(Photo: Beau, Light Steel Continental Giant Buck, note the British style hutch construction
Courtesy David Boggis, Ipswich, England)

Importing Rabbits (USA) - What To Know

By Bob Whitman

I probably have the question "What does it take to import rabbits?" asked of me more often than any single one, so for those of you that need to know or want to know what is required to import rabbits and/or cavies from a foreign country, here's the gist of it all. I've certainly had the experience in shipping them having imported from New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Scotland and many many times from England.

1. You must have a shipping agent that is licensed for that country. (The events of September 1, 2001 changed the world forever for sure!) Not easy to get an agent lined up, especially when your here and they're there. They always have lots of questions, cause typically they are more use to shipping dogs and cats, but every country requires an agent, so just don't show up at the airport and expect to ship the rabbits, cause it isn't going to happen. The hassles I had getting my first shipment of rabbits from New Zealand was a governmental nightmare with the NZ government until I had a head vet from USDA assured them that they would allow the rabbits entry into the US. It turned out that I was the first person from anywhere to ever import rabbits from their country, it just never had been done before therefore all the potential red tape was about to strangle us (Sitereh and myself).

2. Someone willing (the breeder) to sell you the animals and deal with an agent/shipping firm. Prices typically go up for the animals, when they know they are being shipped overseas and/or for the hassels they will be faced with unless they have done it before. NOTE: Most breeders DO NOT WANT to go through the efforts required to ship. This is the #1 problem with importing.

3. Got to have that health certificate, which is really but of little use (I've had snotty noses, weepy eye, etc cleared by the vet from the host country)....just an extra way to get money out of you. Certificate cannot be over 10 days old and of course issued by a licensed vet. Shipping firms that specialize in animal transport will often take care of this for you if you are lucky. Just one certificate is required with all animals listed, therefore just a flat fee.

4. Carriers must be IATA approved, not difficult, but again the seller must provide them...NOTE: This can be very costly if not done correctly the first time around. I've had that happen with a shipment of rabbits from New Zealand that the cages had to be modified before the Vet would issue the certificate and they nearly missed the flight. Airline will provide you with the IATA shipping container requirements. Plastic dog and cat kennels will work, but not if your importing lots. Note: No vegetable matter or grain is allowed in the shipping carrier(s) and that includes hay/straw, but wood shavings are allowed for bedding. Of course feed and water containers are required. Most airlines will not ship animals when the tempature is over 80 degrees along the route or less than 25 degrees. Shipping rates are based on cubic feet and a weight ratio calculation. Carriers need to be as light weight as possible. I had one shipment of rabbits where the crate weighed easily 250 lbs. and the total amount of rabbits wasn't even 50 lbs. :o( Boy did that shipment cost me heaps for a box.

5. Typically a rabbit, shipping cost, agent fees, health certificate, carrier, etc., etc. will cost you at the lowest end about $120.00 if you are lucky....but up to $250.00 typically max and that includes the price of the rabbit. Don't ever think of importing just a pair or trio because the cost will eat you alive. It is just as cheap in the long run to bring in 10 animals compared to 2. The more you import the cheaper it actually becomes in the long run. I do know of one couple who imported just 5 rabbits, when all was said an done those rabbits by the time they reached their destination cost $1,000.00 each.

6. It is not done over night, but you sure better trust the shipper (seller), cause they are going to have all your money before you have anything. I've never had anyone not ship the animals, but I did have a shipment of 30 Lionheads once, and 29 were knocked in the head when I was unloading them here...bad teeth, mis-colored eyes, colds, you name it, so better than $3000.00 got kissed off that day for nothing and I never saw a dime of my money back. But I did get the satisfaction of putting him out of the rabbit shipping business so that another poor soul State side didn't get stuck ever again.

7. Normally you'll have to do a wire bank transfer, which can take time or wire the money Western Union, but don't count of the conversion rates that you find on the internet, cause it cost much more, pretty much figure that about 20% additional to what you will need to actually pay the seller. The animals cannot be shipped "Collect", but some shipping firms/agents will accept credit cards, but rarely PayPal.

8. CUSTOMS - Usually not a problem, animals will be cleared at the first port of entry, ie, rabbits coming from England to Houston will usually first land in Atlanta, then transfer to another plane for Houston. Then I just pick them up. But if they fly straight into Houston, I have to clear the animals through Customs, not difficult as there is no duty on rabbits or cavies. DON'T get the US Fish and Wildlife people or USDA involved, especially the former, cause if they ask you the species, which is Oryctolagus Cuniculus, there is a law on the books that you cannot import them into the US. Believe you me a couple of years ago many, many and I mean many shipments of rabbits were being refused entry and shipped right back to the country of origin from several of the US Eastern points of entry, costing the buyer plenty. Just tell them they are "Domestic Rabbits" for breeding stock or Show animals. Fortunate for me I've never had it happen.

9. QUARANTINE - Do not import from a country or area that has had a recent outbreak of VHD aka RHD it's not worth the risk of your stock or that of others in this country. Newly imported rabbits need to be quarantined for at least 10 days and I'm not talking about across the isle of your other rabbits. Ideally it's off your property at a none rabbit person's home. If VHD is going to happen it's going to be very shortly after the animals arrive. Quite a few respectible breeders in foreign countries will vaccinate their stock for VHD. AND above all else, leave those newly imported rabbits at home and don't plop them on the next rabbit show table, just because you brought in those high dollar Netherland Dwarfs (an example). Believe you me, this is do ALL the time. If you want to make a "BIG"name for yourself on the American rabbit scene, you just bring in a rabbit that has been infected with VHD and it spreads at a rabbit show. It hasn't happened yet, but it certainly is very very possible. Be responsible one can never be too careful!

10. If you can, it is always better for you to go to the country your importing from, see the stock, but do your homework before to travel. When I go overseas to bring back animals, I have carriers that collaspe, take my own feed and water cups and put the carriers together there, saves quite a bit of money in the long run and I know that my carriers are airline approved.

11. TRANQUILIZERS - Have a hand full of tranquilizers on hand, because I don't care how well you have done your homework and planned your importing, your nerves will be "SHOT" by the time the animals are safe at their new homes. lol Really it's not funny as it can be very stressful!

That's about all I can think of that you need to know, but please don't ask me to locate the breeders or stock for you, 'cause your own your own with that one.

Bob Whitman
Rare Bits & Pieces
web site: http://www.rarebitsandpieces.com
email: rarebits@ev1.net

Originally posted Feb 20 2006 Rare Breed Rabbits Group on yahoogroups
Crossposted by permission

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