How to Start a Pet Transportation Business
Pet Transportation Services are needed as the number of pets in the U.S. has grown tremendously over the past few decades. According to the U.S. Pet ownership and Demographics sourcebook, there are an estimated 60 million dogs and 70 million cats in American homes today. Apart from that, households which own pets have been recorded to spend 36% more in 2001 as compared to 1996. With this, owning a business that caters to the pet market, including a pet transportation service has lots of potential for healthy growth.
This is due to the fact that many Americans move around the country yearly and thus would require pet transportation services to move their pets as well. On a smaller scale, pet transportation services can also cater for local residents who require these services to transport their pets to and from the vet, within a local area or even to the crematorium for pets which have died.
Start Up Costs and Financing Sources:
Starting a pet transportation business really depends on the scale that you want your business to be. If you want to start on a smaller scale, all you really need is probably a pickup truck that has been modified to be safe and suitable for the transport of animals. Of course, you will need to set up an office or operate from your home with just a telephone, email and a fax machine. All of these will cost you less than $20,000.
On a larger scale, especially when you are considering cross border transportation, you will probably need to invest on a larger truck that can accommodate a few pets at the same time. Apart from that, the insides of the truck will need to be made suitable, safe and clean for pets, with adequate ventilation and cleaning facilities. In order to make this business viable, you may need to quickly expand your business to include sales agent offices in various locations. This way, you can build up business volume in order to increase profitability. All of these may cost you anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 in initial start up costs.
Financing can be obtained from investors who may be interested in the potentials of such a business. Other than that, lending institutions such as banks can be approached to obtain a loan for the business. As with any business start-up, an impressive business plan must be developed for potential investors and financiers, indicating the potential growth as well as the estimated annual costs and revenue of the business.
Pricing Guidelines for Service:
The pricing strategy for a pet transportation service business fluctuates based on the fixed and variable cost of the business, as well as the nature of the service provided. Local transportation services may start with a minimum charge of $20 to $40 for the first 20 miles and an additional $10 for every 10 miles after that.
As for interstate transportation or transportation between cities, the distance between the origin and the destination will be the major price determinant. With this, prices may range from $100 and up, depending also on the size of the animal and the pet carrier.
Advertising and Marketing:
As you are targeting pet owners, the best marketing approach would to advertise in locations where pet owners would go. Reading material for pet owners as well as events that are attended by the same target group. Placing brochures within pet stores and probably awarding pet stores with commissions for every customer they recommend to you would be a good idea. Advertising in pet magazines or getting a write up on your services would be helpful. Of course, classified ads in the Yellow pages are a must in order to make it easy for customers to locate you.
Other channels of promotion would be participation as a vendor in dog shows or exhibitions. Doing this will help increase awareness on the existence of the business. Additionally, working with associations such as the American Kennel Association would create and improve visibility to pet breeders and pet store owners. Especially when you participate in events organized by these associations.
Launching a website and allowing potential customers to get instant price estimates from your website would also be a great idea.
This business requires a fair amount of equipment, in which the most important would be the vehicle that is used to transport the animals. Apart from that, other equipment such as crates, kennels and carriers may be required as some customers do not have these items with them. The size and usage of these crates must be according to the guidelines set by the Independent Pet and Animal Transport Association (IPATA).
Handlers and drivers will need to be employed to care for the animals while they are in transit. Other equipment required would be built-in sinks within the vehicle to allow for easy cleaning and water refills.
Recommended training, experience, or needed skills:
There is no extensive training required for a pet transportation service business. However, good and responsible drivers and animal handlers need to be engaged. It would be best if you have a background and experience in handling animals during travel so you can train your staff and ensure that they are handling animals in the correct manner. Apart from that, your staff must also know what to do if they encounter problems during the journey, and should also be equipped with the latest kennel and vet location information in case of emergencies.
Apart from that, the business owner must be well informed on all legal requirements pertaining to pet transportation. For example, there are IPATA guidelines on the size of crates and wire crates that are required by law. Moreover, all pets must be accompanied by an inter-state travel certificate that has been certified by a veterinarian.
The income potential of this business is dependent on how large the business grows to. A larger business with multiple offices and destinations will be able to sustain a higher sales volume. With this, the pet transportation business will be able to generate at least a six- figure income each year.
Pet owners, pet stores and animal breeders.
A pet transportation business requires investment and a passion for welfare of animals in order for it to be successful. As it is also a niche market, lots of marketing and advertising need to be invested into the business in order to create the awareness of the services.