Inside the business of moving 500 tarantulas, 100 ducks and 10 shelter dogs
The new Nat Geo Wild series 'We Move Animals' follows a family of animal movers as they transport everything from alpacas to hundreds of hungry spiders.
Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 03:14 PM
A French bulldog shakes off some sand during a beach vacation. (Photo: NGC/Samara Milstein)
Whether you’re packing up your pets for a cross-country or international relocation, sending your herd to a new farm, or happen to need tarantulas, lizards, bears, or potbellied pigs sent from one place to another, Susan Denicker can facilitate. In the animal transportation business for 20 years, Denicker operates the Long Island, N.Y.-based company Animals Away, and her adventures in critter cargo are the subject of a new Nat Geo Wild series, “We Move Animals,” which premieres on Jan. 18 with the first of three episodes.
“Regular movers don’t take pets, because they could be on the road three or five days,” Denicker says, explaining how she established the business to fill a void. Aided by her son, Anthony, and daughter, Alyssa, she’s prepared to handle any kind of creature with TLC — though pets are her bread and butter. “I'm up for the challenge. You name it, we move it, and I will figure it out. If I have to drive thousands of miles to get there, I will get your pet there,” vows Denicker, who has a Yorkie named Cayden at home. “When your pets are with us, they’re my pets until I return them to you, safe and sound.”
Doing that is not without difficulty. “Last week I had to drive from Tucson to Los Angeles to get a plane large enough to handle a Great Dane. And when we had the polar vortex, all the flights were canceled, so I had to arrange boarding for the animals,” and in some cases redoing paperwork for expired permits. “85-90 percent of my work is international, and for example Australia has such strict guidelines," she says. "There’s quarantine; blood work has to be done. I handle everything. People don’t realize how much it can cost.” $10,000-$12,000 isn’t unusual for that type of move, and that’s just for one dog. “The permit alone to get into Australia is $600, and then you have to pay quarantine fees,” Denicker explains. A more straightforward domestic move between, say, New York and Chicago for a cat or dog would run $1,500-$2,000.
You can watch a segment about moving a family of French bulldogs below:
She tells the story of the time she agreed to move 500 tarantula spiders, provided that the client packed them for shipping. “We put them in our office, and about two days later, we started getting bitten. The guy had put fruit in with them to feed them, and the fruit flies were attacking us — and the tarantulas,” she relates. But the biggest challenge is dealing with demanding clients. “The most difficult moves are when the owner is so emotional and I really have to hold their hand. The hard part isn’t dealing with the pets — it’s the owners. This is their baby, their child, and they want to micromanage everything.”
There’s also a conservation aspect to “We Move Animals.” In one episode, Denicker retrieves 10 abused and abandoned dogs and three cats from a shelter in West Virginia, where they would have been euthanized, to a no-kill shelter in Salem, Mass. “We drove 750 miles straight through, with two potty breaks.” In another, she moves black bears to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado and rounds up and inoculates 100 rehabilitated ducks, geese and swans at the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue Center and returns them to the wild.
In the premiere episode, son Anthony builds a new transportation crate for Challenger, the bald eagle that represents the American Eagle Foundation. In the same episode, Denicker is hired to relocate a herd of alpacas, and she witnesses the birth of a new calf. (See segment in the video below.) “Seeing that alpaca being born, and sharing it with my children was so nice,” she says, gratified that they both love the business — despite Alyssa’s pet allergies. (She gets shots; her own dog is a hypoallergenic breed). “It was never my intention to have them work with me. It just sort of happened as my business grew and I needed more help. There's just such a pride that we all do it together. If you ask my 12-year-old grandson, Anthony, what he wants to be when he grows up, he says, ‘I want to be a pet shipper.’ ”
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