport Association.

Here’s a tip: If you are using a pet transport company, make copies of your veterinarian-signed health certificate. Keep one copy for yourself, give one copy to your transport company, and place one copy of the health certificates inside your pet’s shipping container, along with the pet’s shipping papers.

pet foodPacking Essentials for Your Pet

Whether working with a pet transport service or putting your dogs and cats in your car’s back seat and bringing them along for the ride, it is essential to pack everything your pet will need to remain safe throughout the journey. Never attempt to switch your dog or cat’s foods in the days and weeks before the move. Instead, pack enough of your pet’s regular food for the entire trip. Also, pack some comfort items for your pet, such as favorite toys or a blanket.

Hang a travel identification tag on the shipping container or crate with your pet’s name and your name, address, and phone number. If your pet has specific needs, such as a health condition, ensure the pet transport company has all your pet’s necessary medications.

Make your pet’s crate a warm and comforting place before moving day arrives. This is especially important for pets that are not crate trained. For example, place a few of your pet’s favorite treats inside the container and let them explore. Make the crate secure and comfortable with a blanket or pet mattress. If your pet is still reluctant to spend time in the crate, place one of your own blankets or clothing inside the container. Your pet will find the familiar smell of their favorite human very comforting!

Finally, don’t forget to pack plenty of plastic bags, paper towels, small food and water bowls, and a first aid kit.

pet carrierTips for Choosing the Right Carrier or Crate

Whether you are traveling by air or planning the ultimate road trip in your car, finding the right crate or carrier for your cat or dog is a critical step. Airlines have very stringent rules regarding crates and carriers, and either must meet the standards set forth by the International Civic Airline Organization, the IATA, and the airlines themselves. Minimum standards typically require:

  • A crate made from rigid plastic, fiberglass, metal, or solid wood. Some airlines will not allow containers made from solid wood or plywood.
  • The crate must be large enough for the pet to stand comfortably, lie, and turn around. Be aware that purchasing a too-large crate can be dangerous.
  • The floor must be leakproof, solid, and lined with paper or shredded newspaper.
  • The door must be secure and springloaded.
  • The food and water bowls must be attached to the floor, and there must be proper ventilation.

The airline will require the crate to have at least one “Live Animal Sticker,” which must be clearly visible.

dog walk potty break

On the Move: Ensuring a Smooth Journey

When you are moving and just so happen to be moving with pets, you have two main goals in mind: finding the best cross-country movers around Denver and making sure you get your pets to your new house with as few accidents and messes as possible!

pet toilet breakPotty Breaks and Rest Stops

Support you are moving from Denver and moving to San Diego, CA, which, if you travel by car, will take approximately 15 hours. Plan to stop at least every two to three hours during the drive at well-lit rest areas. Map out where you will stop before the drive. Ideally, choose rest areas or public parks for bathroom breaks. Allow your pets a few minutes to walk around and get their energy out during these breaks. Provide your pet with fresh drinking water at these stops, as well.

nervous dogManaging Your Pet’s Stress During Transport

For your pet’s safety, securing it with a belt restraint or keeping it in a crate while traveling by car is best. If you are traveling by air, the airline will have stringent rules regarding how and when your pet can leave their carrier if your pet is traveling in-cabin. Stress is often unavoidable, mainly if your pet is not accustomed to traveling long distances by car or is prone to motion sickness.

Luckily, there are several ways you can definitely reduce your pet’s stress and avoid accidents from motion sickness. For example, create a travel kit of must-have essentials to keep your dog comfortable. Ask your veterinarian about over-the-counter or prescription medications that can ease your dog’s stress. Keeping the car cool and providing comfort, such as a favorite comfortable blanket, can help manage your pet’s stress.

Avoid overfeeding your pet and allow them several opportunities to get out and run to help prevent motion sickness. If you are moving to Seattle or any other city hundreds of miles from your current home, you must plan several short trips rather than one long drive when traveling with a pet. If you are booking accommodations, check the hotel’s pet policy.

dog meets dogInteracting with Other Pets on the Road

Rest stops are popular places when you are on a road trip – especially if you have a dog! Exploring a new location can be exciting for your dog, but you must be aware of your surroundings, especially if there are other dogs. Approach other dogs cautiously and be mindful if the dog’s owner tells you their dog is not friendly. Watch for signs that another dog is scared or distressed, including growling, licking lips, a tucked tail, or flattened ears. Walk away slowly if you encounter another dog that is scared or distressed.

While you are resting and relaxing at a park or rest stop, take this opportunity to ensure your dog is still in good health. Is your dog happy and running, or does your dog seem lethargic? Is your dog refusing to drink water or eat food? Watch for signs of dehydration, including weakness, a dry nose, sticky gums, and thicker saliva. Find a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog is dehydrated.

pet in apartment

Settling Down in Your New State

Congratulations! You have made it to your new house after working with the best local movers in Denver! While unpacking boxes and arranging furniture, you must take extra time to determine that your pet is safe and comfortable at your new destination. The stress of new environments and a new city can overwhelm your pets – particularly your dog.

lawsUnderstanding Local Laws and Regulations

Each state and city has different pet laws, so familiarize yourself with the unique set of laws and regulations before arriving in your new hometown. For example, if you are moving to Tampa, Florida, you are legally not allowed to own more than three dogs. Dogs are not allowed off the leash unless you are in your own yard or a designated dog park. Residents of Hillsborough County must also register any dogs over four months of age, which is valid for three years.

The city clerk is the best and most up-to-date information about a city, county, and state’s pet ownership laws.

dog parkFinding the Nearest Dog Park

Adjusting to your new address and location isn’t only stressful for the humans in your household – it is just as difficult for your pets – especially your dogs. Dogs are social creatures, and it can take a few weeks to adjust to new environments. Finding the nearest dog park is a fantastic way for you to make new friends in a new city and for your dog to acclimate to their new home.

For example, if you are moving to Portland, you have one lucky dog because it is one of the most pet-friendly cities in the United States! There are dozens of fantastic dog parks spread throughout the city. No matter where you are moving, there are certain traits to look for in a good dog park, including:

  • Two separate areas for small breeds and large breeds.
  • Clearly-posted rules about cleaning up after your dogs.
  • Adequate fencing.
  • Clean places for your dogs to get a drink of water.
  • Plenty of shade for both you and your dog to get out of the sun.

Want to live in one of the best cities to move in 2023? How about one of the best cities for dog lovers? At Denver Moving Group, we can help you plan the perfect, stress-free relocation, no matter where you want to call home next!

pets allowedDealing with Pet Fees in Your New Residence

Although many landlords and property owners are becoming more pet friendly, you still need to know the potential pet fees associated with renting a home or apartment. First and foremost, if you are renting, find a property owner that allows dogs and cats. Next, determine if there are any additional fees associated with renting. Many landlords accept pets – but with an additional one-time or monthly fee.

For example, you may need to pay an extra deposit for each pet on top of your security deposit. Some property owners only accept cats and small dogs. You may need to pay an additional fee for each pet every month. Factor these fees into your monthly budget to ensure that your new job can cover all the expenses of living with your pets.

pet at vet health care

Post-Move: Ensuring Your Pet’s Well-being

You are settling into your new home and love your neighbors, job, and everything your new hometown has to offer. However, while you are busy finding a new favorite grocery store, a new healthcare provider, and new friends, you need to ensure your pets are adjusting as well as you!

pets healthMonitoring Your Pet’s Health After the Move

Watch your pet closely in your new home for the first few weeks. Is your pet adjusting? Is your pet eating, drinking, and relieving themselves regularly? Just like you, pets can get homesick for their old home, so be aware that your pet will be undergoing a period of adjustment – just like you. Your previous veterinarian will recommend when you should take your pet to a new veterinarian after the move.

For example, if you utilized a pet moving or transportation service and your pet was in a crate with several other animals, consider taking your dog or cat to the vet for a check-up within the first two weeks after moving. If your pet exhibits any symptoms of illness, distress, or dehydration, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Moving can often impact cats more harshly than dogs, so watch for signs that your cat is sick or in distress. Visit a new veterinarian immediately if your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Your cat is not eating and drinking water within 24 hours of arriving at your new home.
  • Your cat has been vomiting or having diarrhea for over 24 hours
  • Your cat is straining to urinate or is urinating outside the litter box, which are signs of a urinary tract infection.
  • Your cat is aggressive or hiding for several days.

Are you moving to Texas or moving to Sacramento and not only want to find a great moving company but also want advice about how to find a new veterinarian? Ask for recommendations from friends and family in your new destination state or read some online reviews. Always choose a vet who is federally certified.

pet proofingPet Proofing Your New House or Apartment

Your pet will be curious about their new surroundings, but the unfamiliarity of your new house, apartment, or backyard can be downright unsafe for a curious cat or dog. Before you officially move into your new house, take a few steps to create a safer habitat for your pets, including:

  • Check for any holes or damage to fences. Remember, your dog can easily squeeze through a very small space between two fence sections.
  • Examine the windows, gates, screens, and doors for damage. Repair any damage before your pets arrive.
  • Take a walk through the backyard and check for any poisonous plants. Azaleas, tulips, daffodils, sago palms, and rhododendrons are all highly toxic to dogs and should be removed immediately.
  • Walk through the house and remove any pest control devices that could be dangerous for your animals.

Dogs will chew when they are nervous, and the best way to prevent your dog from chewing on your baseboards, furniture, and children’s toys is to ensure they have plenty of new chew toys!

cat treeHelping Your Pet Adjust to the New House and Environment

Remember, it can take at least two weeks or even a few months for your pet to truly feel comfortable in their new surroundings. One way to help ease your pet’s transition is to make your home as comfortable as possible before your pet arrives. For example, if you have a cat, find a quiet, safe place for their litter boxes. Build a new cat tower and let your cats hide, explore, and get accustomed to their new surroundings in their own time.

Keeping your dog inside its crate at night for the first few days after arriving at your new home and apartment can help them feel safe while ensuring they do not destroy moving boxes or cause any damage. Introduce your dog to your new home and backyard. Show your dog their food and water bowls, their dog bed, and where you are keeping their toys. As much as you can, maintain the same schedule. Feed your dog at the same time and take your dog for a walk when you would have at the old house.

Dogs are naturally social creatures, so allow your dog to explore their new neighborhood. Joining a dog walking group in your area is the perfect way to meet new people while allowing your dog to get to know a new environment safely.

pets unlimitedBuilding a Support System for Pet Owners

Nothing bonds neighbors like a shared love of animals. In addition to visiting local dog parks or greeting or allowing your dog to greet their new neighbors, and their pets, join community pet owner and support groups in your area. For example, if you are moving to San Francisco, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter, such as the San Francisco SPCA or Pets Unlimited. These groups allow you to share your personal experiences and get some helpful tips and tricks from other local pet owners.

moving with pets faq

People also ask

pet microchipHow do I prepare my pet for moving?

In addition to receiving a health certificate and understanding the local regulations of your new hometown, the best thing you can do for your dog, especially, is to have your pet microchipped. Many cities offer free microchip programs. Otherwise, this is an inexpensive way to keep your pet safe. Take a current photo of your pet and keep it with you. This will ensure that if your car door is accidentally left open and your pet runs off, you can have a photo of your pet handy.

pets abroadWhat to do with your pet when you move abroad?

Moving with pets across state lines is tricky, but moving your pets to another country can be even more challenging. First and foremost, each country has its own rules and regulation regarding pets entering their country, so do your homework.

Typically, you may need to do a few more steps, in addition to the required documentation, when moving with pets to another state. Additionally, you may need to apply for an entry permit, your pet might be quarantined upon arrival, and the shipping charges will be much higher. Place a tag with the pet’s destination address and your name and phone number on the shipping container.

Talk to your veterinarian about how to stay safe while on an international flight for several hours. Never sedate your dog before any flight. Sedatives can alter your dog’s breathing patterns and heart rate. Additionally, the change in air pressure during take-off and colder temperatures can impact your dog negatively, and sedatives can exacerbate these issues.

calendarWhat is the best time of year to move with my pets?

Fall or spring is the most optimal time to move with your pets. Avoid moving during the summer or the winter, as the extreme temperatures can put a strain on your pet. Because of the dangers associated with exposure, some airlines will refuse to load pets onto an airplane if the weather is too hot or too cold. Moving during the warmer months is acceptable if you take your pet on a road trip. Just make sure you keep the air conditioning on at all times! Are you planning a move during June, July, or August? Here are a few more tips for moving during the summer months.

moving with lots of petsHow do you move across the country with a lot of pets?

Moving across the country with one pet is tricky, but what if you have several pets? If you are moving a long distance, such as across the country, utilizing a pet transport company is easier and faster. However, driving with your pets is better if you are moving within the state. Make sure there is enough room in your car or SUV for your pets to remain comfortable. If possible, ask a friend or family member to drive with you and share the responsibility of caring for multiple pets.

long distanceHow do you transport animals long distances?

Once again, hiring a pet transportation service is the best option if you are moving a long distance. However, if you want to share the experience of a multi-state road trip with your dog, careful planning is required to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable throughout the journey. If your pet is not accustomed to riding in the car for long distances, plan out several short trips around the neighborhood. Let your dog sniff around inside the vehicle and let them choose a comfortable spot.

Never allow your unsecured dog to roam freely in the car’s backseat or the trunk of your SUV. Instead, invest in a quality seat belt. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends purchasing a pet harness or strap that can be fastened to an anchor point in the car. Provide your pet with a comfortable blanket and toys to keep them occupied.

pet transportWhat is the most efficient animal transportation?

The most efficient way to transport your pets long distances is through a pet transportation service. As with any other service, do your homework to find not only the most reputable pet transportation service in your area but also the most affordable. Ask questions about how your pet will be protected, the company’s contingency plan, if your pet gets sick or if the van suffers a breakdown, or which airline the company works with if your pet travels by air.

pet insuranceCan I purchase pet travel insurance?

Are you worried about the potential veterinarian bills that might occur if your pet is injured or becomes sick during your move? Do you want help paying for pet moving expenses, such as charges from pet transportation companies? Pet travel insurance is available and a great idea if you are concerned about any unexpected bills that can occur during traveling. Pet travel insurance differs from pet health insurance; you must purchase a separate policy. Rates will vary depending on your pet’s age and overall health, and you should consider a policy with a cancellation contingency if your plans change.

partial moving servicesWill a moving company transport my pets?

Your long-distance moving company will never transport your pets. Long-distance moving companies do not have the proper permits or accommodations for your pets. Instead, the best two options are to hire a pet transportation company or bring your pets with you on the road. Have any more questions about moving long-distance? Here are a few additional answers to some common long-distance questions!

moving with pets

Conclusion of Moving with Pets Cross Country

Your pets are valued family members, and you want to ensure that they are as comfortable and safe throughout the process. Luckily, with the proper preparation, a visit to the veterinarian, and some patience, it is possible to successfully move with your pets and enjoy a new life in your new hometown!

Picture of John Brikertalli

John Brikertalli

John is a mover since he can't remember when. As a son to a family of movers, John has experience in all moving aspects. Contact us and ask John about your next move.

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