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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 http://www.upatsix.com/asc/ 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,
by R C McDonald
Reprinted with Permission