ARC Shipper and Transport Guideline


General Container Requirements for non domestic animals, Including Laboratory (not wild) Animals

  • Containers can be constructed from cardboard with moisture resistant coating, plastic, corrugated plastic composite board, laminated plastic composite and aluminium.*
  • Containers must be closed and constructed of non-toxic materials and must be able to withstand the damage from other freight and must not have gaps from which animals can escape.*
  • Containers must be able to be stacked at least 8 high when fully loaded. Inside of containers must be of a smooth, moisture resistant durable surface.*
  • Containers must be constructed so an accidental opening cannot occur and be leak proof.*
  • Container must be constructed so as not to cause damage to the animals and prevent the handler from being injured.*
  • Wire mesh must be fixed so as not to give animals access to the edge of the container.

Containers must be constructed using suitable staples or water resistant glue.*

  • Normal habits and freedom of movement for the species must be considered.*

Ventilation – Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) Requirements

  • Care must be taken to select a filtered SPF shipping container to ensure that adequate ventilation is provided through the filtered openings to maintain a suitable environment for the animals.*
  • Container must have spacers to allow ventilation and give a minimum spacing of 19mm. Ventilation must be on 3 sides of the container.*
  • Ventilation space should be at least 14% of the surface area of the side walls. This area may be added to or replaced with ventilation in the lid if the design requires it.*
  • Filters should be made of water and tear resistant material and be protected by wire mesh.*
  • Containers must be guaranteed to contain the animals and shelter them from rain, snow, direct sunlight and cold weather. ****
  • Autoclaving may increase the resistance of biocontainment filters and restrict airflow. It is a prudent course of action to avoid re-autoclaving and reuse of the containers.******


  • Containers must contain viewing windows.*
  • If the lid is not lined with mesh it must be plastic or lined with plastic.*


  • Floor of the container must not have staples and must be covered with absorbent bedding.*


  • Labels must comply with IATA Standards. Container must have the consignees name, address and phone number. *
  • Labels must not block ventilation openings, especially on small containers.*


Preparation before despatch

IATA give Stocking Density Guidelines for rats and mice. The ARC Packing density chart figures are below the IATA Guidelines.


    SPF animals must be provided with clean appropriately disinfected dry bedding material. Shaved, shredded or chipped wood, corn cob or shredded paper can be used but must absorb moisture products produced by the animals or water sources in the container.*

Food and water

  • Adequate food must be provided for the number of animals and the length of the journey.

Food can be the same as fed in the SPF conditions the animals originated from.*

  • Food in the container must not contravene any regulations in the country where it is going.*
  • Water must be provided in a water kit, as Agar or colloid stabilized water (gelled water)*
  • Emergency feeding and water during transit. As SPF animals cannot be fed or watered in transit enough food and water must be available to last 24hours more than the expected travel time.*

Health considerations

  • Tranquilisation or use of medication is not recommended, but if used must be recorded on the container and a copy added to the documentation.*
  • Special consideration must be given to animals at certain stage of their life e.g. pregnants, and animals with medical conditions e.g. Diabetes.**
  • Pregnant animals should not be moved in the last 10th of their gestation, but there are recommendations that animals are not moved in the last 5th of their gestation. (rats and mice up to 17 days). *****
  • It is recommended that pups are not moved for a week after birth.*****
  • During times of extreme temperature animal transport may be detrimental to animal welfare and may not be possible unless heated or cooled means of transport are available.**

Considerations before and during Transport

  • The worst thing you can do is have a complex route over a long distance with many transfers. This is a recipe for failure.****
  • The cargo space of jets in Australian airspace is pressurized and heated to about 18-21o It must be remembered that this temperature is only achieved once the plane has taken off and the air conditioning stabilises the temperature in the hold. The temperature in the hold on the tarmac will be very similar to the ambient air temperature, so depending on time of year and location the temperature when the animals are loaded may be considerably different.****
  • When moving animals from a holding area onto the ramp airlines are required to stay within a 45 minute window. If the holding area is too far from the ramp airlines may use this to refuse accepting animals.****
  • When animals cross international borders it must be remembered that on Public Holidays airlines may work 24/7, but Veterinary inspectors may not.****
  • Special care must be taken to minimise stress to the animals including reducing light and noise in the holding area and not moving animals to the aircraft until shortly before takeoff.*
  • Both suppliers and recipients of animals must ensure that satisfactory delivery procedures are in place, including receipt of the animals by a responsible person.***
  • Professional judgement be considered the final determinant of whether the ambient temperatures that animals will be exposed to during transport are safe.******
  • It is important that when an emergency occurs, those directly involved with the transport of the animals (the shipper and the organisation and individual(s) providing transport) need to be able to contact each other and the means of contact be established prior to transport.******

What the ARC does in hot weather

☀️Hot Weather☀️

The Animal Resources Centre postpones animal air shipments if ground temperatures seriously risk animal welfare. The ARC strives to promptly alert impacted customers. At 9:00 AM Perth time, if the predicted 9:00 PM Perth Airport temperature is greater than or equal to 29 °C, then interstate shipments will be dispatched the next suitable day.

Likewise, if the predicted temperature at 9:00 AM at the destination or connecting airport is greater than or equal to 29 °C, then shipments will be postponed to a given airport or destination until the next suitable day.

We kindly ask customers keep the above in mind regarding time sensitive orders (e.g., time mated animals) and suggest such orders are received in advance, where possible.

The ARC uses and to check weather forecasts.

If customers are concerned about high temperatures they can request a delay in delivery on the day of despatch as long as the ARC is informed before 9.00 a.m. AWST


Due to COVID and the reduction of flights imposed, the Animal Resources Centre can no longer guarantee boarding/shipping of animals with red eye flights which are now seldom available. This reduction of flights has hampered the shipping of customers orders when WA are having extreme weather temperatures.

The Animal Resources Centre has had to adjust accordingly to flight availabilities and that of the welfare of animals on any given day.

We thank-you for your understanding.                         

After animals arrive

  • An acclimatisation period to recover from the stress of transport of up to 4 days is recommended for mice and 3 days for rats. For toxicity studies 5 days is recommended for rats.*****
  • Acute stress from successful transportation is not likely to affect the long term health of an animal adversely, but it can substantially change important psychophysiological measures in ways that could affect the outcomes of research.******


Training should include procedures applicable to the mode of transportation and should cover at least:******

  • Shipper and carrier responsibilities
  • Inspection of primary enclosures
  • Documentation
  • Acceptance, handling and delivery
  • Loading and off-loading procedures and precautions
  • Operator and government regulations
  • Emergency procedures

Animal Ethics Committee

  • The AEC must monitor all activities relating to the care and use of animals including transport.***
  • The AEC must ensure that identified problems and issues receive appropriate follow up.***
  • The responsible AEC can inspect the animals so that all phases of the project are monitored including transport between sites.***

Extracts obtained from:

*             IATA Live Animal Regulations 44th Edition

**           National Research Council. 2011. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Edition. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.

***        National Health and Medical Research Council. 2013. Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, 8th Edition. National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra, Australia.

****      Transportation of Laboratory animals 2014

***** Laboratory animals – Guidance on the transport of Laboratory Animals 2005

****** Guidelines for the Humane Transportation of Research Animals 2006