Polarcargo Continues to Promote Safe Pet Travel Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

16 March 2020, Johannesburg – Following the meeting held by Cabinet to discuss the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, 15 March – President, Cyril Ramaphosa enforced travel bans to and from high-risk countries. This came after the number rose to 51 confirmed Coronavirus cases in South Africa.

Despite animals not being able to contract the COVID-19 virus, the travel ban still poses some significant challenges for pet owners looking to relocate their animal companions – mostly due to flight cancellations.

As it stands, the travel ban only applies to foreign nationals entering South Africa. This will consequently have a severe impact on the South African aviation industry as airlines are required to reduce their number of daily and/or weekly flights. Furthermore, Lufthansa recently announced they will no longer be transporting live animals to the USA during their two-month travel ban to prevent the virus from spreading even further.

“We will continue to monitor the situation very closely during this uncertain time,” said Hazel Imrie, Managing Director of Polarcargo. “Mitigation plans are being put into place to lessen the impact on pet owners as much as possible.”

Naturally, Polarcargo makes use of commercial flights, which will undoubtedly have an impact on a pet’s ability to travel between countries. Luckily, the company is equipped to assist with boarding facilities until such a time that flights can be booked.

“Polarcargo will continue to offer the best possible option for pet owners that promotes the welfare of their animals,” Imrie continued. “As fellow pet owners, we understand the rising concern and the urgency of reuniting pets with their loved ones. Hence we are doing everything we can to ensure a seamless transition and a happy reunion.”

No proof you can get COVID-19 from your pet, how to keep your pet and your home safe

Polarcargo endeavors keeping you informed with all your pet industry news relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping yourself and your family and furkids, safe and protected is crucial for everyone overcoming this current worldwide pandemic.

Today the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the CDC, USDA and NVSL (Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Labs) announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in 2 pet cats. The first pets in the U.S to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. What is important to note is that with statistics nearing 2.8 million cases around the world, these are the first confirmed and accepted positive testing of pets around the world in the past 5 months. 2 pet dogs that tested positive in Asia in mid March, the results were not conclusive.

How was this discovered?

  • Both cats were tested at a private veterinary laboratory.
  • Both cats were confirmed positive by the National Veterinary Labs (NVSL) after testing of additional samples.
  • The two cats lived in separate areas of New York State.
  • Both cases had mild respiratory illness and expected to make a full recovery.
  • One of the cat’s household had no cases of COVID-19. (Family household shows NO signs of illness post cat’s diagnosis.)
  • The other cat’s owner tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the cat showing signs.

What CDC in America needs you to know?

  • Research is being conducted into learning about SARS-CoV-2, there is NO evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus – DO NOT PANIC – your pet companions are not increasing your family’s risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported worldwide in very few animals, mostly those in contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • Routine animal testing is not recommended at this stage in America.

Recommendations from the CDC in America:

  • No pet interactions with people outside of your household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent interaction with other animals or people.
  • Avoid dog parks and public places and keep your dogs on a leash (not a problem with the current lockdown.)

Recommendations for persons who has tested positive for COVID-19 living with a pet:

  • If you are sick with COVID-19 restrict contact with your pets and other animals.
  • Avoid petting, snuggling, cuddling or being kissed or licked. As well as sharing bedding or food.
  • Still wear masks around your pets and wash hands after interactions.

This information is not being shared to create hysteria or risk the welfare of Fur Babies around the world. This information is to educate us on how to prevent spreading the COVID-19 to everyone in our household including our 4-legged friends. We have heard many horror stories from around the world of slaughtering of Fur Babies from the incorrect information being spread about animals and their risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

2 important messages that all readers need to take from this article is remembering these “pets” are members of our family, our Fur Babies are more than just entertainment, comfort or safety in our homes. Pets are part of our immediate family and learning how to take care of their well-being is what we signed up for the first moment we got that dose of puppy breath, our first full face lick, our first snuggle or poop on our carpet. The everchanging world teaches us how to care for one another through these tough times.
Lastly, your Fur Baby is only as safe as you are. As long as we are sticking to our government regulations, staying home, washing hands and social distancing we can make it through this pandemic.


8 Tips on Choosing the Pawfect Pet Travel Specialist

COVID-19, Coronavirus, lockdown, embargoes, SHUTDOWN! Words that has formed part of our everyday vocabulary that has cemented the fact the world is currently rebooting.

With all this time to research, analyse and plan…. When making important decisions, how do you make the right decision?

  • Did you choose your financial advisor because it was the first tab on google?
  • Did you choose your hairdresser because they love hair?
  • Did you choose your car because your friend of a friend said her car is amazing?

Choosing a Pet Travel Specialist company is no different from the critical long term daily decisions that we need to make. Polarcargo Owner, Managing Director and IPATA President, Hazel Imrie shares her expertise within the Pet Relocation Industry and her tips in selecting the best Pet Travel Specialist for you.

Registration and Accreditation: 

Yes, Pet Travel Specialists should be registered and accredited; unfortunately, in South Africa, there is no legal requirement for anyone engaged in these services to have any form of accreditation or registration. Registration with this sort of independent body is a stringent process with a strict entry protocol to ensure professionalism within the industry and a 12 month lead period before the organisation is displayed on their website to the public as an accredited member. If they don’t manage their business correctly, fail to comply with the strict Code of Ethics or don’t follow the necessary criteria, they are removed. Companies that take this profession seriously are registered with international bodies such as IPATA (International Pet and Animal Transport Association www.ipata.orgThe International Pet and Animal Association (IPATA) is a non-profit trade association of independent members who are dedicated to the safe and humane transport of pets and other animals.

Education and training of the team:

We expect the financial advisor, the hair stylist, the auto manufacturer we choose, is receiving ongoing education and training. We expect businesses who provide a service to receive more than once off training at the start of their business. If a stylist doesn’t keep up with the latest trends and hair health, pretty soon your gorgeous locks will be in poor health.

Animal travel regulations change rapidly, and often with little to no notice. The variations and interpretations of the regulations can leave many pet owners bewildered and in a sticky situation if this is not done correctly, or a scenario of “best guess” is applied. What sort of ongoing education and training program does your appointed company have in place? Professional certificates in application of the Live Animal Regulations are essential to ensure that your pet’s travel is being managed correctly in line with IATA guidelines for the safety of the airline, all the passengers on the aircraft, and your pet’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Size of the team:

Whilst it is always lovely to have the same person;

  • that answered the phone,
  • handling your documents,
  • collecting your pet,
  • looking after your pet,
  • checking your pet in with the airlines,
  • letting you know that your fur baby is in the air,
  • managing the clearance at the port of the destination.

This would all be perfect if you are the only customer for that company, unfortunately if you add in an additional  10 Moms and Dads to the above list of important processes , very quickly the ability to manage every single aspect of this multi-armed travel becomes less and less appealing when important and critical time-frames are jeopardised if your travel company misses a critical window that was only open for a few hours due to time zone delays.

Does your Pet Travel Specialist of choice;

  • have a specialist and dedicated consultant that handles only the travel aspects of your fur-kids move?
  • have specially trained handlers who know how to identify the symptoms of travel stress?
  • Are they doing their own SARS Customs clearance, with a customs specialist on staff whose only job is to ensure that your pets airline ticket and export customs clearance is compliant and correct?

This is an important part of your selection process and working with your future Pet Travel Specialist. Understanding team roles for your Fur Baby’s relocation aids the communication and relocation process by minimising stress.

Global relationships:

International relationships are vital in the travel industry as a whole. A good Pet Travel Specialist will have long term working relationships with like-minded companies around the globe, especially in their homeland. Your pet cannot talk, and both you and your fur kid are utterly reliant on the synergy created between these two partners (at point of departure and destination) to make sure your pets travel movement goes as planned. If there is an emergency at airline transit and your pet travel specialist can’t answer the phone at 4am Johannesburg time to call the destination agent in Auckland at 2 pm, who is urgently assisting. This will cause incredible delays in ensuring your pets welfare and travel plans are smoothly managed. A rule of thumb in professional animal relocation is that it is all fine and well, until something goes wrong, only then do you really know if you made the right travel partner choice. Global Relationships include;

  • The Kennels and Catteries associated with your Pet Travel Specialist.
  • The relationship your Pet Travel Specialist has with Animal Stations around the world.
  • Their relationships with State Vets and Airlines.

“Yes” Men:

We all love it when things go our way; we as humans do love hearing the word yes, it is human nature. This does, however, bring its own set of problems if even the most outlandish requests such as “I know my paperwork isn’t right, but surely you can make it work” are met with “Yes we can!”. This should immediately set alarm bells ringing. As a financial advisor should never say “Yes!” to you if you ring them at 8 am on a Monday Morning, and tell them you want to invest retirement fund into fidget spinners. Your Pet Travel Specialist has a moral duty to give you the right direction and let you know why this may be problematic. As Pet Travel Specialists the welfare of living breathing beings rests in our ability to take a cautious and careful approach to your pets movement, an import permit that appears to not be correct, or a Veterinary Health Certificate that is not on the correct co-government agreed templates should be met with a hard “NO!” followed by “We need to urgently amend and reissue with the correct information.”

Remember that you are appointing your Pet Travel Specialist based on years of experience as well as their qualifications and knowledge. NOT their ability to slip something past customs! Let’s assume (goodness forbid) your pet is exported on knowingly incorrect documents and lands at their destination in Mexico City and this variation in their documents is then noted. Not only are both yourself and the Pet Travel Specialist opening themselves up to fraudulent activities, but your Fur Baby, who has put their life in your and your pet travel companies hands, is at risk of being returned to origin or being euthanised.

Vehicles for transport:

We all know the old age saying of “Never Judge a book by its cover”. Well, sometimes when it comes to moving your beloved fur baby, you absolutely have to! Vehicles used for the movement of domestic pets should NEVER be a “bakkie or an SUV” these vehicles must be closed cab panel vans with climate control and safety features. ”I recall a very distressed phone call from one of our pet handlers who was watching a pet being brought into the airport by a person who was relocating a families beloved fur baby. The pets travel kennel could not fit into the back of the Toyota Tazz that was delivering it to the airport for manifesting at cargo, the travel kennel was wedged into the vehicle with the back end of it over the tailgate and the rear door was tied down over the kennel onto the bumper tow points with a rope to keep the rear door closed and stop the kennel from falling out on the journey. The company delivering the family pet to the airport were not registered and there was no recourse, the fur kids mom and dad probably didn’t know this was happening and may likely have to deal with unknown trauma and behavioural issues in the traumatised pet for years to come.”

South African Winters and Summers can be extreme on both sides of the temperature scale. It is important that your pet is kept at an optimum temperature during this transit. Your pet will be nervous as they have just left mom and dad, they are in an unusual environment and variations to temperature along with road noise is almost guaranteed to begin the imprint of life long trauma association to vehicles or even ventilation issues. Dogs pant when they are stressed, a dog who is panting too much, particularly a snub nose dog, runs the risk of overheating themselves which can lead to heart failure. South African Winters and Summers can be extreme on both sides of the temperature scale. It is important that your pet is kept at an optimum temperature during this transit. Your pet will be nervous as they have just left mom and dad, they are in an unusual environment and variations to temperature along with road noise is almost guaranteed to begin the imprint of life long trauma association to vehicles or even ventilation issues. Dogs pant when they are stressed, a dog who is panting too much, particularly a snub nose dog, runs the risk of overheating themselves which can lead to heart failure.


In an unregulated sector of industry, self-compliance is beyond critical. IATA issues guidelines on very specific requirements of travel containers for live animals which must be followed down to the letter. Travel kennels are not just a wooden or plastic kennel for your pet to travel in. They need to meet stringent international requirement on the thickness of the wood used (if a wooden container) spacing of the air vents, size of the wire meshing on travel kennels, ventilation so that your fur kid can breathe without restriction whilst contained. All travel kennels are not made the same, there are numerous travel kennels on the market that place your pet at risk if used. Plastic travel kennels can be found in droves nationwide but sadly there is not one plastic travel kennel on the market that is manufactured to conform to the stringent IATA guidelines. Petmate in the USA have recently added a new design which does meet this criteria however we have not yet seen one of these kennels in South Africa. A kennel that does not conform to IATA specifications runs the risk of having the pet escape from the kennel either in the warehouse or onboard the aircraft. This could be by the wood being an inferior quality and pet chewing its way out the kennel, the plastic being of very poor quality and collapsing around the ventilation holes or even the door working its way open during the movement & vibration of the aircraft at 40 000ft. An escaped pet inside of an aircraft halfway through a 12hour trip is very serious and risks the safety of the aircraft and all the passengers onboard. Not without mentioning that if a pet jumps out the cargo door on landing when the doors are opened, and running down the runway can have large implications for landing and departing aircraft

Satisfied and un-satisfied customers:

In any long term and professional business there is going to be a mix of customers. Knowing your Pet Travel Specialist has loads of very happy families is very important, however in the real world, things don’t always go to plan. In all long term and professional businesses there will always be clients that were not satisfied with a portion of the service, it is incredibly important to use this opportunity to see how the company responded, how did they handle the complaint, did they acknowledge honestly and truthfully if there was a wrongdoing, did they assume responsibility? Did the company perhaps choose not to be “Yes Men”? It is incredibly important to be discerning and open with these queries. If you are concerned about a post that you have read on Social Media a Pet Travel Specialist will welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding in an open and honest manner. If you have worries about your own relocation half way though, most companies will have an internal specific contact number or email address clearly displayed on their correspondences for you to immediately get in touch with a Senior Manager who can either assist in the understanding of the situation or ensure that a problem that is stalling the relocation is resolved. It is key to remember that everyone has different personalities and one consultant who is chatty and wants to meet your pets on a zoom call may not work for you, you may be a person who prefers everything is kept on email doesn’t have the time to take a call to discuss your pets feeding requirements during the day. Not all gloves fit, everyone’s personality is different so don’t be afraid to ask to be paired up to a consultant who may better fit your personality and needs.

Thinking of relocating in the next 2 years, next month, or 8 months? Now is the time to start planning. Pet Travel Specialists like Polarcargo are still servicing the public while working remotely. Do cost comparisons between as many Pet Travel Specialists as you can. Ask the important questions to find the right fit for you and your family but most importantly your Fur kid/kids.

Assess their qualifications, look at their portfolio, understand their regulatory bodies and know how many years they have been operating professionally. Knowing how your potential Pet Specialist reacted during the COVID-19 pandemic is also very crucial for your selection process.

It goes without saying that it would be very unlikely to come across a Pet Travel Specialist who doesn’t love pets, or they would not be able to apply the knowledge, training and expertise correctly in your fur kids travel plans

“This choice is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will face to make for your furry family member during the time they are with you, they trust and love you unconditionally, it’s important to have all the right assessment criteria together to make a correct and sound decision for Fido and Fluffy.” – Hazel Imrie.

Everything you need to know about caring for brachycephalic dogs

Brachycephalic – meaning “shortened head” – refers to snub-nosed and flat-faced pets like pugs, Shih Tzus, Himalayan cats and lop rabbits, to name a few. Hazel Imrie, Managing Director at Polar Cargo, shares her expert tips for owning and looking after a brachy.

Each breed has unique care points to note. Therefore, it is essential to research how to care for your pet, especially when the breed is new to you. Choosing a pet that is the right fit for your family is equally as important.

While brachycephalic dogs are undoubtedly cute and popular among pet owners, they are prone to health issues. The most common is Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), which is when the dog battles to breathe due to its short nose. This breed also has an elongated soft palate that can become floppy, causing it to fold down and close the dog’s windpipe.

Added kilos will add more pressure on your fur baby’s breathing, so watching your doggy’s weight is a must. Another thing to consider is exercise – never take your brachy for a walk/run in warm weather or keep your little one outside for too long during high temperatures.

Another common health issue faced by brachycephalic dogs is overheating. While all pets can overheat, a brachy tends to overheat faster due to narrow nostrils and a restricted airflow. Owners of brachycephalic dogs should look out for symptoms of overheating, including a blue tongue, red eyes and heavy panting.

Great ways to prevent overheating:

  • Preparing a wet towel for your fur baby to lie on if they are showing signs of being warm.
  • Placing ice cubes in their water bowl on warm days.
  • Buying a splash pool for your pup to cool down in.( Make sure this is monitored)
  • Keeping your pup in shaded areas on hot days.
  • Getting a portable water bowl for your dog walks.

As an owner of a brachy, you need to consider that your dog may present rare health complications. They might have skin issues, so be prepared to clean your dog’s folds twice a day – both face and tail – because these areas can become breeding grounds for bacteria. They might also suffer from cherry eye, a condition that exposes the soft tissue underneath the eye, causing it to become inflamed. Surgery is often required to correct this.

If you’re planning on travelling with your doggo, here are several things to think about:

  • Ensure you keep your fur baby cool in the car with the aircon on.
  • Let them out for a toilet break, but not a walk out in the sun if it’s a hot day.
  • Give your pup cool, fresh water often.
  • Never sedate your brachy as this may relax all their muscles, this includes muscles in the throat which can contribute to breathing difficulties in an already challenging breed.
  • When travelling by plane, check-in your dog as late as possible with the airline.
  • Ensure that your brachy has a large crate with enough headspace to allow for proper air circulation.
  • Ask for them to be placed in a cool area, away from direct heat.
  • Travel only during the cool hours of the day avoiding midday heat.

We can all agree that brachycephalic breeds are some of the most adorable dogs, so no amount of health issues will stop us from adopting and loving them. However, it is important to be aware of the challenges they may face so that we can help them to lead happier and healthier lives.

At Polarcargo, we care about the wellbeing of your pets, no matter the breed. For more information regarding our pet travel services, contact us on info@polarcargo