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Quotations for Pet Relocation Services Lack Specificity Demand Clear Pricing and Conditions to Avoid Overbudget

  • 2021.05.17

Keeping a pet is a lifelong commitment. Pet owners who are planning to emigrate may wish to move with their pets. Many families consider subscribing to pet relocation services to meet the regulation and required procedures of different markets, and the costs of pet relocation may vary greatly as a result. The Consumer Council conducted a mystery shopping survey by asking 11 pet relocation service providers for a quotation for relocating a cat and a dog to Australia, Canada, the UK and the US and Taiwan.         

All 11 service providers in this study offered free quotation services, which was prepared based on factors such as destination, estimated date of departure, as well as the breed, age, size and weight of the pets. However, the Council found that the quotations lacked specificity and there was a wide discrepancy between the standard fees and the actual expenditures at the end. Among them only 2 companies provided a cost breakdown, and 1 company even listed the excluded items via text messages only. With limited information provided, consumers can hardly compare prices and estimate the total expenditure. The Council reminds consumers to check out the required procedures and the direct sunk charges before subscribing to pet relocation services. This helps consumers to evaluate the fairness of the quotation from different service providers.

Different service providers included different items in the standard fees of their quotations so it is not wise to compare them directly, and consumers should not judge the value of the proposal based on the standard fees only. Among the 11 service providers in this study, 9 offered a quotation for relocating a dog to Australia but the standard fees and the actual expenditure could differ from 15% to 190%. The differences were mainly due to the exclusion of the relatively substantial fees for pet’s shipping, quarantine and import permit from the standard fees, which the clients have to settle them directly or reimburse the service providers afterwards. 

Consider transporting a Shiba Inu to Australia as an example. The service provider that quoted the lowest standard fees ($20,000) asked clients to reimburse an additional $38,000 for the 3 relatively substantial fees above. Therefore, the final total expenditure would be almost 2 times more than the standard fees. Conversely, the service provider that quoted the highest standard fees ($62,000) covered both shipping fee and import permit in the quotation. Although clients were still required to pay almost $10,000 for keeping a pet in quarantine, the final total expenditure would only be 15% more than the standard fees. The Council emphasizes that a detail quotation should list down all items and costs and the responsible party of each item. The quotation should also include the payment method with clear terms and conditions. This can help avoiding disputes resulting from too general quotations.

Besides, pet relocation service providers usually transport cats and dogs by air. According to the location, they will suggest airlines and shipping options either as check-in luggage or by air cargo, but their prices can vary greatly. Considering the quotation for transporting a Shiba Inu to the US as an example, one of the service providers quoted $25,000 as standard service fee to transport the dog as a check-in luggage on the same flight, but if the dog be transported by air cargo separately, the cost surged to $5,500, a difference of 120%.

Consumers should also note that, although service providers normally prepare immigration documents for pets on clients’ behalf, the fees for import permit and customs clearance might not covered. 8 out of the 11 service providers did not include the fees for Australia’s import permit or the fees for Taiwan and the UK’s customs clearance. Clients have to bear these fees themselves. In addition, Australia and Taiwan requires a quarantine period of 10 days and 7 days for imported pets respectively. While these service providers could manage the booking of quarantine facilities, 10 of them asked their clients to settle the payment of both or either regions by themselves. Most service providers could also help with the booking of pet cargo and the boarding procedures, except 1 requests clients to handle directly and 2 would charge for extra fees ranging from $800 to $1,200.

The Council reminds consumers to enquire about the terms and conditions before paying any deposits. Only 3 service providers provided the service and payment terms and conditions along with their quotations voluntarily. The others did not take the initiative to do so. Some replied that they would only send their clients a receipt with the terms and conditions after receiving the deposits. 1 of them even stated that no terms and conditions would be provided, which put consumers at a huge disadvantage.

Consumers may change their emigration plans due to limited flight supply under the pandemic or other personal reasons. Although 7 service providers stated that they offered unlimited rescheduling, they would charge extra for repeating works due to the rescheduling. Some service providers would explicitly demand for a handling fee of $1,200. Almost half of the service providers would not refund consumers for early termination of the pet relocation process due to personal reasons (excluding certified health issues or the death of pets). 6 service providers would refund the deposit after deducting the actual pay out and/or administration fees from the sum, but only 3 of them disclosed the amount of administration fees ranged from $2,000 to $4,000. In the case of unsuccessful pet relocation, only 4 service providers agreed to make a partial or full refund when mishandling was found. The rest of them hardly have terms to offer any protection, and 4 service providers simply replied that the situation would not happen.

To conclude, pet owners should collect information about emigrating with pets well in advance to ensure that their pets are suitable to take flights. Animals that are old, short-snouted or suffering from chronic diseases have a relatively high health risk when they travel by plane. Pet owners should consult a vet to assess the suitability of their pets for long-distance travel or not. Consumers should pay heed to the following when they decide to subscribe to pet relocation services:

- Enquire about the animal relocation requirements and procedures of their destinations to mitigate damages due to poor services;

- Compare prices based on the estimated total expenditure and enquire about the reputation of different service providers;

- Enquired for a detail quotation with costs well itemised, and check with airlines and service providers on the cost difference by different shipping options;

- Request service providers to indicate payment methods and terms and conditions, especially those about rescheduling, cancelling or halting services so that consumers have proofs for settling future disputes;

- Leave ample time for carrying out pet relocation procedures since it normally takes 1 to 3 months to move to Canada, the UK and the US, and 6 to 9 months to Australia and Taiwan;

- Help your pets prepare mentally and physically for the flight to reduce the impact of travelling on them.

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