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The Dangers of Transporting Precious “Live” Goods

June 27th, 2017 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Industry News, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

On April 20, 2017, a special passenger arrived on a United Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Chicago O‘Hare. He was in good health and spirits the last time someone had checked on him a few hours before takeoff. But when it came time for him to change planes on the second leg of the journey, an attendant discovered that he had passed away.

His name was Simon, and he was an enormous rabbit, measuring 3 feet in length, from whiskers to cottontail.

The public outcry was instantaneous. While no definite cause of death was determined by press time, the owner of the rabbit, a U.K.-based animal breeder named Anette Edwards, demanded an explanation and later received an undisclosed sum for compensation for the loss of the animal. The breed, known as a Continental Giant, can be sold for more than $5,000.00! Simon’s father, in fact, is the holder of the world record for length, at more than 4 feet. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation figures, 35 animals died on board U.S. airlines in 2015. Of those, 14 died on United flights — the highest rate of any U.S. carrier.

The tragedy illustrated the paramount importance of the health of animals that are being transported by air, whether it is in the baggage compartment of a 767 passenger jet, where Simon was, or a climate-controlled, chartered freighter modified for carrying multiple large animals. Despite the public relations risk and the expense required to ensure the safety of animal transport, business is booming now for forwarders and carriers willing to serve this niche.

In an era where capturing specialty, high-value cargo can be the difference between profit and loss each quarter, the movement of livestock and exotic animal charters is an increasingly attractive option — especially when large mammals are involved.

Interest in animal transport is building not just because of the niche income but because of rumors that International Air Transport Association (IATA) may soon launch a new Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) program specially designed for Live Animals. While IATA officials would not comment publicly on a timeline for a CEIV-Live Animals certification, there have been discussions about how the program would work.

Should a CEIV-Live Animals standard emerge in the next few years, the physical proof of certification in safe handling methods could prove to be a lucrative accolade for a forwarder, a ground handler, or an entire airport community, to attract animal shippers who never want to hear another sad Simon story.

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