Transporting Live Animals: Ensuring Safety while Overcoming Challenges

Transporting live animals by air necessitates careful preparation and respect for rules in order to ensure the animals' safety and well-being. It is critical to note that every country may have its own regulations and procedures for transporting live animals, which airlines must follow.

Transporting Live Animals: Ensuring Safety while Overcoming Challenges
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Whether it is a beloved pet, a zoological species, or an agricultural animal, the goal is to provide all animals involved with comfortable and secure travel.

But why choose air travel while transporting live animals? Air transport is regarded as the most ethical and efficient way for transporting live animals over long distances. It enables quick mobility, eliminating the tension and suffering that long travels might entail. While it is important to avoid unnecessary long flights, air travel is a feasible option.

In this report, we look at the importance of airlines being International Air Transport Association (IATA) The Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) accredited, what factors to consider when moving live animals, challenges encountered, and the airline's business expansion plans for live animal transport.

To be IATA CEIV Live Animals certified
Driven by industry standards, the CEIV for Live Animals Logistics establishes baseline standards to improve the level of competency, infrastructure and quality management in the handling and transportation of live animals throughout the supply chain.

The IATA CEIV certification process entails stringent assessments, training, and audits to guarantee compliance with the IATA Live Animals Regulations (LAR) and other applicable criteria. Airlines that get this accreditation are recognized as dependable carriers capable of offering the best care and well-being for live animals during their flight.

“As a carrier and a handler, being CEIV certified is a good benefit. It signifies that they (the airlines) take this product seriously, and projects that they understand the value of putting animals first. Especially for airlines and handlers that had little previous experience in this sector, the training process offers a great foundation of how to structure themselves to ensure safe carriage of AVI (Live Animals),” said Charlie McMullen, Company Director, Intradco.

Air Canada Cargo is the first airline to get its IATA certification recertified for the safe transport of live animals. In 2018 as well Air Canada was the first airline to achieve the CEIV Live Animals accreditation.

“Airline partners need to be certified, as we are all a part of the supply chain, and this certification validates that all parties within the supply chain are operating to a global standard. Our operations are impacted positively by having robust SOPs, and the highest standard of training, quality & risk management programmes in the industry. This high standard not only ensures the safety and welfare of the animals we carry but of our employees as well,” said Janet Wallace, Managing Director, Cargo Operations and Transformation for Air Canada Cargo.

In September 2022, Challenge Group became IATA CEIV Live Animals certified which is the highest standard in the industry. This marked a remarkable milestone, with the recognition of expertise developed over several years.

“Our teams are fully trained to handle live animals. We organize regular training sessions at our stations, in addition to the IATA CEIV mandatory training. In addition to that, we have built an internal online training specific to AVI transportation to create the necessary awareness throughout the entire organisation, from sales to operations. This is a guarantee of quality and above all of safety, which is the first thing we look for when we talk about transporting living beings. Moreover, IATA’s recent update of its Live Animals Regulations has had a positive impact. There is an improvement in terms of welfare requirements and more restrictions in line with illegal trafficking policy, destinations, species, CITES regulations, state and operator variations,” said Or Zak, CCO, Challenge Group.

Factors to consider while transporting live animals
Specific processes are in place at airlines and cargo businesses to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals during transit. We asked the live animal transport industry experts about the most significant factors to consider while moving live animals.

“Transporting live animals by air requires careful attention to several significant factors to ensure their safety and well-being. Here are some of the key factors Air Canada Cargo’s team always considers: The welfare of the animals is our top priority. We consider factors such as suitable transport containers, proper ventilation, temperature control, minimising stress, and providing access to food, water, and rest as needed. Working closely with our partners, we adhere to regulations governing live animal transport by air, both at departure and destination locations. Teams work together to ensure compliance with permits, health certificates, quarantine requirements, and any other legal obligations specific to the species or countries involved,” said Wallace.

Apart from coordination and following regulations, there is one critical factor to consider while transporting live animals: temperature. Temperature management is critical during air shipment to preserve the animals' well-being. Cargo holds are frequently outfitted with climate control systems to maintain a comfortable temperature range. Adequate ventilation is also necessary to ensure that the animals have access to fresh air.

“Airline partners need to be certified, as we are all a part of the supply chain, and this certification validates that all parties within the supply chain are operating to a global standard. This high standard not only ensures the safety and welfare of the animals we carry but of our employees as well.”

Janet Wallace, Managing Director, Cargo Operations and Transformation, Air Canada Cargo

“As an airline, we must ensure that the right temperature and CO2 level are maintained throughout the flight. To ensure optimal transport, specific procedures have been developed to create proper air circulation around the live animal container. In addition, our team uses ECS systems to ensure the correct ambient temperature and CO2 levels at all times. Our motto is ‘challenge accepted’, which applies perfectly to this sector when it comes to the operational environment: from delivery to build-up, from planning to tarmac operation, loading and unloading, everything should be performed as quickly as possible to preserve the animals’ well being,” said Zak.

“The first priority is always, will always be animal safety. This should be the first priority for every company in this sector, and if it isn’t, they are in the wrong business. Other factors' significance depends on the specific sub-vertical or species you are moving. For instance, equine movements will usually require minute-to-minute visibility and care along the whole transport chain. This includes ground trucking, transfer into air freight ULDs or air stables and care throughout the flight from our professional flying grooms. Transit stops should be avoided, or well-chosen if 100% necessary. However other species such as day-old chicks will have different considerations, where the temperature estimation versus the loading density is a key factor, therefore specific aircraft choice is of huge significance due to differing abilities of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) systems,” said Charlie McMullen, Company Director, Intradco.

There is a wide variety of other key considerations such as quarantine, health certification, CITES documentation if required, loading processes, humidity calculations, ULD design and so on. McMullen believes that the truth is all factors are equally important and if one link in the chain is broken, the rest of the movement does not proceed as planned.

“Clear communication with all relevant parties such as ground handlers, veterinarians, and regulatory authorities is crucial. That includes making certain all necessary documentation, including health certificates and permits, are in order and accompanying the animals throughout the journey. Monitoring and implementing mechanisms to track the conditions of the animals during air transport, such as real-time tracking systems or regular check-ins, is also part of our processes. By considering these factors and working closely with experienced professionals, Air Canada Cargo ensures the safe and humane transportation of live animals by air,” Wallace added.

Air transportation of live animals brings unique challenges that necessitate rigorous adherence to legislation, norms, and guidelines. The industry can assure the safety and well-being of live animals during travel by taking into account aspects such as aircraft ECS settings, animal physical demands, airport and en-route environment, and ground handling protocols.

The biggest challenge is being flexible in dealing with unanticipated delays and constraints imposed by the regulator or authority, with the primary goal being the animal's well-being during the voyage.

“When transporting live animals, airlines are bound to be faced with flight delays and, during the warmer months, days of heat restrictions leading to last-minute rescheduling. Because of that, tightening up our visibility on animal bookings is critical. We constantly review the weather and keep an open line of communication with our customer service team, which has helped plan and mitigate customer interruptions,” said Wallace.

“One challenge that Intradco encounters regularly is the confusion caused by the “Boeing Live Animal Calculator”. This is used by carriers to assess how many animals of a certain specified type should be loaded within each airframe, using a variety of factors to assess safety. However the suggestions being produced by the software are often misleading in our opinion, and creates some risky suggestions to the carriers. We are in discussions with Boeing, and will present data from our flights to help support our suggested changes,” said McMullen.

“As an airline, we must ensure that the right temperature and CO2 level are maintained throughout the flight. To ensure optimal transport, specific procedures have been developed to create proper air circulation around the live animal container.”

Or Zak, CCO, Challenge Group

“Brexit has also caused many issues between the UK and European borders. Our interpretation is that animal welfare is being compromised as a result of added bureaucracy. For instance, as a result of transhipment from the UK to the Far East, transiting the Netherlands we were told a mandatory vet inspection in Europe could take between 1-7 hours. This time range is not a safe period to have animals unnecessarily, especially when planning efficient flight connections is needed. The same has happened regularly with day-old chicks arriving into EU border inspection posts, where a lack of veterinary availability has meant whole shipments have been cancelled,” McMullen added.

Challenge Group has managed a constant number of live animal charters at the airline level, not only horses but also donkeys, rhinos and dogs. The handling of live animals is a controlled and pre-planned process based on risk management and procedures that are controlled by our quality system.

“Special equipment is required to transport live animals therefore our ULD department always plans a stock wherever needed on time as well as the different quarantine requirements which should be checked based on the destination and before departure. We make sure to minimize the stress on the animals by moving them only at the time of loading and not before. Moreover, at the group level, we are the sole operator of the Horse-Inn facility in Liege, where we take care of horses for all airlines operating at the airport. Challenge Handling has developed with Air Tech Innovations this unique prototype trailer for the transport of horses. It has been built to transport in a smooth, safe and efficient way all the horses, from one side of the airport to the other. It also takes into account the grooms, allowing them to have access to the stalls at any time,” said Zak.

Expansion plans
According to technavio, a global technology research and advisory company, the animal transportation market share is expected to increase by $403.39 million from 2020 to 2025, and the market's growth momentum will accelerate at a CAGR of 3.87%. Based on technavio’s research output, there has been a positive impact on the market growth during and post Covid-19 era.

The increased demand for animals from slaughterhouses and the dairy industry is notably driving the animal transportation market growth, although factors such as issues faced by vendors due to long-distance transportation may impede the market growth. We also asked the industry experts about their expansion plans.

“The 1st priority is always, will always be animal safety. This should be the 1st priority for every company in this sector, and if it isn’t, they are in the wrong business.”

Charlie McMullen, Company Director, Intradco

“Our growth is taking shape in a number of forms, both in terms of product development and geographical footprint. UK, Toronto and UAE are the active offices – and our USA office is currently in planning. The expected USA launch will be Q4 2023, whilst a Far East office will be sometime in late 2024. This growth is allowing us to be closer to key customers. We always believe in face-to-face relationships. The development of operational experts on site for all movements is also key. As most of our talent is “homegrown” we are confident that we can maintain the same Intradco service level across our new locations,” said McMullen.

“As the world population is growing in specific areas, we are receiving increasing requests to transport full loads of livestock from origins and destinations which are not part of our traditional network. We can satisfy this rising demand under our fast-growing charter product,” said Zak.

“Air Canada Cargo is focused on enhancing customer experience by offering clear communication, timely updates, and personalised care for the animals. Keeping in mind, expanding a live animal air transporting business requires careful planning, adherence to regulations, and a strong commitment to animal welfare. It is crucial to prioritise the safety and well-being of the animals throughout the entire transportation process.” said Wallace.

Air transporting live animals necessitates careful consideration for animal welfare, regulatory compliance, and appropriate management. Airlines are constantly upgrading their systems to guarantee safe and comfortable travel for live animals, with the help of certifications such as IATA CEIV. Overcoming obstacles including temperature control, long-distance flights, communication, and animal-specific requirements necessitates teamwork and attention to best practices.

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