Attorney Marc Morrison has had his fair share of challenging clients. He once had to move four Pomeranians from Mauritius to the Bahamas — a journey involving four countries, five days and a good friend who happened to be a pilot. Another time it was a tortoise that Morrison had to relocate from New York to England for an actor in “Harry Potter.”
Most of the clients he serves at his white-glove pet transport company, Animal Land Pet Movers, are dogs and cats, but he has also shipped snakes, exotic birds and even a tiger.
Morrison transitioned to his new career after noticing that pet ownership — and the desire to pamper — seemed to be rising, all while Americans continued to relocate.
“Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the world, and at the time no one was doing pet relocation,” Morrison recalled recently. “I saw a need, and as it was around the birth of the internet, I was able to leverage Search Engine Optimization to launch into a real business.”
Morrison, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., attended Brandeis University, followed by Emory Law School. He practiced law for 12 years before he arrived at his epiphany.
“Interestingly enough, I had a client who was in the pet industry,” he said. “I’m a huge pet lover and have always had pets growing up. When I graduated law school, I had three dogs and up to very recently had around three pets at any given time.”
Animal Land currently has seven employees and does 85 percent of its business internationally. Pricing is based on the volume of the kennel and the length of the journey. Consequently, shipping a Great Dane is several times more expensive than a chihuahua, though travel to EU countries is generally less expensive than to Australia or New Zealand, for example.
The company remains busy throughout the year, but summer is the busiest time, when most people relocate prior to the school year. During the summer, Animal Land will transport over 100 pets per month.
“We are a ‘white-glove’ service and will do anything the client requests to accomplish the relocation,” Morrison says. “This often involves getting import permits, transportation to and from the airports, as well as customs clearance and quarantine fees, if applicable. The vast majority of pets fly in cargo so there is no one who travels with them. Only a small percentage of their moves originate in Atlanta, so we don’t meet the pets ahead of time. However, we give all of our clients detailed instructions and recommendations about how to make move day as smooth as possible.”
In terms of transportation modes, Morrison almost always prefers air travel. “Driving is actually much more expensive. We will absolutely do so if that is what the clients want and have done a couple of coast-to-coast trips. Trains don’t allow pets, and private jets are prohibitively expensive,” he said.
Animal Land has had their share of incidents. “We have had one or two pets run away but we found them, thank goodness,” Morrison recalled. “We have had a couple of other challenging moves, including moving 19 pets from Portland, Ore., to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and 17 pets from Kauai, Hawaii to Sante Fe, N.M.”
Morrison says that the most difficult clients are cats, due to their temperament. “Some of the bigger dogs will not fit on all aircraft,” he said, “logistically they are more difficult to get where they may need to go.”
Though he thinks all airlines are safe, Morrison feels that KLM and Lufthansa are better at handling pets. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa and England all have detailed rules and regulations that need to be followed in a particular order, so Morrison views them as the most difficult.
He doesn’t recommend bringing the family pet along to your next destination. “Honestly, unless you are driving, we don’t recommend you take your pet on vacation,” he counseled. “However, our best advice is to get your pet accustomed to the travel kennel … having them sleep in it for a bit and then taking them for rides around town. Anything you can do to make the actual move day less stressful is recommended.”
Morrison and his wife, Katherine, have two college-aged daughters and attend Chabad at Emory.