Transporting live animals by air cargo charter


The central rule governing live animal cargo flights is that they must be humane and cause the least amount of stress possible to the animals being transported. That’s why specialist animal cargo airlines and animal cargo shipping companies will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the animals in their care arrive quickly, safely, and healthy.

Animals are transported around the world daily for hundreds of different reasons. They may be pets, personal assistance or rescue dogs, agricultural animals for breeding and husbandry, exotic animal transportation, animals being transported between zoos and wildlife conservancies, breeding programs, animals being transported for their protection, and sporting animals such as racehorses, camels, and even birds of prey. It seems that animals need to move almost as much as humans do.

Because the movement of animals by air cargo is a complex, multi-contact process that includes many interested parties; owners, ground transport companies, air cargo handlers, and airline staff, the industry needs to be well-governed and regulated. Because of this, live animal cargo shipping is governed by a long list of rules and regulations – Live Animal Regulations (LAR) – all created to ensure the wellbeing of the animals being transported. Should any of these regulations be bypassed or broken the consequences for both the shippers and the animals can be catastrophic.

Regardless of the type of animal cargo, LAR has guidelines for transporting everything, from day-old chicks to Derby-winning racehorses. Issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) the LAR advises on government regulations, carrier regulations, animal behavior, documentation, container requirements, handling, and everything animal air cargo providers need to be aware of.

Equine transportation

Live animal cargo flights involving racehorses and other sport horses are a highly specialized sector of the air cargo industry, that’s why owners, trainers, and breeders build lasting relationships with specialist cargo charter companies. Specialist cargo animal transporters will have an in-depth knowledge of LAR and will manage the whole transport project, along with the required paperwork well in advance of major race days or other sporting events. These companies can even provide professional flying grooms, who are usually professional equestrians and have the necessary accreditation and licenses to travel with animals worldwide. 

The health and safety of the horses are of paramount importance to the cargo carriers where every step is carefully considered and the horses are constantly kept in a comfortable and calming environment. Many of these animals are insured for millions of pounds, dollars, or euros and their safety is of the utmost importance. The horses are walked on to specially designed ‘air stables’, which will, in turn, be loaded into the aircraft’s hold along with their traveling grooms. With an ambient temperature set for the animal’s comfort, conditions inside the aircraft’s hold are closely monitored at all times. Additionally, just like first-class travelers, horses in transit are fed, watered, and their every demand is catered for right up to their point of arrival and safe delivery to their new destination.

Livestock transport

Minimizing the time livestock, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, etc. spend in transit is vital for their health, safety, and wellbeing – this is also carefully regulated by LAR international conventions. The first port of call for anyone wishing to ship livestock by air is an experienced and professional animal air charter company that will be able to advise on all aspects of the journey.

They will cover sourcing the right aircraft and equipment, such as loading facilities, livestock crates, professional livestock handlers, traveling veterinarians, and even government observers. The charter company will also coordinate closely with airport ground handling service, both pre and post journey to ensure a fast and stress-free carriage for the animals. Additionally, livestock air freight companies will advise on quarantine regulations, while ensuring that all of the livestock’s documentation, paperwork, and health certificates are obtained and ready for transport well in advance of the journey. Once again, as is the case with equine transportation, the animals’ health and safety throughout the entire moving process will be the highest priority. Finally, good charter companies will have in place a network of trusted partners, airport handling services, and specialist carriers around the world to ensure the provision of a seamless and reliable service using one playbook to regulate the process over every stage.

Exotic animal transport

There are many reasons for transporting exotic animals, however moving exotic, or unusual animals by air cargo is a highly governed sector and one best tackled by professionals who are experienced in such matters. Animals such as rhinos, lions, leopards, dolphins and whales, wild horses, and other critically endangered animals are often required to relocate between zoos, breeding centers, game reserves, and animal welfare organizations, to stabilize or bolster local populations, along with missions of mercy and transportation for rehabilitation or emergency healthcare.

Again, like all forms of cargo animal shipping, the animals’ welfare is the most important factor when planning every step of the process. As exotic animals vary so widely, their individual needs to be ascertained and catered for throughout the journey. Some may require specified temperatures, while others may need to be sedated and accompanied closely by a suitably qualified veterinarian who will travel in-situ with the animal. Additionally, the animals being transported – dolphins for example – will require the provision of large quantities of water, and specialist traveling containers, exotic birds, reptiles, and dangerous animals will have their individual needs also. For some animals, only certain aircraft types will suit the needs of the project, making the assistance of a professional animal cargo transport company invaluable for the success of the project, and the welfare of the animal being transported.

Cargo animal transport equipment

Unlike Noah’s Ark, animals embarking on a cargo flight can’t just be walked up a ramp in the same manner as might be done with ground transport. Every type of animal being transported have their particular qualities and needs, that’s why the equipment used for their safe and stress-free movement needs to be tailored specifically to suit the animal in question.

The best animal air cargo charter companies have invested time, money, and resources into exploring, designing, and creating the safest and most comfortable transport equipment solutions. One example of this equipment is the introduction of collapsible horse stalls – perfect for return shipping – which is quick and easy to assemble and disassemble, are highly durable and robust, and offer premier standards of comfort and space to facilitate the animal’s welfare. 

There are also fixed stalls, offering comfort and durability, while also being easily accessible for both animals and traveling grooms, veterinarians, or other personnel. Along with stalls for horses, and other similar animals, animal air cargo specialists have invested heavily into the development and production of animal cargo equipment; animal-friendly loading ramps, Airbus-unique stalls, livestock crates and livestock stalls, even specialist exotic transport equipment like extra height giraffe stalls to ensure the head-room required by these giants of the animal world.

Regardless of the type of animal cargo involved, it can’t be over-emphasized that a specialist animal cargo company will be able to answer all of your questions, provide all of the solutions, negotiate the rocky terrain of international animal transportation, along with securing all of the necessary licenses, health documents, and traversing the bureaucracy involved. Many of these companies have made transporting horses, livestock, or exotics their livelihood. They care about the quality of service they provide, and their ultimate concerns are the animals in their care.