This article is from the July/Aug. 1988 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Virginia Pochmann, Danville, CA
I’d like to share with the members of AFRMA the experience of importing English mice. It has really been an obstacle course! A friend of mine who owns a pet shop told me recently that she and her husband were about to go to England on vacation. I said I wish I could go there . . . I’d bring back some fancy mice. She volunteered to bring some back for me, and I was thrilled! Then the problems started. The airline at first did not want to let her bring them back on the flight, saying they would ship only dogs, cats, and birds. Finally they said the mice could come in the pressurized baggage compartment in a strong wooden box, if accompanied by a health certificate from a veterinarian, but could not come in the passenger cabin with her. The cost of the box being shipped as “excess baggage” on her flight would be $76.00. (If shipped by itself, the cost would be $250.00!)
Next we had to deal with U.S . Customs. They required permission from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the Public Health Dept. to permit mice to get into the country from England. That took me at least 5 or 6 phone calls, but I finally got it. The Dept. of Agriculture said some seeds were not permitted to come in from England, so food for the mice had to be carefully selected. Meanwhile, my friend insisted on written confirmation from the airline that the mice would be allowed on the flight, so she wouldn’t be faced with a last minute hassle at the London airport.
Next, I had to find someone in England who was willing to sell me some mice. The first fancier I wrote to regretfully refused, saying she had no suitable box and no excess stock. By the time I received her letter, my friend had already left for England . . . so I had to get on the phone and make an intercontinental phone call to try to find mice! I am a member of the National Mouse Club of England, so I decided to call the President of the N.M.C. for help. I told him I was a mouse breeder in the U.S.A. and a member of the N.M.C., and asked if he would sell me some mice. (He was more than a little amazed, I think.) Such a nice gentleman, with a Yorkshire accent, and a sense of humor, and he agreed to help me. He said to have my friend call him from London, and he would make arrangements for her to come and get the mice. He said he specialized in Self Champagnes, and I asked for a buck and 3 does of excellent type and size, and he was most gracious in agreeing. He built a neat little wooden box for the mice, and my friend drove up to Yorkshire and picked up the mice. Meanwhile, the owner had had the same kind of troubles in England that I had had here ... trying to get a definite answer out of the government as to what exactly was needed in the way of a health certificate. Finally, he just had the vet write up a letter stating that the mice looked fit and healthy, and stamped it all over with official-looking seals . . . hoping that would be adequate. (It was) He told my friend that he was happy to help me get a start with good mice over here, and hoped that we could get a thriving English Mouse Fancy going over here in the United States. (I think it was wonderful of him to take this view.) He also said he will come over here and judge a show for us when we get our English show stock developed! And, he would take no money for the mice, the box, and all his trouble.
Now, my friend had to smuggle the box of mice into her posh hotel in London, which had a strict rule against animals. This she did with the help of the doorman! She got them in and managed to keep them there undetected for 4 days by cleaning the box twice a day and hiding them every time she left the room. She had to smuggle out paper bags containing used bedding twice a day, so the maid wouldn’t guess about the mice! And she left the balcony door open, so there would be no hint of mousey odor as a giveaway.
At Heathrow Airport, she got the mice on the plane without trouble, but when she got off in Los Angeles, she had to wait for 2 hours for them to bring the mice off the plane and give them to her. Then she had to go through Customs and open up the box for them to inspect. Finally, she got them home, here in Danville, at 10:00 p.m., July 11th.
Well, considering the shipping, phone calls to England, extra expenses, etc. these are pretty expensive mice . . . but it was all worth it when I opened up the box and took out these incredible animals. They are BIG and BEAUTIFUL and ELEGANT, from his champion stock . . . and one of the does is (hopefully) bred to his champion buck, already. I’ve never seen anything like them. The ears are so enormous that they could take off in a good wind. The coat is extremely short and glossy, which allows the muscles and shape of the body to show (like on a thoroughbred horse). The tail is very long, and thick where it joins the body . . . and the body tapers out to meet the tail. The head is wide and strong. Head and body is over 5″ long. Tail about 6–6½″ long.
If I’m successful at breeding these mice, I would like to make them available to all interested club members at very reasonable prices, with the idea of all of us getting more or less an even start at breeding them into our American mice, and hopefully improving our American exhibition stock greatly, as to type and size. After all, the English have been at this since 1895, and this is a chance for us to have the benefits of their expertise and genetic improvements in the animal. Maybe in a few years, we will be ready for the N.M.C. President to come over and judge a show for us!