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What the Pet Owner

should know on

Shipping Pet Birds

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My first acquaintance with shipping birds was when a friend of mine decided to get some Color bred canaries shipped to him from Eastern Canada. This particular color mutation was not available in our area of Western Canada, and he felt the cost would be well worth it, and ordered 4 pairs of birds.

It was late August, and the weather had been pretty good. Ordinarily there would have been no problem - the birds were taken to the express delivery counter just before the plane left, and he'd been told when the flight was due to arrive. He was promised that his birds would be among the first items offloaded, and that he would be able to pick them up immediately.

Then the weather threw in a twist. Over the prairies, the plane encountered a sudden storm, and was forced to land in Edmonton. The wings required deicing, and for whatever reason, the cargo also had to be temporarily offloaded.

My friend's birds sat out on the tarmac in a cold pounding rain for almost 3 hours, in a specially-made cardboard box inside a mesh pet-carrier crate. The arrangement was *not* waterproof. Intended only as a temporary carrier, it offered only partial shelter at first, and none once the cardboard became wet through. The whole affair was then put - still thoroughly wet - back into the plane with the rest of the luggage, and the flight continued.

By the time they arrived a few hours later, 5 of the 8 birds were dead, and the other three seriously ill. Of the 8 birds originally shipped, only 2 hens survived. Of these two, only one ever bred for him.

Total cost for this lesson? Over $1,000.00 Canadian. My friend was devastated. Insurance did not cover his losses and as far as I know, to this day he will have nothing to do with shipping birds.

True, it was a simple accident, and events could very well have turned out differently - but to me a story like this emphasizes the risks involved in shipping, something very often glossed over. The fact is, no matter how careful you are, successful shipping of birds still requires a rather large component of sheer luck.

Co-chairperson for the host club this year for the U.S. National Cage Bird Show, ASC webmaster Ginger Wolnick, a well-known breeder of American Singer canaries, says of the recent change in the rules about shipping; "Regardless of what is 'official', you are at the mercy of your local post office, and the post office at the receiving end. There are just too many unknowns and things out of your control. I am still not going to ship my birds."

Ginger also says, "I believe the safest way to transport canaries is to hand carry in your own car or with you on a plane in a pet carrier that you take on board with you.

"I recommend that people try to find local breeders. With the resources now available online, most people should be able to find a canary breeder within driving distance.

"If someone just has to have some special type of bird, well, if they want it bad enough, they can wait for an airfare war and buy a discounted ticket and visit a breeder near a major city like Chicago!

"When you compare the total setup costs of breeding a good line of quality birds, spending a couple hundred dollars to visit the seller and pick out your birds instead of letting them ship you what they want to get rid of may actually be to your advantage. So, my recommendation is to not ship, but to hand-carry instead."

She further points out that many people miss an annual chance at one of the best opportunities around to get good quality birds; attend the National Cage-Bird Show. Many exhibitors will be happy to make arrangements for you to visit them and buy the birds you need. This year, American Airlines is offering a show discount and will allow birds on board. No quarantine will be needed for Canadian visitors, as a vet will be at the show to issue health certificates for those who need them.

If you feel you absolutely must ship, please be sure to consider everything that's involved beforehand. The ASC website at that Ginger manages contains some excellent shipping information, including an outline of what's involved in shipping internationally. Everybody should read this information before considering shipping a bird or birds, especially to or from another country.

Others feel very strongly about this issue too. Parrot rehabilitator Wilhelm Kiesselbach says, "Neither the airlines nor the postal service are absolutely reliable. Flight cancellations, delays and the 'people factor' can spell a real danger to the physical and emotional health of the bird. Horror stories about birds left in the heat on the tarmac, missing flights and being roughly handled abound.

"I see ads all the time with statements such as, 'Parrot Chicks For Sale! Fully weaned, raised with lots of love, healthy - will ship.'

"These ads make me ill. They include the word 'love', but really they are all about money. Most airlines now offer unaccompanied shipping services for animals, since the United States Post Office has announced it will resume this service as well. There are a number of reasons why I consider this an unethical, cruel and potentially very dangerous practice.

"I know of the fate of an African Grey chick which was shipped from Florida to Minneapolis. The breeder assured the buyer that this was no problem, 'we do it all the time'.

"Unbeknownst to the shipper, the airline cancelled the outbound flight. The chick was then put into a holding area for 6 hours, and when it was loaded the container was roughly handled - the baby Grey arrived in Minneapolis traumatized and in shock, and died 3 days later.

"I know of another story where a Macaw was shipped from the west coast to the east coast. It was summer, the weather was hot, and the bird was left on the tarmac in the sun for an unknown period of time. It was dead by the time it arrived in New York.

"Buying a pet bird should be a well considered decision. The buyer should meet the breeder and the baby chick before the 'big day'. He or she should make sure that the bird is properly reared in a healthy and clean environment and that the breeder is the person he or she claims.

"The importance of proper rearing, weaning and socializing cannot be over-emphasized. Apart from the purely ethical considerations of subjecting a living creature to the physical and emotional stress, there are also realistic concerns: A bird that has been shipped is akin to the 'cat in a bag'. Parrots and most other birds are not cheap - anyone investing this much money should be careful.

"A good and ethical breeder will not ship his or her birds under any circumstances. In my opinion anyone who advertises a willingness to ship birds automatically disqualifies him or herself as a responsible, loving and caring breeder.

"Someone once said: 'If you would not do it to your child, don't do it to your bird.'"

As our birds have taught most of us so well by now, there's always something new to learn. Fascinating though it can be to keep and learn about species, colors, or breeds of birds new to us - if obtaining those birds means shipping, you might want to be sure to consider everything involved before committing yourself one way or another.

After all - the life and health of both your birds and your pocketbook could be seriously affected! Isn't it a good idea to be sure you have learned everything you need to know, first?

by R C McDonald
Copyright 2004
Reprinted with Permission

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