Providing transportation services to pet owners who cannot drive their pets to the vet, groomer or kennel makes a pet taxi service a valuable service. If you enjoy working with pets and are a safe, conscientious driver, starting a pet taxi service gives you a chance to combine your skills and make money at the same time.
Choose Your Wheels
To get started as a pet taxi service, you need a reliable vehicle, such as a van or minivan, with space to hold pet carriers in a climate-controlled environment. Maintaining consistent comfortable temperatures during both hot and cold weather extremes is essential. In a minivan, fold-down seats are especially helpful for providing flexibility when transporting different sizes of pet carriers. Cats don't vary much in size, but if you're primarily a dog taxi, then you'll need to be prepared to serve customers whose animals weigh a few pounds or close to 200 pounds.
Your vehicle is likely the biggest expense when starting a pet taxi business. A new minivan costs at least $30,000, depending on the make and options package you choose. You may be able to find a reliable, slightly older model for less.
Decide How You'll Get Paid
The ability to accept credit cards via mobile phones makes apps such as QuickBooks GoPayment and PayAnywhere ideal for for small pet taxi services. These apps let you collect payments when you are on the road. Adding an online payment process system, such as PayPal, gives you the advantage of taking paid reservations and charging for last-minute cancellations online. Plan to pay a few percentage points for each credit card transaction along with any bank setup and administration fees.
Pet booking software, such as Power Pet Sitter, helps you keep track of appointments and makes billing easier. The software stores client data, such as the owner’s home address as well as the vet's and groomer’s locations. A one-person Power Pet Sitter license costs $129 annually. You can get a 10-day free trial to decide whether Power Pet Sitter is right for you and your business.
Stuff Happens... Get Insurance
You need insurance to cover liability issues in case a client’s pet gets hurt while in your care or in your vehicle. Pet Sitters International offers a liability policy that covers pets in your custody and under your control. Policy limits range from $10,000 to $200,000. PSI also recommends that you buy a commercial automobile policy for liability, comprehensive and collision coverage in the event a pet causes damage to your vehicle or if you require a handler or owner to accompany her pet in your vehicle.
If you hire drivers, you may also need workers compensation coverage to cover medical payments or limited liability income in the event one of your drivers is hurt while operating your company vehicle.
Check Licensing Requirements
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Animal Welfare Act says you are exempt from licensing requirements if you provide taxi services to transport private pets to destinations such as groomers and vets and are not a commercial animal handler or carrier. But if you also use your vehicle to transport human passengers, check with your state’s Department of Transportation to find out its specific licensing requirements.
Set Your Fees
Set your fees based on one-way and round-trip services. Charge extra for long distance travel if you must drive over a certain number of miles. For example, pricing at Manhattan's Pet Chauffeur starts at $42 per trip, with an additional charge of $5 per mile outside the service area. If you are asked to wait for the pet at the vet or groomer, charge an extra fee or hourly rate. Providing treats or water can be additional charges. Make it clear to customers that you charge a fee for last-minute cancellations. For example, Boston area Elliot's House requires 48 hours notice for cancellation. Otherwise, the customer is charged the full quoted travel expense.
Provide Emergency Services
In some communities, veterinary practices may use a registered pet ambulance service. The pet ambulance cost can be more than $300 if critical care is required en route. If you're not qualified to provide medical treatment, you can still offer 24/7 transportation services. Many pet taxis charge double the regular fee for after hours transport.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.