From lions and kangaroos – how animals are managed on your flights: ‘Very different’

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Animal Aircare runs Gatwick airport’s Animal Reception Centre and facilitates the arrival of domestic pets and exotic animals sent to the UK as cargo. Claire Beadle, Manager at Animal Aircare Ltd, spoke to Express.co.uk about how the centre manages over 100 animal arrivals per month.

Bringing a pet into the UK isn’t a straightforward procedure and owners need to follow certain rules.

Beadle said: “Our normal day would be to facilitate arrivals to ensure they meet the correct standards to enter the UK just like any passenger would do coming through passport control.

“We must check if the animals are ‘fit’ to enter the UK and so we carry out a number of checks at the Animal Reception Centre.

“That includes checking the animal’s microchip, if their vaccinations are in order, blood tests are ok and any tapeworm treatment.”

DEFRA laws state that a pet dog, cat or ferret can enter the UK if it has been microchipped, has a pet passport and has been vaccinated against rabies.

Animals that don’t pass the requirement can be held in quarantine for up to four months at the owner’s expense.

Many owners worry about leaving their pet to travel alone as it can make some animals stressed and anxious. Beadle offered some tips for people preparing a pet for travel.

Beadle told Express.co.uk: “All animals handle travel very differently, but air transport is a very safe way to travel across the world.

“One way to help your animal travel well is to get it used to its travel crate in advance of the day of travel.

“The owners might be able to put the travel crate up indoors, allowing the animal to familiarise themselves with the crate.

“They could add some home comforts like a blanket, t-shirt or jumper but we cannot allow any toys or food in the crate for travel.”

The team at Animal Aircare are self-professed animal lovers and try to make pets’ journeys as worry-free as possible.

While the majority of animals passing through Gatwick’s Animal Aircare are pets, there have been some more exotic travellers.

Beadle said: “Over the years, we have handled lions, kangaroos, flamingos, penguins, slow loris and a few other exotics.”

While many owners might like to have their pet in the cabin with them, only service animals are allowed to travel in aircraft cabins.

If owners would like to travel with a service animal, Animal Aircare recommends they contact their airline for more information.

Before Covid, Beadle said the Animal Reception centre used to handle hundreds of animals a month.

She said: “Pre Covid, we would see around 500 animals a month coming through our facility at Gatwick.

“However, due to travel restrictions these numbers have dropped to an average of around 100 per month.

“Our hope is over the coming months as restrictions are eased Gatwick will see a return to business pre Covid levels.”

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