Tailored animal transportation: From pets to conservation


Transporting live animals poses unique challenges within the air cargo industry. Each type of animal has specific requirements, ranging from minimising stress and discomfort to providing suitable space, ventilation, and environmental conditions. Etihad Cargo, the cargo division of Etihad Airways, has sought to establish itself as a leader in animal transportation services, overcoming these hurdles by implementing rigorous processes and procedures that align with global regulatory requirements. 

In 2022, Etihad Cargo became the first airline in the Middle East and the third globally to hold the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) Live Animals, CEIV Fresh, and CEIV Pharma certifications.  

“Preparing for the CEIV Live Animals certification involved multiple stakeholders from our organisation to ensure all Etihad Cargo’s processes and procedures were aligned to achieve the safe transportation of live animals,” Arun Nair, Etihad Cargo’s Product Manager – LiveAnimals and SkyStables, said. 

To guarantee the safety and welfare of live animals, Etihad Cargo has established a dedicated team of trained staff who meticulously monitor every stage of the transportation process. From booking and acceptance to the delivery of animals, each milestone is carefully managed to ensure the animals’ well-being. Additionally, Etihad Cargo offers specialised animal storage facilities, climate-controlled compartments, and temperature-controlled vehicles to maintain optimal conditions throughout the journey. 

 “The key benefits of CEIV Live Animals certification include improving animal welfare and safety through appropriate quality and risk management, and enhancing standardisation and professionalism in the handling and transportation of live animals in a multimodal environment,” Nair added.  

“The certification also enforces compliance with the IATA LAR, elevating staff competency through efficient and robust training programmes, and enabling increased collaboration among stakeholders and certified trade lanes.” 

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Dedicated facilities  

With its extensive global network, Etihad Cargo provides top-tier animal transportation services at its hubs worldwide. The company ensures that appropriate facilities are available at each location, adhering to both Etihad Cargo’s stringent standards and IATA requirements. Moreover, Etihad Cargo is exploring the development of a dedicated Live Animals facility at its Abu Dhabi hub, further enhancing its capabilities in this domain. 

“We ensure that, wherever we transport animals across our global network, there are facilities available that can accommodate them in compliance with Etihad Cargo and IATA requirements,” Nair explained. “Etihad Cargo is also exploring the development of a dedicated Live Animals facility at our Abu Dhabi hub, and further announcements will be made in due course.” 

One of the standout premium products offered by Etihad Cargo is SkyStables, specifically designed for the transportation of horses. SkyStables is fully compliant with IATA Live Animal Regulations and provides comprehensive solutions for equine transportation. With in-house inspection facilities, a dedicated Equine Manager, and 24-hour access to a veterinarian, SkyStables ensures the well-being of horses from the moment they arrive at the departure airport. Etihad Cargo’s B777 freighters, equipped with state-of-the-art air stalls, can carry up to 75 horses and accommodate up to nine accompanying grooms.  

Etihad Cargo’s dedication to animal transportation is reflected in its impressive numbers. Annually, the company transports over 2,000 horses and more than 2,500 pets and other live animals across its global network.  

“Etihad Cargo has successfully managed the movement of horses across our global network for world-class events, including the Dubai World Cup and Abu Dhabi Endurance Championship,” Nair highlighted, reflecting the trust placed in Etihad Cargo by owners around the world. 

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Welfare and conservation 

Etihad Cargo also demonstrates its commitment to global welfare and conservation efforts through its “Forever Home” policy. Launched in 2022, Forever Home supports not-for-profit live animal at-risk transportation. Through this initiative, Etihad Cargo assists rescue and animal welfare organisations in the transportation and relocation of animals in need. This includes abandoned, seized, and neglected animals, as well as endangered species protected under international agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. 

The Forever Home policy aligns seamlessly with Etihad Cargo’s existing animal welfare and conservation policy, which aims to prevent the illegal wildlife trade and promote responsible tourism.  

“Etihad Cargo’s Forever Home policy ensures any rescue mission we undertake is conducted by an approved and reputable organisation in line with Etihad Airways’ ethics and compliance,” Nair said. “As one of the first airlines to sign the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Declaration, we have a strong track record in animal welfare and our commitment extends to all animals we transport.” 

The positive impact of this policy was demonstrated in the transportation of four rescued servals — a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa. Etihad Cargo provided flights for the servals, who were kept illegally as pets in Belgium before they were rescued. Etihad Cargo transported the servals from Belgium to their new forever home at the Born Free Rescue Section of Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Etihad Cargo also supported the rescue of critically endangered tortoises, transporting them to Paris.