When Gaza rockets were raining down on southern and parts of central Israel in November, the staff at Terminal4Pets — located outside of firing range in Maccabim-Reut — told its clients that it would work out the logistics of boarding or evacuating their pets if they suddenly had to leave the country.
The eight-year-old pet travel agency, which shares a building with the clinic that spawned it, the House of Veterinary Doctors, is an Israel-based initiative that enables international travelers, including relocated diplomats and expatriates anywhere in the world, to transport their pets with the minimum amount of trauma to animal and owner.
At the start of the hostilities, Dr. Eytan Kreiner, the veterinarian who heads Terminal4Pets, wrote in a press release: “We understand that people are under a lot of stress and especially foreign diplomats and their families, and we wish to help them any way possible.” He urged people to spread the word that “we are here 24/7 for people and pets during these rough times.” That time, most clients stayed put.
While the agency has helped many owners during times of national or personal emergency, its specialty is providing logistical support for the types of “routine” pet transfers that keep many pet owners up at night worrying.
An airplane flight “is very traumatic for the pet and the owner, whether it’s a diplomat or a student spending a year abroad,” said Ayala Bar, the agency’s head of marketing.
Just as a traditional travel agent advises clients on whether they need a visa or vaccinations, Terminal4Pets helps owners navigate the bureaucratic and complicated process of pet flight and beyond.
When people transfer to another country with a cat or dog, Bar explained, they don’t necessarily know where the nearest clinic is or, as is the case in Israel, they need to register their animal’s microchip information with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The agency, which collaborates with professionals around the world when necessary, advises owners on which vaccinations are required and which ones are advisable, even if not mandatory.
“Their local vet doesn’t understand how difficult it will be for a dog that’s been based in Lapland to adjust here,” Bar said.
Whenever possible, the agency works with pet owners long before the flight.
“We’ll have a long telephone conversation and ask a lot of details: the [dog’s] breed, its weight, its exact measurements and, especially if it’s a puppy, its kennel size, because the airlines are very strict,” Bar said.
The kennel (in-flight holder) must be large enough to accommodate a pet’s limited movement and include a pet diaper and a blanket.
Because the agency is connected with the clinic downstairs, a newly transferred pet can be assessed as soon as it arrives, if the owner requests it, Bar said.
Although the agency doesn’t board animals, it contracts with two companies that do. That’s especially important for owners who are in a country for a limited amount of time and have no one who can care for their animal for a few days or months at a time.
“Expats and diplomats often don’t have a support system,” Bar said. “Whereas other pet owners might ask their mother to mind their dog for a while, foreigners don’t have that option.”
Sometimes locals need help, too.
When Ziva Ben Shaul’s son, Micki, died suddenly in Florida, she wanted to adopt his cat, Mario. She contacted the agency, which in turn told Micki’s friends what vaccinations and documents the cat would need to fly to Israel.
Today, “Mario is with me,” Ben Shaul said. “His hind legs are paralyzed, but that doesn’t matter. Micki really loved Mario, and it does me good that he’s here with me.”