Moving an animal across borders is not as simple as putting it in a crate and taking it up the plane.
Animal relocation requires an intimate knowledge of related regulations and lots of paperwork, which can contain jargon that sometimes confounds pet owners who just want to send their pets abroad safely.
But thanks to the expertise of Mr Bernard Liew and his team at Animal World Express, both humans and animals can set their hearts and paws at ease as they embark on an overseas journey.
The animal logistics provider’s core business is the relocation of companion animals, like dogs, cats, birds and other small domestic animals, and the occasional livestock and animals for zoos.
Mr Liew, 55, the principal consultant, says the company has earned a reputable brand name — it has not encountered any cases of death, theft or runaway in its pet relocation programmes since 1979.
The animal lover says: “Companion animal logistics is very different from other animal logistics.
“Tolerance for failure should and must be zero. Otherwise, fatalities may and can occur. By God’s grace, we have kept our zero record for 32 years.”
One reason for the commendable feat is his discreet travels to meet and inspect overseas vendors, and his scrutiny of airport ground operations, the animal facilities and their compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) rules.
The first-hand information acquired allows him to develop unique relocation programmes that comply with the rules and regulations of governments and airlines.
Mr Liew tries as much as possible to meet owners — mainly expatriate families — to listen to their concerns and requirements and walk them through the processes.
“Cross-border movements of animals are governed by quarantine laws, which governments institute to prevent introduction of infectious diseases into their home countries.
“These laws, which are usually time-sensitive, technical and varied, can sometimes be quite overwhelming for some owners,” he says, adding that one must also be conversant with airlines, airport ground handling regulations and their modus operandi.
There have been times when he declined jobs which he strongly felt would compromise the safety and welfare of pets.
“Usually, airfreight, which is volume-based, is the single biggest cost component in any given pet relocation.
“Owners may try to save cost by using smaller travel crates or want us to be more ‘competitively priced’,” he explains.
But he says the company would not compromise on or accede to these requests for many reasons.
One of them is to abide by IATA stipulations on the size, build and design of the travel crate, which are instituted for the protection and welfare of animals.
Another reason is to prevent unhygienic conditions in which pets in under-sized crates may have to sit in their own faeces and urine for long periods of time.
He adds: “Moreover, heat building up inside the crate will invariably lead to ‘heat trauma’ or possible deep vein thrombosis, which may cause permanent damage or, in the worst case, death.”
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Mr Liew started out with the company, friends and relatives used to tease him, saying he smelled like his furry clients.
But now, people react more positively to his job. Some have even paid compliments by calling it a niche.
Says Mr Liew: “As an industry and profession, pet relocation is relatively new and its growth has been spurred by globalisation.
“Working with pets has traditionally been blue-collar work that does not require a lot of grey matter.
“However, along with some fellow industry veterans, we have managed to acquire some recognition for our profession.”
But he values the acknowledgement from the animals most.
He says: “Our rewards do not come from peer recognition but from the little creatures that we serve.
“When pets show their love and appreciation, they are pure, innocent and, most times, they do so with a lot of saliva.”