Out of all the various shipment categories you could carry as an online driver, pets are the most unique by far. Not only are they alive and require regular attention, but your shipping customers are likely expecting progress updates from the road.
This guide will address what you need know do as a driver, provide general pet shipping do’s and don’ts, as well as offer specific details about hauling dogs, cats, and other animals.
Transporting pets on CitizenShipper all starts with your driver profile. It’s your online resume that should be tailored to attract pet shipping customers by showing them who you are, what transportation you use and your experience. Your driver profile should be professional and include clear pictures of you and your vehicle. If you ship pets exclusively, make sure to include that detail.
The most critical part of your profile will be the feedback provided by your customers. It’s highly advisable to ask for positive feedback from happy customers since pet owners can be very selective about who handles their fur babies. For many, pets are part of the family.
Likewise, if a breeder or kennel is shipping a pet, they have a financial interest in the animal’s well being.
Staying in touch
The best way to earn that all-important positive feedback is to stay in touch with the pet owners while on the road. Take the time to shoot a couple of quick pictures during pit stops, then forward them to the interested parties.
Mobile technology gives the individual driver the same capabilities as shipping companies, if not more because it’s personalized. Take advantage of it. Your customer will be grateful and it will pay off for you.
All drivers use their own bidding tactics. Some will want to place the first bid on a shipment, while others will wait for a price to be set. Every now and then, a bidder will swoop in and quickly underbid everyone to win the shipment. Drivers that do this are likely stacking cargo - compiling several shipments into one to reduce the travel expense. This is certainly a strategy to consider when working as an online shipping driver full time.
This approach is made easier by CitizenShipper’s Stacked Shipments Tool, accessible at the bottom right of a listing page. It allows drivers to bid on other shipments near the point of origin or destination of the shipment they're currently viewing.
The tool displays up to six available shipments near the item you’re viewing, as well as estimates of extra cash that can be made for each shipment stacked, as well as additional miles added to the trip.
Ultimately, bidding on pets takes common sense, according to driver David Zimmerman who regularly stacks pet shipments together.
“Sometimes the bids can be so high that the customer just doesn’t bite on any offers,” he said. “When that happens, the whole community suffers, because the customer just goes away and no one gets the shipment. No one benefits.”
Just like the driver should get his vehicle ready for the trip, the animal also needs to be prepared. Dogs and cats traveling in pet carriers should be trained ahead of time. Owners should have them spend some time inside the container - ideally sleeping there for a while - in the days leading up to the trip.
A comfortable animal means a comfortable trip. Drivers need to get the specifics on the pet’s feeding schedule and allocate enough time for regular walks as necessary.
Ask the owners if there are any special requirements, including medications or dietary restrictions. The customer usually provides all the necessary items, including the carrier. This should be made clear in the listing; the driver should always make sure of what’s included before bidding on a pet shipment.
If you are required to stay overnight in a hotel, be sure the lodger accommodates cats and dogs. The national chain La Quinta has traditionally been a pet-friendly hotel stop, charging no additional fee. Other chains allow pets, but charge a non-refundable fee that may be cost-prohibitive for the trip.
Canines can be some of the easiest pets to transport, but caution must still be taken. Large dogs should be caged at all times while in transport, and care exercised when removing them or placing them in the pet carrier. Different breeds (Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, etc.) have reputations that must be respected, even though individual animals usually have a pleasant temperament.
On occasion, some drivers allow smaller dogs to ride outside of their carriers. The utmost care must be taken if you do so, according to driver David Zimmerman.
“If a dog is playful and nice and you’re comfortable with letting it ride in the backseat, it can be just fine and actually fun, “ he said. “You really just have to read the individual dog.”
With dogs, climate control is critical. Their body temperature tends to run a degree or two higher than that of humans, so be sure to keep them comfortable. Generally, the bigger the dog, the more air conditioning they need, especially if riding in the back of an SUV.
Since dogs must be transported in a climate-controlled environment, a large closed cabin is all you need to get the job done. Cars, trucks, and SUVs can all handle the appropriate cargo.
Puppies need special care as well. A breeder will usually only release a puppy to a new owner at eight weeks old with all of the required immunizations, so that is a good rule of thumb to follow for all canines. Also, breeders normally supply the documents verifying the shots that have been administered.
Potty breaks for canines are usually made every three or four hours. It’s advisable to leash the dogs and let them burn some energy during a pit stop; a tired dog travels well.
With the right amount of carrier preparation before the trip, a regular feeding schedule, and just enough attention, the lovable feline can be a joy to transport. With proper litter box maintenance, they also require fewer pit stops, resulting in a quicker delivery.
When you do have to open the carrier door, be sure the cat has no way of getting out, warns Cory Jennings, a West Coast cat transporter.
“Cats are notorious escape artists,” Jennings said. “You have got to be very careful when getting them in and out of the cage. If you do it wrong, it’s crazy cat city.”
Many of the guidelines for dogs apply to cats as well, including special diets, feeding schedules, medications, and other specific requirements. Additionally, cats should stay in the confines of the carrier for the entirety of the trip. Their unpredictable nature makes it risky to allow a feline to wander the cabin.
Kittens also shouldn’t be transported before eight weeks of age and should have all of their vaccinations if being picked up from a breeder.
Transporting Exotic Animals
Online transport isn't just for cats and dogs. Every now and then, an exotic animal comes up for a bid. Should you win one of these shipments, be certain all of the exotic animal’s needs are addressed before picking them up. Whether it’s a monkey, snake, lizard, or raccoon, each should have very specific instructions for care, including diets, medications, temperatures, etc.
Most importantly, every exotic animal breeder should document and certify the exotic animal’s point of origin and destination, as well as breeding and medical histories. David Zimmerman recently transported a Patas monkey (pictured above) from Florida to Texas.
“Be sure the breeder gives you all of the proper paper forms when you haul an exotic animal,” said Zimmerman. “Keep all of your documents together. You never know when you might need them.”
By following these guidelines, from sharpening your driver profile to finding your own bidding strategy and caring for certain breeds, online pet shipping can be very rewarding. Good luck!