American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Winter 2006 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Shipping Notes

Excerpt from the article “The Great Shipment, Importing Rats and Mice from England 2004” in the 2006 WSSF AFRMA newsletter

By Karen Robbins

Read the “Shipping Rodents” article first

Some Tips on International Shipping
  • Plan for problems
  • Contact both countries as well as the airline you use to find out what is required on each end for sending them out and bringing them in. Then contact whatever departments they say will require paperwork and get something in writing as to what they do or don’t need.
  • Make sure you have a vet lined up to do the vet check and get that important health certificate. You should be able to have all the animals listed on the one certificate.
  • Make sure all of your paperwork says they are “domestic pets.”
  • Get any letters from the breeders that may be required when you visit them to pick up your stock, i.e. saying they are not wild, etc.
  • Make the appointment with the airline to get them shipped. Ask about any holidays in each country for the day you want them shipped.
        Ask about the weather on each end during your shipping time—if it is too cold or too hot they won’t ship them. You should do this just prior to the shipping day and may even need to call that morning before you make the trip to the airport.
        Get a non-stop flight—layovers throw in additional time the animals spend not at their destination and there is a chance for something to go wrong at this point.
  • Provide the shipping boxes yourself (make sure they are airline approved) or verify that the boxes (sizes, number and size of compartments) and what is put into them as far as bedding, nesting material, food, and water if you use a shipping company, is correct.
  • Have a contact at the other end and a possible place to help care for the animals if needed.
  • We ended up dealing with British Air cargo (the airline that they were shipped on), Customs, U.S.D.A., and the Public Health department.
  • If you use a shipping company, expect to pay a lot more than if you do it yourself. They should provide the health certificate, shipping paperwork, make the arrangements with the airlines, supply the shipping boxes and animal’s food/ bedding/water. They should also be able to tell you what you will need to do on your end when you get them from the airport.
  • For domestic flights you normally only need a health certificate, an appointment with the airline, and pay the shipping fee.
  • Plan for problems!
Some Tips on Shipping Regarding the Animals and the Containers
  • Get extra animals than what you ordered so in case you lose some before the shipment, during quarantine, or during breeding, you will still have stock to work with for that particular color/type. Getting pregnant females due shortly after the flight will give you additional stock from different males than what you brought in to work with.
  • There can be no spaces whatsoever at tops or bottoms of dividers.
  • Dividers must be solid so they don’t fight through the wire.
  • Dividers must be wire lined so they can’t chew through and visit/fight with each other during the shipment.
  • Wire must be ¼ inch so they can’t stick their feet/toes, noses through.
  • Male mice will fight and kill each other so cannot be put together. Some females will fight when from different breeders. Female mice can get pregnant as soon as 4 weeks.
  • When dividing up mice, they either need to be separated by the trios of colors (1 male, 2 females), or the males into individual compartments and the females together, or by another predetermined order. When getting animals from different breeders, it is important to keep them separated from other mice from other breeders as they can carry bacteria/viruses that are harmful to the other mice but are okay with them. Put them through a quarantine period and get them used to each other slowly to evaluate if anyone is carrying anything harmful to each other.
  • Adult rats may fight and cause injury so must be separated. Young babies will get along fine together, but the sexes must be separated. The females can get pregnant as soon as 5 weeks.
  • Water bottles must be used, not water dishes. They just shove all their bedding into water bowls and then they don’t have any water. You can use something different for moisture such as gel packs, jell-O blocks, etc. Potatoes, cucumbers, apples, etc., may be used as an additional moisture source but water is extremely important and must be provided in an adequate source for the length of the flight.
  • They need to have shredded paper for nesting/hiding along with the wood shavings/paper bedding for the bottom of the floor.
  • Find out what the animals were being fed by the breeders you purchase your stock from and try to get some to use on the flight so they aren’t stressed from a sudden change of diet. If you use a shipping company, give them a list of the food required for the animals. Try to put extra food in the boxes so there will be some left over once they get to their destination so you can mix with your own for a gradual change to the new diet. Seed mixes will provide some moisture and can be added to their existing diet for the trip. *

Back to “Shipping Rodents” article

Additional Tips

If you are not sure where to start, start with the airport to see which airlines fly from the country you are getting the animals shipped from, to arrive here in the U.S. and which airports they fly in to. Then find out which airlines will ship animals and which types of critters they allow. Not all can ship animals as cargo as it requires a pressurized cargo hold. There are some airlines here in the States that will allow a pet on board as extra baggage in an approved carrier when you are the passenger (only certain pets allowed though).

Next step you will need to find out what each country requires to export rats/mice from one and import to the other. Contact the airlines that do ship to see what the rules are on shipping domestic pet rats/mice (make sure you stress “domestic pet rats/mice” so they don’t think it is a lab rat/mouse or wild rat/mouse), what that airline requires as far as shipping containers, health certificates, paperwork, permits, fees (the fees vary from airline to airline and with each department/agency you have to deal with), appointment times (direct flights from point A to point B are best, especially if it is a long flight so the animals get there quicker), what time before the flight to drop off the critters, etc. The person that is gathering together the animals for you in the country they are flying out of should be able to get the information for their end and get the health certificates and other paperwork needed to fly them out.

Then you will need to find out what your end requires to bring in domestic pet rats/mice from the country they are flying out of. The country they fly out of may not require much to put them on a plane to you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a bunch of paperwork on this end and additional fees you will have to pay. Most airlines will require a health certificate and you would have to contact your local customs (and any other department to see what they require in paperwork, permits, etc., e.g. Fish & Wildlife, Dept. of Agriculture, Health Dept., etc.). Just because one may say pet rats don’t need anything special, doesn’t mean they all will. You need to contact each one separately. Also, each one may have a fee, permit, or their own paperwork that must be taken care of sometimes ahead of time. Also, find out if you need an appointment at any of these departments. If is helpful if you have a name/talk to the person that you will be dealing with when they actually arrive, so they will be expecting your animals when they come in. You will need an appointment with the airlines to do the actual shipping. I know there is no quarantine bringing rats and mice into the U.S. from England.

A lot of the initial checking can be done online, but it will get to a point you will have to call the various agencies/airline to make final arrangements and to make sure there will be no issues bringing in the rats/mice.

There are now animal shipping companies that will handle the export part of the shipment but not all have experience or will ship rodents. If you use an animal shipping company, you will still need to take care of things on your end to bring them into the U.S.

Shipping rats and mice between countries has been done but is VERY expensive. I used an animal shipping company to do the 2004 shipment from England—they took care of shipping crates, health certificates, paperwork with the airline on their end, and getting them to the airport, but I had to take care of my end’s paperwork/fees/etc., when they arrived.

For more information on shipping, see the following articles:

Links to various agencies:

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Updated June 9, 2023