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Transporting Precious Cargo – How to Safely Ship Our Furry Friends

Shipping live animals and pets by air is vastly different from shipping general cargo. Live animals have needs of their own, similar to what their owner would need. Lethal factors in the air, such as atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature, might affect the well-being of live animals during their travels. Pet transportation requires special arrangements to ensure that the animals will arrive to their destination safely.

Pet transportation is an activity that needs close cooperation between shippers, transport service providers, and airlines. In this issue of AFL, Mr. Suwicha Boontem, Airport Manager, Trans Air Cargo (TAC) and Mr. Chairit Manosaksaree, Thai, Cambodia and Vietnam Cargo Manager, Swiss WorldCargo share their expertise in preparations and procedures for safe transportation of pets and live animals.

Knowing Your Pet

Pet transportation can be broken down into two categories, transportation of personal pets and commercial pets.  Pets most often exported from Thailand include canines, cats, flying squirrels, and lizards.

Mr. Chairit Manosaksaree, Thai, Cambodia and Vietnam Cargo Manager, Swiss WorldCargo

Mr. Chairit Manosaksaree, Thai, Cambodia and Vietnam Cargo Manager, Swiss WorldCargo

The first step for a shipper is to identify the type and breed of the pet and verify if they are allowed to be transported by the airline. “Before transporting pets, the shipper has to provide information about the type, breed, age, and quantity of pets. The information will then be passed on to the airlines to see if they are on forbidden list. Pets that are not allowed on planes include dogs of dangerous breeds which may make noise and disturb the passengers and may endanger personnel during transportation. Such breeds include: Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Bull Terrier. Short-nosed breed dogs are also not allowed to fly, as they are more prone to respiratory problems and most of the time will breathe very heavily at higher atmospheric pressures which can be life threatening to the dog. Moreover, depending on the airline pets under 3-4 months of age may not be allowed onboard as they are too young, fragile, and possess a higher risk of danger,” Mr. Chairit said.

Mr. Suwicha also added: “Before we can transport any pets or live animals, we have to study them in detail. Each animal has their own characteristics that is also necessary for us to learn about. For instance, dogs of the same breed may respond to situations differently. Some may get scared or become violent, which can be very dangerous during transportation. Some other considerations for other live animals include horse urine, which is highly acidic and can cause damage to the plane, so we must prepare special material for absorption to prevent the urine from leaking off the air stable. Each month we transport hundreds of animals safely and for every trip we have veterinary specialists accompany the animals to ensure that they will arrive safely.”

Special Regulations

Other important factors to consider are the regulations and documentations for transportation of pets. All parties involved; the airlines, freight forwarders, and shippers have to obey the IATA Live Animal Regulations (LAR). LAR is the bottom-line for the transportation of live animals to ensure that they will be well taken care of during the trip and arrive safely. All the parties involved from the origin to destination must strictly follow the aforementioned code.

… Dogs of the same breed may respond to situations differently. Some may get scared or become violent, which can be very dangerous during transportation …

A part of LAR states that animals to be transported must show no signs of weakness or sickness and must be properly fed. Animals during pregnancy are also generally forbidden. Cages or containers must be clean and solid enough not to let the animals escape during transportation. These containers must also provide enough space for the animals inside to be able to stand and move around comfortably. For dogs, containers must have food and water containers attached to the door and are usable without having to open the container. The containers must have solid lock mechanism, but with no key locks or hinges. The container door must have a secure, spring loaded, all around locking system with the pins extending at least 1.6 cm beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door.

Mr. Suwicha Boontem, Airport Manager, Trans Air Cargo (TAC)

Mr. Suwicha Boontem, Airport Manager, Trans Air Cargo (TAC)

Mr. Suwicha added, “Apart from the LAR, live animal transporters must follow the regulations of the destination country. Since the regulations for live animal transportation for each country vary and change regularly, the transporters must always keep themselves updated to avoid any problems that might occur.”

Animal transportation regulations for countries may differ and require documentation. An example of this is that an import permit is needed for shipping to Singapore and Japan, but no such document is required for European countries; although they do require that incoming animals are vaccinated and blood sampling verified. The blood sampling verification process is currently done in Europe, as there is no European qualified test lab in Thailand at the moment and the sampling process takes about 90 days.

A Personal Touch to Pet Care

Before the transportation process begins, airlines get in touch with the consignees to ensure that they will be available to pick up the animal at the time of arrival. After the confirmation, the airlines will then accept the animals for transport. Mr. Chairit said, “After receiving the confirmation and all the documentation has been prepared, the owner should escort their pets to the airport early on the departure day and complete the documentation procedures 90 minutes prior to the departure time of the flight. The animals can then be accepted and loaded into the cargo space, where adequate space will be allocated for good air flow and lighting. At the same time, the flight captain will be notified that they have a pet in hold, and they will then adjust the temperature and pressure in the cargo hold to ensure the utmost comfort to the animal. We all care about the comfort and safety for pets because we realize how important they are to the owners.” After the pets arrive at the destination airport, the airports’ animal center will be in charge of them until the consignee arrive to pick them up.

animal transport

Pet transportation requires that the shipper know all about LAR and the varying regulations in different countries. Alternatively, animal owners can choose a freight forwarder who specializes in animal transportation to take care of the move, which can be a more convenient option. The provider will then help select the most suitable airline and supervise the transportation to ensure that your lovable friends will travel to their destination safely.