P. 637

K. Polak1
1Soi Dog Foundation, International Animal Welfare, Phuket, Thailand
Katherine Polak DVM, MS, MPH, DACVPM
167/9 Moo 4, Soi Tambon, Amphur Talang
Mai Khao 10, Thalang District, Phuket, Thailand 83110
While estimates vary, the population of dogs worldwide may be as high as 500 million, with the majority living much differently than traditional pets by Western standards (1). Most are classi ed as free-roaming or ‘community-owned’, and are frequently subject to malnutrition, abuse, poisoning, and road traf c accidents. During the last decade, animal welfare organizations have sprung up in poorly resourced areas in an effort to rescue cats and dogs and improve animal welfare. In order to help more animals, groups have started pursuing international pet transport as an option to increase their live release rates when there is little local capacity for adoptions. This practice, while a life-saving mechanism for many animals, is not with inherit risks and controversy.
Types of animal transport
The type and scale of transport programs may vary considerably. Some are small, loosely organized grassroots efforts while others are performed by large international animal welfare organizations using a network of overseas organizational partners. The transportation of dogs for commercial purposes also accounts for a signi cant number of dogs and cats transported each year.
Trends in animal transportation
In most countries, pet transportation is on the rise. Increased awareness of certain international animal welfare issues such as the dog and cat meat trade in Asia has created a market for the adoption of certain animals. Korean Air and Asiana Airlines transported pets 24,741 and 12,595 times in 2016, respectively (2). The combined number increased 19.2% from a year ago (2015) to reach an all-time high. Considerable expansion in animal transportation is expected in the coming years.
Currently, there is no formalized system to track exactly how many animals are transported for adoption purposes annually.
Reasons for international transportation
In areas with a signi cant stray cat and dog overpopulation, there are often not enough adoptive homes or interest locally in rescued animals. Adopting animals internationally helps local shelters reduce overcrowding, relieve stress on staff, and ultimately save more animals. Performing international adoptions may also increase the pro le of the organization.
On the receiving end, shelters that receive imported dogs and cats may also reap certain bene ts. In the US, the arrival of internationally rescued dogs often generates
so much community interest that every animal is quickly adopted from the facility through adoption events. The novelty of imported rescued dogs also increases the public awareness surrounding important international animal welfare issues.
There is considerable controversy involving the transport of dogs and cats internationally to communities where there is already an overabundance of animals in shelters. Furthermore, international transport can facilitate disease transmission. Given the public health risk posed by the importation of animals for adoption and the euthanasia of adoptable animals in certain countries, many suggest that organizations  rst consider improving their local capacity through spay/neuter and community engagement before sending animals abroad.
Risks to animal welfare
The transportation of animals is not with inherit risk to
the animal. While small dogs and cats may be able to travel in an aircraft cabin with a passenger, most typically  y under the cabin in cargo, a pressurized hold. While cargo holds are pressurized, they can be dark, noisy, and have  uctuating temperatures and air pressures. While most airlines have time and temperature restrictions, undoubtedly such environments can be stressful. While animal deaths in cargo are relatively rare, injuries can be common. The most frequent injuries observed result from biting and scratching at kennels and respiratory distress, most likely attributable to stress, particularly at the time of loading. The risk of transport is signi cantly higher for brachcephalic breeds.
On an individual level, the stress of transport may also lead to immune compromise and/or recrudescence of disease and increased viral shedding.
An Urban Experience

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