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Airport Animal Health Officer

It’s not just humans and cargo that use Heathrow Airport – it’s animals as well! Here at yourHeathrow we’ve gone behind the scenes with Heathrow Animal Reception’s Will Hall to find out more.

Will has been an Animal Health Officer for nearly three years and is a keen animal lover with three dogs of his own – Louie (an English Springer Spaniel), Buzz and Alfie (both Whippets). In his spare time, he can be found walking the dogs, watching his favourite TV shows Nurse Jackie and True Blood, and listening to Snow Patrol (he’s already seen them three times).

At work – he’s responsible for collecting and looking after animals big and small when they jet into Heathrow!

Behind the scenes Q&A:

Our ‘bread and butter’ is receiving dogs and cats using the Pet Travel Scheme which allows dogs, cats and ferrets to enter or re-enter the United Kingdom without serving statutory quarantine. We collect pets from most airlines and release them into individual kennels. Whilst they are in a kennel we can check their paperwork for compliance with the scheme and wait for Custom’s clearance. My favourite part of the job has to be reuniting owners with their beloved pets, sometimes they haven’t seen them for months.

The beauty of this job is every day is different! You can spend the morning in the van collecting pets from the aircraft or caring for the long-term resident reptiles we hold here. It’s not all hands on with animals though; on busy days we’ll have a lot of pets paperwork to check. We can spend a lot of time liaising with vets from all over the world should there be minor issues. Also, it wouldn’t be animal work without getting down and dirty with a bucket and broom!

As well as dogs and cats we also see many exotic and rare species. We do species identification for customs on reptile imports and check their containers meet IATA (International Air Transport Association) requirements. My favourite exotic animal I’ve seen has to be the White Lion cubs.

I studied Animal Management at Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) after secondary school, after which I worked for The Metropolitan Police for 3 years to gain experience with working with the public. I found out about HARC as my college tutor from BCA became a manager, and the job seemed perfect for me. I was employed nearly 3 years ago and have never looked back! As part of my career progression at HARC I’m currently studying ‘Daily Management of Zoo Animal and Aquaria’ which I’m due to finish in May.

  • We’re very busy! Last year we had 8,907 dogs, 5,026 cats, 3 ferrets and 26,145,553 fish!
  • We’re open 365 days a year, 24 hours!
  • We have our own television show (Animal Airport on Animal Planet) it plays on loop in our reception!
  • Heathrow Animal Reception Centre is run by the City of London Corporation who are the local authority for the square mile.
  • Animals which have to serve quarantine do so at a DEFRA licenced quarantine kennel, we only hold them temporarily for up to 48 hours.

Has one of your animals travelled through Heathrow? Let us know on Twitter via @yourHeathrow. Follow the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre on Twitter (@HARC_COL) or Facebook.