Svilen Stamatov – Bulgarian Animal Transport
Svilen Stamatov (Bulgarian Animal Transport)
Bulgarian Animal Transport will assist you in the safe and accessible transportation of your loving pet.
Natu Nimuee: How and why did you form your company? What is your background?
Svilen Stamatov: As a child, I dreamt of working with animals. I had a lot of pets at home, and everybody said that I should grow up to work with animals. When I went to university, I decided to study economics instead. However, When I finished my economics degree, I started working for companies in the aviation field because another dream had come to me, to work in aviation.
I started in an entry-level position in an international freight air cargo shipping company. Eventually, I become an airfreight manager on an air export team. One day, in 2007, a customer asked me if I would assist him in transporting a dog. Neither I nor anyone in our company had ever done that before, but I agreed. I checked with the corporation and the airline and was able to successfully assist him, and the dog made it to his new home. That dog gave me an idea. We could start a project focused on transporting pets around the world. After some hard work and determination, I gained approval to create a business plan showing how to develop this project. Our Sofia team would be the only office of the huge international company that could ship live animals by air. For three years, I headed up the project. I shipped many pets, more and more each month, and it was amazing how many inquiries we received.
In October, 2010, I was let go from the company. I found myself with no dream job and the tasks I had worked so hard on in someone else’s hands.
I had received some proposals from competitors to create similar programs for their companies, but I needed some time to think about what to do. In a short time, I realized that I had no other option but to start a new company dedicated to the very specific knowledge I possessed regarding aviation and animals. In January, 2011 – Bulgarian Animal Transport was born, and then I was the only one who could control what I believed and what I wanted to do.
Natu Nimuee: Why can’t one just ask the airline for a cargo transport for their pet?
Svilen Stamatov: We help the pet owners to keep their life normal without any concerns for the safety of an important part of their family – their pets. We now live in a very dynamic world where many people move frequently, searching for the best place to live and grow a family or business. We own pets to make our lives much more comfortable. Moving from one place to another can be very difficult, especially when we have to move our pets. The best solution is to use an agent. They know what to do, and they can fully help us with the really complicated stuff. From the outside, it looks very easy, but it actually requires a huge amount of knowledge and a lot of experience and there is lots of paperwork to be done. (Airlines do not accept animal transport done by individuals because its too much paperwork, and its not cost effective – Please write something for this part, so people understand.). In Bulgaria, our company is the only one dedicated only to live animals transports – this makes a big difference. Being dedicated makes us true professional in what we do.
Natu Nimuee: Tell me more about your Sky Kennels.
Svilen Stamatov: Sky Kennels is an enormous book that is issued by IATA (International Air Transport Association) annually. It is called LAR (Live Animal Regulations) and is divided into about 15 Chapters. Two main chapters are: “Listing, Description and Sizes of Species in the World” where you can locate any animals with its Latin name, if it is endangered or not and what kennel you need to use as far as container requirements. And the other is the “Actual Container Requirements”, that lists all the different types of animals in the world, their requirements for travel and how to build their kennels.
When we first started, it was hard when I had no warehouse and plenty of different types of kennels in various sizes and models. I bought each kennel on a case by case basis or instructed the owner as to what type to buy. Also, I started to build some myself because for most of the animals, except dogs and cat. Kennels must be built of wood or metal. For example, to build a kennel for dangerous dog breeds, we buy parts from 13 different stores.
Then, after a few years, we succeeded in making a warehouse where we keep plenty of the most common kennels so we can ensure that we have any type we may need without interrupting our work. It is much easier now that I can plan ahead and supply much better models.
Natu Nimuee: What was the craziest animal transport you’ve ever had?
Svilen Stamatov: Actually, the craziest animal I had was a duck artist who performed a play. The show had been invited to perform in Brussels and the owners found that it is not that easy to transport a duck by plane. So they contacted me to assist. It was a bit of a complicated move because Bulgarian Air was moving shipments of dry ice on a daily bases. When dry ice evaporates, it is poisonous, so shipments with dry ice cannot be loaded with live animals. So I had to find another route with a different airline. We used a colleagues from IPATA (this is the International Pet And Animal Transportation Association) to help us move the duck to Brussels and then back to Bulgaria.
The lions were the most amazing move in my 12 years’ of experience. The EU had a ban on performances with big mammals. There was a circus that had two male lions that had been participating in their show. After the ban, the lions had no finances for normal feeding, so they were starving. The solution was get them out of Bulgaria. With the help of volunteers, the lions were accepted to Born Free Park in South Africa. We agreed to help. The airline brought kennels. My work involved loading the aircraft for the trip to London. I was on a team of up to 30 people. The lions were put to sleep, then health checked and microchip scanned (that was my job when they were sleeping). Then they were loaded into the kennels and then awoken and transported to Bugas Airport by van where a large aircraft had landed that could load the kennels. We stayed until the lions were loaded on the aircraft pallets making sure that all was well and they were ready to fly! Finally, the lions arrived in Born Free Park and live their lives free.
We worked together with The Ministry of Environment and Water for the lions’ case and helped them with a few cases involving returning African gray parrots that were confiscated through illegal trade. We helped to return them back to Central Africa to the Island of Ngamba.
Natu Nimuee: Do you have celebrities as clients?
Svilen Stamatov: Yes, we had a chance to help some celebrities who entrusted their pets to our care.
One of them was Mr. Gerard Butler, who came to Bulgaria to shoot some scenes for his new movie. He had found a dog – a Bulgarian stray dog, that he named Shushka. She has some medical issues. He left her for veterinarian care at one of the clinics in Sofia. Mr. Butler’s assistant contacted me and asked if I was able to help move Shushka to his Los Angeles residence when she became healthy and ready to leave. We did that job in cooperation with fellows from Los Angeles to get a final airport clearance and delivery into Los Angeles. A few months later, we were contacted again to help move Shushka back to Bulgaria because Mr. Butler had a new role and needed to come here again. So Shushka became our frequent traveler to and from Bulgaria.
Another amazing person is Mr. Jeff Scott Soto, a famous, American hard rock vocalist. He has a wonderful wife that is Bulgarian, and every summer they come to Bulgaria to enjoy the time here. Mr. Soto and his wife Elena found a small kitty on the streets and decide to relocate it to the US and enlarge their family of one cat and three dogs by adding one more black kitty named Cherry. They contacted me and Cherry got a ”green card ” to live there with the Soto’s family at their ranch in the US. The next year, they came back and another beautiful kitty followed them to the USA. They are amazing people… My family and I had a chance to attend a Sons of Apollo concert with Jeff Scott Soto at the Plovdiv Amphitheater!
Also, we handled transport for Lady GaGa’s mini poodle “Fozzi Bear”. Lady Gaga had a big tour in Europe, and Bulgaria was the first stop. She visited another 24 EU countries within few days. They asked us to assist with Fozzi Bear’s import into Bulgaria and to then issue European papers so they can travel from one country to another easily. As all US papers were in order, we were able to help, and also we made a list of recommendations for the other countries in case special treatments were needed for Fozzi to pass through borders easily and stay on schedule.
Natu Nimuee: What does it cost to transport a pet or wild animal to another country?
Svilen Stamatov: Wow, maybe this is the most difficult question to answer as the answer varies from type of pet, to size of crate. The cost may vary from 300 euros for a very small kitty to another EU city up to 50,000 euros for a horse moved overseas.
We have to calculate every case separately because we set many restrictions, such as if the airline will load it or not, what type and size of kennel we need and if quarantine laws will apply, like Australia, New Zealand and some other countries have a mandatory quarantine stay upon arrival.
Also, the small sized pets are also quite an interesting case. Some of them can use a cat kennel but with a very specific kennel modification. For example, a guinea pig is a rodent, and the kennel holes have to be modified with extra wire mesh with smaller openings. Also, the floor has to be equipped with nonslip material, usually artificial grass or a bathroom mat. We read all of that in LAR and adapt with every case we have.
We always build the modifications alone because we can do it best. We have the resources and knowledge of how to do it perfectly.
Natu Nimuee: What is the procedure for transporting an animal to another country?
Svilen Stamatov: This is also a bit complicated to answer. Every country has their standards, and we rely on the rules and requirements by checking all cases as they come. Of course, there are countries that we send pets to on a daily bases, and we can advise owners by phone and discuss the steps we have to make, but in some of the countries, we might even contact colleagues at destination to clarify what we will need to prepare in order for the pet to enter.
Natu Nimuee: What is your next goal concerning your company?
Svilen Stamatov: In the short term, we plan to build a house that will be a pet hotel for our travelers. We will be able to provide ultimate care for our guests after arrival or prior to departure. Sometimes owners have to leave in advance, and the pet has to wait until they are prepared, or the pet can arrive earlier, so they can stay with us waiting for their owners to come. Also, in this house we want to make our workshop larger and be able to have more tools to make the custom-built kennels even easier and faster.
We have a dream to move our company to the next generation so when our kids grow up, they will be influenced by us and start helping us. Now, my wife and I work together. We have two boys that are growing up, and a baby girl that is the last member of the Stamatovs family.
We wish hope that everybody finds his dream and follows it, like we did!