Animal welfare organizations sometimes transport animals locally, regionally, or nationally to improve outcomes for animals in the community of origin and provide adoptable pets at the destination. For many animals, relocation is a life-saving measure. But animal transport also may pose risks:
- Animal relocation programs have the potential to spread infectious diseases along transport corridors and to new destinations.
- The stress of transport may increase an animal’s susceptibility to infection, increase viral shedding, or exacerbate behavioral conditions.
- Risk of exposure to infectious disease increases when animals from multiple sources are transported together.
It’s important to carefully consider risks and benefits for all animals affected by a relocation program. Well-planned transport programs can create positive outcomes for relocated animals while protecting the welfare of animals already in the community.
Careful planning minimizes risks
Thoughtful management and planning are always required to ensure an animal’s comfort and safety and to minimize the risk of disease transmission. Good planning includes the following:
- Prior to transport, animals should be inspected by a veterinarian and a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued.
- Trip planning must include provisions specific to the age and species of the animals being moved. Animals must have suitable enclosures, rest breaks, food, water, and protection from environmental extremes, and they must be accompanied by someone who can recognize and respond to their needs during transport.
- A contingency plan for emergencies must be in place.
In all circumstances, care must be taken to protect the physical and behavioral health and welfare of every animal being transported. Veterinarians, as experts in animal health and welfare, should be consulted in setting organizational criteria for determining whether animals should be relocated.
Relocation involves transporting homeless dogs and cats and transferring their ownership from one organization or individual to another.
Best practices for animal transport
The AVMA and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians have worked together to define best practices for transporting dogs and cats for adoption within the United States. These include responsibilities of individuals and organizations, special precautions for certain animals, and documentation guidelines.
These recommendations apply regardless of the purpose, distances, or parties involved. While they're not intended specifically to address disaster situations, these practices should be followed whenever possible.