How to Keep Your Pet Safe During a Long-Distance Move

Author: Alecia Pirulis


Every once in a while, a story will pop up on a news feed or television that makes pet parents shudder: A dog’s crate accidentally opens as he is being loaded onto a plane, and the dog goes missing. A family driving cross-country stops at a rest area and their dog, disoriented in the unfamiliar territory, runs away. Or, a dog wanders away from his new, unfamiliar yard to go back “home”. And while these stories are rare, you may be worried about how your pet companion will cope with a long-distance move.

Moving is stressful for pets. They don’t understand what’s happening – they only know that something is up and their routine has been disrupted. A long-distance move is not only stressful, but it can also cause some safety concerns. Here’s how to keep your pet safe during a long-distance move to your new apartment.

1. Make sure your pet’s ID tags are up-to-date. You may want to add your new address and a cell number to his new tags, as well. If your pet isn’t micro-chipped, this is something you may want to consider – just in case your pet loses his tags.

2. Before you go, make one last trip to the vet. You may want to get your pet companion a checkup before you leave to make sure they have a clean bill of health. Also, you may need to get a health certificate for your pet – especially if you’re flying. If you’re moving internationally, ask your vet about proper documents needed to bring your pet into the country.

3. If you are driving to your new location (which is recommended over air travel for pets), be sure to plan your route ahead of time and make reservations now at pet-friendly hotels. Don’t try to find one on the spur of the moment – there may not be a pet-friendly hotel in the area. Also, if you decide to leave your pet alone in the hotel room, make sure you keep him in his crate while you are out. He could become anxious about being alone in a strange place and cause damage, or a hotel employee arriving to attend to your room could let your pet escape accidentally.

4. At the same time you are mapping your route and booking pet-friendly hotels, find the local emergency animal hospitals in the areas you’ll be driving through – just in case. If something does happen to your pet, you don’t want to be frantically searching for a pet hospital in an unfamiliar area.

5. Stop at rest areas frequently so your pet can take care of business and get some exercise. Keep your pet leashed – even if he typically responds to your calls. Unfamiliar territory may prove too tempting for him to ignore, and you don’t want your pet wandering off.

6. Plan meals carefully. It is a good idea to picnic at the rest area, so load up on supplies in a cooler for lunches on the road. If you don’t have space for a cooler, go to a place with a drive-thru and bring your meal to a park. Never leave your pet unattended in the car! And don’t forget about your pet – be sure to bring plenty of water, pet food, and bowls and try to stick as close to his normal feeding schedule as possible.

7. Certain animals cannot travel in a plane’s cargo hold (such as pugs and any other short-snouted dogs). Some airlines will allow small pets to ride with you, as long as they are in a carrier. Be sure to call and ask the airline about their pet-handling policies.

8. Book a non-stop flight – this will keep your pet from having to be transferred from one plane to another, which is highly stressful and dangerous for your pet. Be sure to mark the pet carrier carefully with “Live Animal” and your name, address, and telephone number. Add arrows to indicate the top of the crate. Keep a photo of your pet with you – just in case he is lost during transit.

9. If you are moving to a different country, check that country’s regulations concerning animals before you leave – some countries won’t allow certain types of pets to enter, and you don’t want your pet quarantined or to be sent home.

10. Once you’ve arrived at your new home or apartment, remember that it will take your dog or cat a while to adjust to this new territory. Provide them with their favorite toys, bed, etc. to help them feel more at home. Remember – they don’t realize that this is home! Keep a very close eye on your pet and don’t let them out without a leash until you are sure they have settled in to their new surroundings.