Terrestrial Animal Health Code

Contents | Index Chapter 7.3. SECTION 7. Chapter 7.5.

Chapter 7.4.

Transport of animals by air

Preamble: These recommendations apply to the following live domesticated animals: cattle, buffaloes, camels, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and equines. They will also be largely applicable to some other animals, e.g. deer, other camelids and ratites. Wild animals and feral animals may need different conditions.

Article 7.4.1.

Livestock containers

  1. Design

    1. General principles of design

      The container should:

      • conform to the size of the standard pallet of the aircraft that will be used to transport animals;

      • not be constructed of material that could be harmful to the health or welfare of animals;

      • allow observation of the animals and be marked on opposite sides with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) symbols which indicate animals and the upright position;

      • allow emergency access to animals;

      • allow the animal to stand in its normal position without touching the roof of the container or, in the case of open containers, the restraining nets, and provide at least 10 cm (4 in.) clearance above the animal's head when standing in its normal position; in the case of horses, provide sufficient space above the horses head (21 cm, 8 in. recommended) to allow for the movement required to maintain the horses balance;

      • conform to the size of the standard pallet of the aircraft that will be used to transport animals;

      • not be constructed of material that could be harmful to the health or welfare of animals;

      • allow observation of the animals and be marked on opposite sides with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) symbols which indicate animals and the upright position;

      • allow emergency access to animals;

      • allow the animal to stand in its normal position without touching the roof of the container or, in the case of open containers, the restraining nets, and provide at least 10 cm (4 in.) clearance above the animal's head when standing in its normal position; in the case of horses, provide sufficient space above the horses head (21 cm, 8 in. recommended) to allow for the movement required to maintain the horses balance;

      • protect the animals from adverse weather;

      • ensure animals stand on a suitable floor to prevent slipping or injury;

      • have adequate strength to ensure the safety of the animals and to prevent the animals from escaping;

      • ensure doors can be opened and closed easily, but be secured so that they cannot be opened accidentally;

      • be free of any nails, bolts and other protrusions or sharp edges that could cause injuries;

      • be designed to minimise the risk of any opening or space entrapping any portion of the animals body;

      • if reusable, crates should be constructed of impermeable material that is easily cleaned and disinfected;

      • ensure faeces and urine cannot escape from the crate; this requires a minimum upturn of 20 cm but it should not block any ventilation openings;

      • if designated for stacking be stable, not block any ventilation space and prevent urine and faeces from leaking into the containers below when stacked;

      • allow for a facility for provision of water and possibly food during transportation of longer than six hours duration.

    2. Ventilation

      The container design should:

      • provide adequate ventilation taking into consideration the species stocking densities, maximum temperature and humidity of the points of departure, destination, and any interim technical stops;

      • allow the normal resting or sleeping position to be assumed for certain species and juvenile animals;

      • ensure there is no dead air space in the container;

      • provide ventilation openings on the walls equal to at least 16% of the wall area; this may be reduced if the container has an open top;

      • in the case of two-tiered containers, ventilation in the sides should be for cattle equivalent to not less than 20% of the floor area of each deck, and for pigs and sheep up to 40% of the floor area of each deck;

      • have ventilation openings on all four sides of the crate except that two walls may have reduced ventilation space and the other walls have increased space where required by the positioning of the crates during transportation and/or the ventilation pattern of the aircraft;

      • ensure that any internal supports or dividers do not block the cross ventilation;

      • not have a solid wall above the height of the animal's head in normal resting position;

      • in those species where the mouth is normally held near the floor, have at least 25 cm (10 in.) of ventilation space at the level of the animal's head; this opening should be divided in two with a maximum height for any opening of 13 cm; in all containers, there should be a sufficiently large ventilation opening at a height of 25 cm to 30 cm (10 to 11 in.) above floor level on all four sides to allow for circulation;

      • have some physical means of ensuring the ventilation space is not blocked, such as the use of cleats (wedges) or allowing space between the outside of the container and the pallet.

  2. Species requirements

    In general, fractious animals or animals in late pregnancy should not be transported by air (see Article 7.4.2.).

    1. Horses

      Should be transported in containers and be separated from each other if they are more than 145 cm (57 in.) in height.

      Crates used to transport horses should:

      • be strong enough to prevent unruly horses from breaking or escaping from the container under any circumstances;

      • in the case of multi-horse containers, have partitions of sufficient strength and size to separate the horses and to support each horse's weight;

      • adjust to allow mare and foal to travel together;

      • provide the same percentage of open space for ventilation as required in point 1) above, divided between the two side walls; however, if the access doors are constructed in such a manner that they may be left open during the flight, the door space may be included in the ventilation space;

      • be constructed to minimise noise;

      • allow access to the head during the flight;

      • have the front end notched and padded to accept the neck of the animal;

      • have a secure point for attaching restraining devices;

      • have a front and rear barrier that will restrict the movement of the horse and will ensure that liquids are deflected into the container;

      • ensure horses cannot bite other animals;

      • be constructed to resist kicking;

      • have no fittings or projections in the area likely to be kicked, metal plates should be covered with a protective material;

      • ramps shall be non-skid in nature, have foot battens, and be of a maximum slope of 25 degrees when the container is on a standard 50 cm (20 in.) dolly;

      • not have a step up or down of more than 25 cm (10 in.).

    2. Swine

      • Crate design and shipment planning should recognize that swine are extremely susceptible to high heat and humidity and that they normally carry their head near the floor.

      • In the use of multi-tiered crates, special attention should be paid to ensure air can move through the crate, in accordance with the aircraft's ventilation pattern and capacity to remove heat.

      • Crate construction should take into consideration the tendency for mature swine to chew.

      • Litter should be dust-free, shavings or other non-toxic materials may be used but not sawdust.

      • Containers for immature swine should only be constructed when flight is imminent, since rapid growth can result in undersized containers if the flight is delayed.

      • In order to reduce fighting, swine shipped in group pens should be housed together as a group prior to shipment and not be mixed with other swine before loading on the aircraft.

      • Mature boars and incompatible females should be shipped in individual crates.

      • Individual crates should be 20 cm (8 in.) longer than the body, 15 cm (6 in.) higher than the loin of the pig and of sufficient width, to allow the pigs to lie on their side.

    3. Cattle

      Crates used to transport cattle should:

      • if multi-tiered or roofed, have at least 30% of the roof and four walls as open space;

      • have at least one ventilation opening 20–25 cm (8-10 in.) above the floor which is of such width that it will not cause injuries to the feet.

      Adult bulls should be transported separately unless they have been accustomed to each other. Cattle with and without horns should be separated from each other.

    4. Poultry

      The most current container requirement published by IATA should be adhered to.

      Crates/containers containing poultry should be handled and carried carefully with no unnecessary tilting.

      The majority of birds transported by air will be newly hatched chicks. These animals are very vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature.

    5. Other species

      • Animals that normally exhibit a herding instinct, including buffalo and deer, can be shipped in group containers providing the mental and physical characteristics of the species are taken into consideration.

      • All crates used to move such animals should have a roof or other method of preventing the animals from escaping.

      • Animals in which the horns or antler cannot be removed, should be transported individually.

      • Deer should not be transported in velvet nor in rut.

Article 7.4.2.

Recommendations for pregnant animals

Heavily pregnant animals should not be carried except under exceptional circumstances. Pregnant animals should not be accepted when the last service or exposure to a male prior to departure has exceeded the following time given here for guidance only:

FemalesMaximum number of days since the last service
Deer (axis, fallow and sika)170
Deer (red deer and reindeer)185
Nannies (goats)115
Sows (pigs)90

Where service dates or date of last exposure to a male are not available, the animals should be examined by a veterinarian to ensure that pregnancy is not so advanced that animals are likely to give birth during transport or suffer unnecessarily.

Any animal showing udder engorgement and slackening of the pelvic ligament should be refused.

Article 7.4.3.

Stocking density

The current stocking densities agreed by IATA should continue to be accepted. However, the graphs giving the space requirements should be extended to take into account animals larger and smaller than those dealt with currently.

  1. General considerations

    When calculating stocking rates, the following should be taken into account:

    1. it is essential that accurate weights of animals are obtained in view of the limitations imposed by the load capabilities of the aircraft and the space required per animal;

    2. in narrow bodied aircraft, there is a loss of floor area in the upper tier of two-tier penning due to the contours of the aircraft;

    3. space available should be calculated on the inside measurements of the crates or penning system used, not on the floor space of the aircraft;

    4. multi-tiered crates, high outdoor temperatures at departure, arrival or stopover points, or extreme length of the trip will require an increase in the amount of space per animal; a 10% decrease in stocking density is recommended for trips in excess of 24 hours;

    5. special attention should be paid to the transport of sheep in heavy wool which require an increase in space allotted per animal and to pigs which have limited ability to dissipate heat;

    6. animals confined in groups, especially in pens, should be stocked at a high enough density to prevent injuries at take-off, during turbulence and at landing, but not to the extent that individual animals cannot lie down and rise without risk of injury or crushing;

    7. in multi-tiered shipments, it should be recognized that the ventilation and cooling capacity of the aircraft is the limiting factor, especially in narrow bodied aircraft. Ventilation capacity varies on each individual aircraft and between aircraft of the same model.

  2. Recommendations for stocking densities

    The following table gives stocking density recommendations for different domestic species. The values are expressed in kilograms and metres.

No. of
animals per
Animals per single
tier pallet
kgkg/m²10 m²214x264 cm214x308 cm234x308 cm
Calves 50
Sheep 25
Pigs 25

Article 7.4.4.

Preparation for air transport of livestock

  1. Health and customs requirements

    The legal requirements including animal health, welfare and species conservation, should be ascertained from the country of destination and any in transit countries before the animals are assembled or the transportation is arranged.

    Contact the Veterinary Authorities in the country of origin regarding veterinary certification.

    Planning of the transportation should take into account weekends, holidays and airport closures.

    Verify that any proposed intransit stops or alternates will not jeopardise the importing or in transit countries health requirements.

    Waiting time at customs (cargo handling and clearance) should be reduced as much as possible to avoid welfare problems.

  2. Environment

    Animals are affected by extremes of temperature. This is especially true of high temperature when compounded by high humidity. Temperature and humidity should therefore be taken into consideration when planning the shipment.

    Times of arrival, departure and stopovers should be planned so that the aircraft lands during the coolest hours.

    At outside temperatures of below 25°C at the landing point, the aircraft doors should be opened to ensure adequate ventilation. Confirmation should be received from government authorities that animal health legislation does not prevent opening of aircraft doors.

    When outside temperatures at any landing point exceed 25°C, prior arrangements should be made to have an adequate air-conditioning unit available when the plane lands.

  3. Facilities and equipment

    Specific arrangements should be made to ensure that holding and loading facilities including ramps, trucks, and air-conditioning units are available at departure, all in transit and arrival airports. This should include identification of specific staff who are responsible and the method of contacting them, e.g. telephone number and address.

    Specific notification should be given to all those responsible for providing facilities or equipment at the destination and in transit stops immediately before departure.

    Containers should be loaded so as to ensure access can be made to the animals at all times.

  4. Preparation of animals

    Vaccination should be done far enough in advance of the departure date to allow for immunity to develop.

    Veterinary certification and serological testing should be arranged several weeks in advance of livestock shipment.

    Many animals require acclimatisation before they are transported. Animals such as swine and wild herbivores should be separated and held in the groups that will occupy containers. Mixing of such animals immediately before or during transport is extremely stressing and should be avoided.

    Incompatible animals should be transported singly.

Article 7.4.5.

Disinfection and disinfestation

  1. Disinfection

    1. Those parts of the interior of the aircraft destined for the carriage of animals should be thoroughly cleaned of all foreign matters using methods acceptable to aircraft management before being loaded.

    2. These parts should be sprayed with a disinfectant:

      1. suitable for the diseases which could be carried by the animals;

      2. that does not cause problems with the aircraft;

      3. that will not leave a residue hazardous to the animals being transported.

      If in doubt, the airline should be consulted on the suitability of the disinfectant. A mechanical nebuliser should be used to minimise the amount of disinfectant used.

      Suggested disinfectants currently in use are:

      1. 4% sodium carbonate and 0.1% sodium silicate;

      2. 0.2% citric acid.

    3. All removeable equipment, penning and containers including loading ramps should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in accordance with the requirements of both the exporting and importing countries.

    4. After disinfection, all equipment to be replaced in the aircraft should be washed with clean water to remove any traces of disinfectant to avoid any damage to the aircraft structures.

  2. Disinfestation

    Where disinfestation is required, the country requesting the action should be consulted for appropriate procedures.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) Recommendations on the Disinsectisation of Aircraft (WHO Weekly Epidem. Rec., No. 7, 1985) are recognised as standard.

Article 7.4.6.


Radioactive materials should be separated from live animals by a distance of at least 0.5 metre for journeys not exceeding 24 hours, and by a distance of at least 1.0 metre for journeys longer than 24 hours (reference: Technical instructions on storage and loading-separation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation). Special care should be taken with regard to pregnant animals, semen and embryos/ova.

Article 7.4.7.


Experience has shown that there is considerable risk in sedating animals transported by air. Tranquilizers reduce the ability of the animals to respond to stress during transportation. In addition, the reaction of various species to tranquilization cannot always be foreseen. For these reasons, routine tranquilization is not recommended. Tranquilizers should only be used when a specific problem exists, and should be administered by a veterinarian or by a person who has been instructed in their use. Persons using these drugs should understand the full implications of the effects of the drug in air transport, e.g. certain animals such as horses and elephants should not go down in containers. Drugs should only be administered during the flight with the knowledge and consent of the captain.

In all cases, when tranquilizers are used, a note should be attached to the container stating the weight of the individual animal, the generic name of the drug used, the dose, the method and time of administration.

Article 7.4.8.

Destruction of carcasses

In the event of any animal death on board, the competent authority of the airport of destination should be notified in advance of landing.

Carcasses should be disposed of under the supervision of and to the satisfaction of the Veterinary Authority of the country the aircraft is in.

The method of disposal should be based on the risk of introducing a controlled disease.

For carcasses which represent a high risk of introducing disease, the following is recommended:

  1. destruction by incineration, rendering or deep burial under the supervision of the Veterinary Authority;

  2. if removed from the airport site, transportation in a closed, leakproof container.

Article 7.4.9.

Emergency killing

Emergency killing of animals in aircraft should, in general, only occur when the safety of the aircraft, crew or other animals are involved.

Every aircraft transporting animals should have a method of killing the animals with minimum pain and someone trained in that method.

In all cases when horses or other large animals are to be carried, the method of killing should be discussed with the airline during the planning stages. Suitable methods are:

  1. Captive bolt stunner, followed by an injection of a lethal chemical

    1. Operator should be trained to use the captive bolt stunner on the species or type of animal being transported.

    2. An expert should determine that the type of captive bolt pistol and cartridge power is adequate for all the animals being transported.

    3. Some airlines and countries may prohibit the carriage of captive bolt pistols.

    4. The user should recognise that the noise associated with the captive bolt may excite other animals.

    5. The requirement that the captive bolt pistol is accurately positioned may be difficult to achieve with an excited animal.

  2. Injection of a chemical

    1. Various chemicals may be used to sedate, immobilize or kill animals.

    2. Central nervous system depressants such as barbiturate euthanasia solutions should be injected directly into a vein to be effective. This is not normally practical for anyone but an experienced veterinarian or an especially trained and experienced attendant, where the animal is sufficiently fractious to require euthanasia.

    3. Sedatives such as promazine and its derivatives may make the animal more fractious (see Article 7.4.7.).

    4. Immobilizing solutions such as succinylcholine are not humane.

  3. Firearms

    Airlines do not permit the use of firearms which discharge a free bullet because of the danger to the aircraft.

Article 7.4.10.

Handling of food and waste material

Waste material which contains anything of animal origin including food, litter, manure, or animal feed should be handled, collected and disposed of in a manner that ensures it will not be fed to livestock. It should be collected in specified areas, and stored and transported in closed, leakproof containers.

Some importing countries legislation may prohibit or restrict the use of hay or straw during the transportation period. Unloading of hay, straw, other animal feed and litter may be restricted or prohibited by in transit countries.

Article 7.4.11.

Disposal of food and waste material

Recommended methods of disposal are:

  1. incineration to an ash;

  2. heating at an internal temperature of at least of 100°C for 30 minutes, then disposal in a land fill site;

  3. controlled burial in a land fill site.

nb: first adopted in 1982; most recent update adopted in 2011.

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Contents | Index Chapter 7.3. Chapter 7.5.