Clint Robertson

Importing and Exporting Pigeons between Canada and the U.S.

Many fanciers have the idea that travelling across the Canada/U.S. border with birds is too difficult and involves a great deal of expense and paper work. I have not found this to be the case.

Firstly, let us discuss the export of birds from Canada to the U.S. It makes no difference if you are attending a show and bringing your birds back with you again, or leaving the birds in the U.S.; the health requirements will be the same. Before you can even consider getting the paper work done, you must be sure your birds are absolutely healthy, and, to the best of your knowledge, free from any type of sickness. This is no different than if you were to be attending a show here in Canada. All pigeons entering the U.S. from Canada must have been vaccinated against Paramyxovirus at least 30 days prior to, and not more than 6 months before export.

The entire procedure must be approved by, and finally, federally certified with a Federal CFIA stamp from the Canadian Food Inspection Vet in charge of your area. The first step you should take is to contact the CFIA office for your area and let them know that you plan to export pigeons to the U.S. and they will let you know exactly what the will require from you. The CFIA now allows your local vet to do the paper work and inspect your birds and your loft. You can then contact your local vet and arrange an appointment for the vet to come out and inspect your birds and your loft.

The vet will want to see all of your birds and all of your lofts regardless if these other birds are being exported. Any sign of sickness will most likely result in your request being denied. It is your responsibility to make sure your birds are healthy and your lofts are clean. The vet will probably check the band numbers and may handle the birds involved. When first contacting the office of the vet who will be doing the inspection you should have available the exact band numbers of the birds to be shipped, and the date they will be travelling, as well as the destination. If you are shipping the birds to someone else in the U.S., they will also need the name, address and phone number of the person receiving them. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking and double checking the band numbers to make sure they are correct on the paper work.

You may want to just fax this information to the vet’s office prior to the visit so they can have much of the paper work filled out prior to the visit. Normally, birds travelling to the U.S. must be inspected within the week of the intended border crossing. Your local vet will inspect the birds and you will have to pay the mileage, as well as the fee for inspection, which is around $75.00. Your local vet will then forward the paper work to the Federal Vet for your area, where it will be given the Federal stamp of approval.

It should be noted that pigeons DO NOT require a salmonella test to qualify for export. Only waterfowl and some poultry require this test, but not pigeons. I have been in contact with the CFIA and have been assured this is the case.

Once you have the paperwork done, contact the United States Department of Agriculture vet at your intended port of entry crossing and make an appointment to have your birds inspected when you cross. You will have to pay another fee for this. Ask what the fee for this will be. If you are crossing after regular work hours or on the weekend, there will be an additional cost, and for sure you will have to make special arrangements with the vets on both sides. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making these appointments and being on time.

Also, make an appointment with the CFIA vet for your return crossing, because your paper work will again have to be inspected when you re-enter Canada on the Canadian side. Being punctual and courteous could make all the difference in the world for you getting through quickly and without a hassle. Do not worry if you sell or leave birds in the U.S. that were on our papers. All that matters is that the birds you do have are listed. It is wise not to say too much. Just answer questions and be polite. You will also be asked the value of your birds. We are always tempted to put high values on what we have, but whatever you do, do not over value your birds.

If you are flying into the U.S. with your birds, your birds will have to be inspected at the first Port of Entry at the airport you arrive at. Make sure when booking your flight that you will be landing at an airport where a USDA vet is available and make sure you or your travel agent informs them that you will have pigeons to be inspected.

Importing Pigeons from the U.S.

When importing pigeons from the U.S. similar procedures apply. Pigeons entering Canada from the U.S. must be vaccinated against Paramyxovirus within 6 months and more than 30 days before entering Canada. The person sending you the birds will have to get them inspected by their local vet, who will then have the papers stamped by the USDA vet for the area. The birds and papers must then be inspected by the CFIA vet at the first Port of Entry. The birds must be inspected within an amount of time specified by the CFIA or the papers will not be valid. Again, make sure you notify the vet at the intended Port of Entry. We are fortunate that there is no quarantine required for pigeons travelling between Canada and the U.S. It is also important to know that pigeons cannot be sent by mail between the U.S. and Canada.

Exporting Pigeons Overseas

Every country has different health requirements. If you are planning to send pigeons overseas you must first contact the CFIA and ask what the requirements are to send birds to that specific country. They will find this out for you. For instance, some countries require birds to be vaccinated against Paramyxovirus, and other countries, such as Australia, require that the birds must not be vaccinated. Some countries require incoming birds to be quarantined, while other countries, such as many in the Middle East, do not require that the birds be quarantined.

The person importing the birds must first go to their government ministry of agriculture office and get a permission to import permit. This will also list the requirements for importing to that country. You must then have a signed, stamped copy sent to you to present to the CFIA, and this will have to accompany the birds when they are sent along with the health papers. The permission to import permit will have an expiry date on it also. Normally it is valid for about 30 days.

I have found booking proper airline flight with acceptable connections can be frustrating. There are often transit fees involved, and some very strict requirements, depending on the airline, for the type and construction of shipping crates for the birds. If you contact the airline, they will provide you with crate requirements. When shipping overseas, most airlines require that the crates must provide the birds access to feed and water. Also, some require that each bird be in an individual stall. Make sure you follow the requirements, or they will not think twice about rejecting the shipment, or worse, having it get to the first connection and have it rejected by the next airline and sent back at your expense.