Dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes and turtles have no wings, but in Chris Filippelli’s world, they fly around the globe.
Filippelli’s Roslyn-headquartered World Wide Pet Transport dispatches animals to distant locales to reunite them with their owners. The 43-year-old company scores business directly from Fortune 500 and relocation companies, as well as from individual clients moving to faraway digs or taking an extended vacation. It has shipped the pampered canines and felines of corporate titans, professional athletes, Hollywood celebrities and even royalty.
The firm not only transports pets between their home and the airport but navigates the complex universe of animal travel, including securing veterinary services and health documentation for domestic and global trips, applying for import and transit permits for certain international destinations, facilitating document certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for international shipments and, if the point of arrival mandates it, arranging for quarantine.
“People are traveling more with their pets, and as a result, demand has increased,” said Filippelli, 30, the firm’s director.
And according to the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, whose members, including World Wide, encompass 458 shippers in over 80 countries, it’s a tail-wagging time for industry professionals — with more than 2 million pets and other live creatures transported annually by air in the United States and more than 4 million worldwide.
Each year, Filippelli’s multi-million-dollar enterprise handles 700 to 1,000 animals, the vast majority of them cats and dogs traveling by air. The firm’s revenue grow about 5 percent annually, Filippelli said, with repeat customers representing 10 percent of its yearly business. With very little paid advertising, World Wide generates the balance of its revenue from existing corporate clients, social media, its website and referrals from individuals and airlines.
The company’s prices, which are based on the size and number of pets, departure and destination points and the level of service, can start as low as $500 for assisting with documentation but can exceed $10,000 for handling the entire transit, including securing all completed paperwork, certifications and permits, as well as keeping owners abreast of their pet’s well-being before departure and upon arrival with photos, video messaging, Skype and FaceTime.
“We want to make it clear that their pet is in good hands,” said Filippelli, whose firm’s white-glove services represent most of its business and usually includes airfare.
According to Doug Betansky, president of Upside Business Consultants in Hauppauge, successful niche businesses typically target a well-defined, smaller group of customers, and “their high level of personal service lets customers know they’re really appreciated.”
The firm has never lost a pet, and no creature has died under its watch, although a dog once injured itself trying to chew through its travel crate. To avoid such scenarios, Filippelli recommends acclimating pets to the unit before departure. Sedatives are “a hard no,” he said, because they slow down heart rates and breathing.
Filippelli learned the complex business from his family, which owns and operates World Wide. His father, Frank Filippelli, the company’s president, started the firm after his employer, a car transport outfit, decided it couldn’t satisfy customers’ requests to ship their pets.
Filippelli’s mother, Rosemary, is World Wide’s global pet move manager, and his brother, Tony, is the operations manager and is located in Los Angeles. The family opened an office last spring there to keep pace with demand for pets traveling to and from Australia and Asia.
The four are World Wide’s only full-time workers. While serving as the point person for clients, they depend on more than 200 independent agents to help facilitate the transits.
Routinely, World Wide ships cats and dogs to and from London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Sydney, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, as well as Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. But it has also sent a rabbit from Sao Paulo to Miami, a cat from Karachi, Pakistan, to Dubai, a wild caracal cat from New York to Tel Aviv and a turtle from the Philadelphia Zoo to the Monterrey Aquarium in California.
Felicia Sutton has relied on World Wide twice — four years ago when she and her husband, a chemical manufacturing executive, moved from San Francisco to Thailand for his work, and again in 2016 when they relocated to Saudi Arabia for her husband’s new project.
“Chris overcame language barriers, cultures, diplomatic issues, government red tape, regulations and a few of my meltdowns,” said Sutton.
For a recent customer seeking a private road trip for a Boxer and willing to pay more than $2,000, Filippelli personally drove the hound from New York to Cincinnati, stopping every few hours to walk it and send photos to the owner.
“It’s a happy experience when you are delivering pets,” he said. “It’s like a family reunion, with lots of smiles” — as compared to the teary send-offs when furry friends are starting their journey and “owners need to be consoled and assured that everything will be okay.”
At a glance
World Wide Pet Transport, Roslyn
President: Frank Filippelli
Staff: Chris Filippelli, director; Rosemary Filippelli, global pet move manager; Tony Filippelli, operations manager (based in Los Angeles)
Pets moved per year: 700 to 1,000
Price range: $500 to $10,000+