Dog being driven in car

The pet market is growing with an estimated 57% of households now having a pet. But what happens when those pets need vet visits, grooming appointments, and transport to shows when their owners simply can’t get there for one reason or another?

The pet taxi industry is relatively new, but shows every sign of potential growth, and is a relatively low cost way of starting a business.

Here’s what you need to know about starting a pet transport business.

1. Choose your service area wisely

You’ll need to decide the areas you service, and how far out of the area you’re prepared to travel.

Keep your home location in mind but be aware of the surrounding areas and the demographics; you want to ensure a returning customer base that can accommodate your pricing structure.

You don’t have to work in your home area, but for wear and tear on vehicles and travel times, it makes sense to use it as your starting point, and work in circular segments from there.

Your service area will also decide the type of service you offer – from a no-frills budget service to luxury pet chauffeur.

Set up a business plan to get an overview of the costs and outgoings of your business

2. Set up a business plan

The best way to get an overview of the costs and outgoings of any potential business is to set up a business plan.

It will help you pinpoint the market capacity, your customer base, and work as the foundation for your business.

Start-ups with a detailed business plan are a lot more likely to still be operational – and profitable. You need to know exactly how much you need to bring in to ensure a healthy, profitable business that gives you room to grow at your own pace and pay off any and all expenses.

3. Get the necessary coverage with pet taxi insurance

Once you take custody of the animal from your customer, you are legally responsible for both its actions and what happens to it.

The right pet taxi business insurance can help protect you in case of an accident. Remember, this will be in addition to your standard car insurance since it needs to cover the business aspect of your animal transport services.

4 . Decide what type of animals you will transport

A lot of people still think in terms of cats and dogs when talking about pets, but there is a growing segment of exotic pet ownership.

While you’re unlikely to bring a pet rat to a groomers, everything from rabbits to snakes can and do need vet appointments. So do birds, large spiders, and fish.

It’s up to you to decide what animals you are able to transport safely and comfortably, but don’t dismiss the more unusual species out-of-hand. Being willing and able to transport them will give you a leg-up on the competition.

You will need a safe and suitable vehicle for transporting animals

5. Your Vehicle is Vital

If you don’t already have a suitable vehicle for transporting animals, it’s going to be your biggest expense in starting a pet taxi business.

You need something that can have a variety of crate sizes securely fastened done if you’re going to be using a van instead of a car. Consider air conditioning and heating to keep the animals comfortable no matter what the outside temperature is, and easily cleanable surfaces throughout, in case one of your furry passengers gets carsick or has a nervous bladder.

Remember that you need to meet certain rules when transporting animals, so keep a variety of seat belt harnesses, pet harnesses and dog guards if you aren’t securing the animals in crates for transport. The RSPCA is a great source of information on the best ways to transport pets.

You can get a custom paint job or vinyl wrap to advertise your business. These are slick, smart and professional, and potential customers will take note especially when you’re parked up at one of your stops.

If the budget won’t stretch that far to start with, you can also get magnetized signage that’s easily removable when you’re off duty.

6. Get Your Website Ready

The first thing a potential customer is going to do is Google you and your business.

You can either hire a web designer or make your own site using a service like WordPress if budgeting is a concern.

Either way, make sure your site contains all the details a customer would look for:

  • The area you cover
  • Your operating times
  • The animals you’re able to transport
  • Your contact details
  • Any animal-related qualifications you have
  • A full list of your prices and services
  • If you have social media, make sure you have working links on the site.

Get testimonials from happy customers, and add them as they come in.

7. Decide your charge rate

There are a number of factors involved here.

Remember that your charges need to cover your expenses, including wear and tear on your vehicle, insurance, and fuel at the very least.

If you offer additional services, like accompanying the animal to its appointment, make a note of that and what your rate is.

Work out costs for out-of-area travel, out-of-hours travel, and cancellation fees, and make sure all of these services and prices are easily found on your website.

8. Schedule management

Create an easy-to-access and up to date schedule that lists all your jobs on a weekly and daily basis and check it regularly.

Sticking to your schedule is vital – you want to develop the reputation of a reliable, trustworthy service that customers can count on.

Accidentally dropping calls is the fastest way to poor reviews, it helps to have reliable cell coverage so you can consistently communicate and update your customers – especially with expensive cargo like exotic animals.

Create a form that contains all the information you’ll need for your passengers

9. Create a detailed passenger form

Create a form that contains all the information you’ll need for your passengers. This should include emergency contacts, vet details, allergies, health conditions and medications, and how the animal interacts with others, human and non-human. You’ll also want the animal’s name, age, and species, plus of course the owner details – name, address, and pickup and drop-off details.

You want to make sure that you have all the information before picking them up, so having your customers fill out a form through your website is an easy fix.

If you are running a service with multiple animals at the same time, make sure all your passengers will get along or take precautions with crates to secure animals. Driving with half your passengers trying to get to and attack the other half is a dangerous prospect.

Some animals simply won’t respond well to being in the same confined space with other animals they don’t know. It’s up to you to make sure the animals in your care are safe and unharmed, with as little stress as possible.

10. Market your business

See if your local vets and pet groomers will let you post flyers and business cards. You can also hand them out to trainers and kennels.

If you can get a contract with a busy kennel in addition to your regular customers, you’ll be off to a flying start.

Word of mouth is gold when it comes to recommendations for animals. Happy customers are likely to rave about your service to anyone who’ll listen, and pet owners talk about their animals every chance they get.

Ask your customers to post reviews online and set up a social media presence that you update regularly.

11. Licensing and legalities

Make sure you know and understand all the legal requirements for your business. You may need special permits or licenses for your vehicle. You may also need to carry business permits on hand and be able to display that you hold the right insurance coverage for your vehicle.

At present, pet taxis are mainly available in a handful of the larger cities. This leaves you a wide field to operate in.

Running a pet taxi could be a stand-alone business or fit in with any number of pet-related businesses as a customer add-on, from kennels to groomers.

A business that offers a door-to-door bespoke service is likely to become the gold standard down the line. If you’d like to stick strictly to the pet taxi side, operating together with local vets, groomers and kennels can be a nice way to grow your business and be mutually beneficial.

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