The Ultimate Side Gig for an Animal Lover With Wheels

A dog hangs out the passenger side of a parked car waiting for the driver to enter the vehicle.
Getty Images

Can you really make $10,000 a month driving animals from here to there?

The answer is yes if you’ve got the time, the dependable wheels and a good marketing plan, which may be nothing more than an online profile on a site that matches drivers with jobs. Experience helps, too.

Independent pet transporting is a growing side gig as people buy pets, mostly dogs, in other cities and need them brought to their fur-ever home. Some pet transporters are hired to deliver pets to owners who have moved because air travel won’t work.

Pet transporters are needed to transport animals from shelters, stores or breeders to foster homes, too. They are especially needed when an animal is coming from a kill-shelter, because it is a race against a clock to have the animal re-homed before the time comes to put them down.

Pet transporting is different from working at a kennel or daycare, because your only co-workers are your four-legged passenger.

The Money You’ll Make

The income you can make from pet transporting depends on a few things. Because independent transporters set their own hours, obviously you will earn more if you are constantly offering your services to clients to build your experience, and are willing to travel farther.

Those with a more relaxed approach earn more modestly. Other factors include the animal breed, any special needs, and your level of experience and number of positive reviews.

An average active independent pet transporter who completes 15 to 20 jobs per month, can make somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000 a month. If they can keep that pace throughout the year, then they could earn above $100,000. The higher rates tend to come from metro areas in California and the Northeast.

Though an independent pet transporter can call their own shots on what jobs to take and when, it’s important to remember that the upkeep on the car, gas, pens or carriers to hold the animals and other expenses might be all up to you.

The rates are quite a bit more for an independent transporter than for a driver who works for a shelter, groomer or vet clinic. Pay for those gigs is between $12 and $20 an hour and you will likely still have to use your own car but you might be reimbursed for gas and other expenses.

How to get Started

1. Set Up Your Online Profile

There are websites that cater to people needing their pet delivered.

Similar to a dating website, clients will look through the profiles and based on the information you put (price, location, experience, etc.), they will then contact you about the details. Make sure everything is professional, with no typos and include good pictures — bonus points if there are animals in them.

Websites to get started include:

2. Get Certified

Consider making your profile more appealing by getting some certifications. This is not required, but makes you stand out from other beginners. The American Red Cross offers a certification course in pet first aid for $25 which only takes 35 minutes. Another highly desirable certification is the Animal Care License from the USDA.

3. Be Patient but Stick With It

Don’t be discouraged if you are not getting that many bookings immediately. The quality that dog owners and breeders most commonly look for in a driver is experience.

But according to CitizenShipper, after just a few successful jobs and five-star reviews, things tend to pick up quickly. Within a couple of months, formerly struggling drivers find the clients much more receptive.

In the meantime, charge slightly lower than you will in the future to make up for lack of experience.

Qualities of a Pet Transporter

Although pet transporting does not require a particular degree or fancy equipment beyond a car, there is a little more to it than just being an Uber for animals.

For anyone looking to get into the pet transportation business, CitizenShipper — the online marketplace which connects customers to couriers and transport providers — recommends these three qualities:

Good People Skills

This one may come as a shock, since the job title alone implies you will be working mostly with animals. While that is true, the situation is similar to my teacher friends saying that the easiest part of the job is the kids — the parents are who more often bring stress.

If you have a pet yourself, then you can relate to someone being particular about who will be alone with them. In order to book jobs, you will need to be extremely amiable, forthright and confident. Having the credentials to back your confidence up is important too. (See No. 2 above)

Ability to Organize and Plan in Advance

One of the perks of the job is that you don’t need to go at it alone. If you’re closer to a Type Z Personality than an A, team up with a friend who writes lists for fun and is always 15 minutes early. You can join forces on the business.

Come up with a cute name: The Furmobile or maybe Dr. Dolittle Animal Mover. Allied Pet Lines? You get the idea.

Pet transporting requires meticulous scheduling and direction following. We all know how frustrating it is when our food delivery is late or dropped off at the wrong place. Now imagine if that was your furry best friend! Planning is also important when choosing routes to minimize fuel expenditures and increase net gain.

Unconditional Love for Animals

If you’ve gotten this far, you most likely already have this. Just keep in mind, though, that this job involves more than just cuddling at pit stops and taking Brutus on walks.

If an animal has never been in a car, or has and hated it, they may throw up or get nervous diarrhea. They may even take out their fear on you and get snappy, especially if you don’t have a pet of your own and aren’t used to these kinds of things, things could get messy.

Still, the possibility of $10,000 a month could make a little mess worth it.

Olivia Smith is a writer based in Washington, D.C., who has experience in public and political advocacy work. She is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.