Transporting animals by air provides specific capabilities and corresponding limitations. Gregg Pittelkow, who leads the global logistics team for research models at Covance Laboratories, Inc., and Carl Kole, an independent consultant and 40-year veteran of the aviation industry, offered an up-close view of the air transportation system. Bruce Clemmons, the manager of the FedEx Live Animal Desk, then examined how IATA sets standards for the carriage of animals. Finally, Robert Quest, the enforcement officer at the City of London Corporation, provided an international perspective on moving live animals around the world.
Pittelkow began by pointing out that the worldwide commercial airline fleet exceeds 20,000 aircraft, a number that is expected to double in the next 20 years. The majority of this growth will be in small- to medium-sized aircraft and single-aisle aircraft.
The cargo capacity to ship research animals is limited, Pittelkow explained. Today, contrary to common belief, the cargo space in all jets is pressurized and heated to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the freezing of luggage and cargo. Additional heating, ventilation, and air conditioning capacity vary by plane. When a company orders a new aircraft, it has choices about additional features, Kole explained. At a price tag of at least $100,000 per cargo compartment, however, airlines do not usually opt for additional air and ventilation unless they are in the animal transportation business. Pittelkow agreed, adding that in 2003, when he was responsible for the cargo compartment systems for Northwest Airlines, the ventilation and air conditioning on the Airbus A330 cost $285,000 and that price has gone up significantly since then. Not only are these initial costs high, but these systems weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds or more.
That weight is carried every day for the life of the plane, whether there are animals aboard or not, adding as much as $20,000 per year to fuel costs.
Ventilation and air conditioning are not—in all cases—critical to transporting animals. However, they allow the transportation of more animals in a fixed amount of space than otherwise would be possible. Because heat is generated only when the aircraft engines are powered on, animals are exposed to the ambient air temperatures during loading and unloading and when the plane is not running. The temperature could vary greatly and potentially be extreme, depending on the season and the location of the airplane’s departure and arrival.
In addition, the cargo holding area is generally small and is often located a distance away from the passenger terminal. When moving animals from their holding area onto the ramp, the airlines are required to stay within a 45-minute time window. This requirement ensures that animals are not exposed to temperature extremes for too long. But if the distance is substantial, the airlines may use the 45-minute limit as a reason for not accepting animal shipments. For these noted and other complicating factors, airlines may consider transporting animals to be both challenging and not cost effective.
Kole focused on the training that airline personnel receive regarding the many regulations governing the transport of live animals. These regulations vary greatly both by country and by economic region. For that reason, “it is important, especially if you are a shipper, that you have somebody specifically dedicated to that job, who is qualified to understand what the shipping process is, and what the rules and regulations are.” Each country has a different training protocol and requirements. In the United States, training is relatively general, while is it more specific in the European Union (EU). In the United States, training is also “scattered” among a variety of agencies, including FWS, DHS, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), among others. These agencies do not always communicate well with each other, which can cause complications and unintended consequences, especially when a carrier outsources to a third-party handler.
Not all personnel speak English, which can complicate training. Airlines sometimes assign a bilingual individual to be responsible for others who do not speak English, but this can become complicated and expensive. According to Kole, “without exception, the cost of training and com-
pliance with existing regulatory requirements far exceeds revenue streams from transporting animals.”
Bruce Clemmons is chair of the IATA Live Animals and Perishables Board (LAPB). Founded in 1945, IATA is the industry leader for air transport in the world, and all major airlines in the world belong to the organization. Its mission is to represent, lead, and serve the air transport industry, delivering standards and solutions to ensure successful air transport.
Two groups within the LAPB help to develop the live animal regulations to function as industry standards, said Clemmons. One group is an advisory panel that includes representatives of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the United States, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Animal Transport Association. The other group is an animal care team comprising industry experts. The IATA publication LAR is updated annually and provides guidelines based on input from airlines, industry stakeholders, trade groups, national and international organizations, and the animal care team and advisory panel. For example, LAR contains guidelines on how to measure crates for transporting animals, noting minimum specifications. Every shipper should discuss with the airline whether the container can safely fit on the aircraft, preferably before the container is built, Clemmons noted.
According to Clemmons, shippers (consignors) should be mindful that different countries have specific regulations as to what they can and cannot import or how animals can enter the country. He further noted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) approved LAR for non-air transport of CITES species. “This is an illustration of how well regarded our Live Animals Regulations are,” he said.
Robert Quest is charged with ensuring compliance on the import and transit of animals at the Border Inspection Post at Heathrow Airport, which he manages. Most animals imported into London come through Heathrow (see Box 2-1), and Quest has a staff of about 30 people who work around the clock. Only a small percentage of the animals that come through Heathrow is laboratory animals and, for his staff, these animals are easy to care for, as they are sealed in a box. His staff cannot take the animals out, put them in a kennel, feed them, water them, or do other care tasks. However, laboratory animals are “quite an emotive issue,” said Quest. “We have had demonstrations outside our place because we accept them.”
Managing the number of live animals that come through Heathrow makes it imperative to have regulations governing their health and well-being, Quest observed. Airports worldwide must have similar rules for the same reason, he added, even where animal traffic is less than at Heathrow.
Quest described an extensive and overarching EU legislative framework, under which an EU directive is implemented in each member
state according to national regulation, whereas an EU regulation is immediately implemented by all member states as is.
Quest discussed several common problems that arise at Border Inspection Posts (see Box 2-2). For example, shippers need to check the times when Border Inspection Posts are open in all the countries animals will be traveling through. “In Heathrow, we are open 24/7—but the state veterinarians who work with us aren’t,” he said. “Your shipment can come to us in the middle of the night at 3 a.m. That is not a problem, because we have people there. It won’t get cleared, though, because the vets don’t start work until the morning.”
Public holidays are also not the same across the EU. Quest suggested that researchers visit the European Commission website, which contains extensive lists of information, including contact names, phone numbers, and emails. He also emphasized the importance of a contingency plan. In the United Kingdom, diversions can happen because of fog or other problems, and it is important to be able to contact both the consigner and the consignee.
Such problems highlight a fundamental theme of the workshop, Quest observed: Focused planning is necessary well before animals are shipped to consider possible issues and contingencies. For example, shippers need to consider all the stops animals must make along the way to ensure compliance with all the rules and regulations of each Border Inspection Post.