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Clare Beadle

Clare Beadle holding a dog
“There are many different exotics we get in – we’ve seen flamingos, snow leopards. We do get a varied amount of animals that come through.”
Clare Beadle
Manager of the Animal Reception Centre at London’s Gatwick Airport

For the past eight years, Hadlow College alumnus Clare Beadle has spent her days checking documents and passports at one of Europe’s busiest airports — but it’s not human passengers she concerns herself with. Beadle is manager of the Animal Reception Centre at London’s Gatwick Airport — open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — where she handles the four, six, or even eight-legged creatures travelling to and from the global hub.

She studied Animal Management for five years and claims she had “never been the vet type” and thought that working at the airport would be “something different.” She sent her CV to Gatwick, secured an interview and landed the job, which mainly sees her “making sure the animals coming in are looked after and well fed” and “making sure their paperwork meets the requirements to enter.”

“On a daily basis from the animals coming in, we’d let them out of their boxes, make sure they’re OK after a flight, and give them time to stretch their legs and have a drink,” she says.

Then, they perform a variety of checks, such as establishing whether the animal’s paperwork fits with pet travel scheme guidelines, whether they have a passport or a country certificate, and whether they have their rabies vaccinations. Pets from EU countries require a ‘pet passport’, while animals arriving from anywhere else need to have a five-page document filled out. If they don’t have what they need, they often have to go into quarantine until their owners are able to provide it. “We would do our best to try and make sure everything meets [regulation],” she says. “[But if they] need extra documentation, it may be they might need to go into quarantine.”

While most of the animals that come through are cats and dogs, things can get a little more bizarre. In September 2017, the centre’s list of incoming animals included 207 pet dogs and cats, 31 assistance dogs, 2 guinea pigs, a pygmy slow loris, a tree kangaroo, and tortoises.

“There are many different exotics we get in – we’ve seen flamingos, snow leopards. We do get a varied amount of animals that come through,” Beadle says. She hates spiders, but once even had to handle one when it escaped on board a plane. “It was walking down the aisle and we had to go out and catch it – and I really don’t like eight-legged creatures.”

The only animals actually permitted in an airplane cabin are recognised assistance dogs, and the centre is always aware they’re coming in or going out. All other animals go into the hold — and there are no dangers for the pet, according to Beadle.

Picture courtesy of The Animal Reception Centre at Gatwick Airport