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International Forwarding Association Blog » Air freight in Europe » Transporting Animals by Air: Key Considerations for European Freight Forwarders

Transporting Animals by Air: Key Considerations for European Freight Forwarders

When freight forwarders undertake the task of transporting animals by air, they are handling more than just cargo. The process demands a deep understanding of species-specific needs, a commitment to animal welfare, and an awareness of logistics. Among the core challenges forwarders encounter in this sector are temperature and atmospheric pressure variations, prolonged confinement, noise disturbances, regulatory compliance, contamination risks, and dietary requirements.


Regulatory and Documentation Hurdles

European logistics providers specializing in animal air transport must navigate a maze of stringent regulations that vary across European borders. When transporting exotic birds into the UK, several details require close attention. Birds might need to undergo specific health checks like avian influenza testing and ensure they are free from Newcastle disease. Along with health clearances, birds should have an official veterinary certificate for commercial consignments. Additionally, some species might be subject to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations and require further permits to ensure protection against over-exploitation.


Temperature and Atmospheric Pressure Regulations

The holding area of an aircraft may have an environment suitable for certain species but harmful to others. For instance, a flight’s hold area might be suitable for a husky dog from Finland but prove detrimental for an African Grey parrot. Moreover, many animals, especially exotic species, require specific temperature ranges and humidity levels. Species such as reptiles, for instance, have precise requirements: some snakes need a temperature of around 25°C to 30°C and a humidity level of 50% to 70%.


Prolonged Confinement and Limited Mobility

Flights, especially long-haul ones, mean prolonged confinement for animals. The limited space can be particularly stressful for larger animals or those used to open habitats. Dogs or cats accustomed to daily walks or playtime can become agitated or anxious. On the other hand, the transport of zoo animals can develop circulation problems if kept stationary for extended periods.


Noise and Vibrations

The unfamiliar sounds and vibrations associated with air travel can be extremely distressing for animals. The roar of the engines, the hum of the aircraft, and the occasional turbulence can disorient and stress them. Birds, with their heightened sense of hearing, are particularly vulnerable. Sudden loud noises can trigger panic and lead to self-harm or injury.


Risk of Contamination or Disease Spread

Air travel poses a risk of exposing animals to diseases. This is especially concerning when transporting animals to regions free of certain diseases. For instance, moving cattle from a region with a history of foot-and-mouth disease to a disease-free country involves significant risk. Ensuring proper screening and health checks before flights is essential, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk entirely.


Dietary and Hydration Needs

Different animals have specific dietary needs. Ensuring they receive the right diet during transport, especially for species with specialized dietary requirements, is crucial. For example, koalas primarily feed on eucalyptus leaves, while certain species of tortoises may require a diet rich in calcium and fiber. Providing an inappropriate diet, even for a short duration, can impact their health and well-being.