Shipping chinchillas in the mail (or any animal, for that matter) is controversial practise. But you may be left in a situation where you have no other choice. So, what’s the truth behind the controversy?
Can you ship chinchillas through the mail? You can, although it’s cruel to leave an animal in a stressful situation, unattended, for long periods of time. USPS, UPS and Fedex don’t carry live chinchillas so they have to be flown as cargo on planes in special crates (not envelopes or parcels!). Many countries prohibit the import of animals or have hefty import fees instead.
For these reasons and more, you should consider purchasing from a local breeder or ideally a rescue center. The guide below explores how much it costs to ship a chinchilla, who can do it for you, and whether it’s cruel or not.
Can You Ship a Chinchilla?
If you live somewhere where chinchillas are uncommon pets, your only option may be to import one. So long as it’s legal to import chinchillas to your country, it’s possible to do so. This also means that it’s possible for you to legally breed, package and ship chinchillas from countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. You can also ship a chinchilla cross country.
So, you can send a chinchilla to someone else by mail. But that doesn’t mean putting the animal in an envelope, sealing it, and sending it off. Instead, the chinchilla has to be shipped in the right conditions to ensure that it survives transit. Let’s find out how that’s done.
Can You Send a Chinchilla in the Mail?
Shipping chinchillas is done with pet crates. These are like large kennels that the animal is kept in. To be shipped either nationally or internationally, the crate has to meet the specifications of the shipping company. These regulations typically relate to:
- The size of the cage
- The ventilation available to the animal inside
- The use of bedding and the provision of food
If the crate doesn’t meet these specifications, it won’t be shipped. Shipping companies have brands that they recommend to that a shipper knows that the crate will be accepted before shipping it.
Can Chinchillas Be Shipped by USPS, UPS or Fedex?
As you may have guessed, the above means that you cannot ship chinchillas by regular mail. USPS, UPS and Fedex will not carry chinchillas. It’s viewed as too much of a risk, as if the chinchilla dies, then the company would be blamed by the customer and may have to foot a bill.
Instead, chinchillas are sent as cargo on airplanes.
Do Chinchillas Die in Transit when Shipped?
If every care is taken when shipping a chinchilla, it should get to its destination safely. Pets sent as cargo on planes are kept in controlled conditions where they don’t get too hot, or too cold. However, there are still things that can go wrong during shipping:
- Your chinchilla can become stressed by being kept near other animals
- Your chinchilla’s crate may be handled roughly, either accidentally or though poor service
- The chinchilla could have underlying health conditions that mean it won’t handle the unusual circumstances
- Your chinchilla could run out of food and water
Many breeders operate a policy whereby you don’t pay if your chinchilla doesn’t make it through transit. It’s worth talking to the individual breeder or owner about their honest experiences before making any purchase.
Can You Ship a Chinchilla Internationally?
It is possible to ship chinchillas internationally. But your country may have laws against importing animals, or prohibitive fees on importing them. The U.S. also has several rules and regulations that must be adhered to when exporting, and this becomes your problem if you’re importing from there.
One group that does ship chinchillas internationally is Chinchillas.com. They are based in Ohio, but can ship to countries around the world. They charge a $1600 fee (as of 16/03/2020) per shipment of 1-8 chinchillas. This is a prohibitive price, but it’s not solely so they can make a profit. The fee goes towards:
- The cost of air freight
- The cost of the air way bill/AWB. This is a receipt issued by international airlines for goods.
- The cost of the crate that the chinchilla/s are shipped in.
- Paperwork from local vets, plus the cost of a checkup.
- The cost of United States Department of Agriculture Veterinary Health Papers
- United States Department of Agriculture Export Documentation Fee (except Canadian exports)
- One Trip to USDA Office in Columbus, Ohio (except Canadian exports)
- US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Annual Permit Fee
- US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Export Inspection Fee
- US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife CLAN Assessment Fee
- US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife After-Hours Inspection Fee (if applicable)
- US Department of Fish and Wildlife Declaration of Export Document Preparation and Filing
- US Department of Commerce Export Document Preparation and Filing (if applicable)
- Commercial Invoice Preparation
- One Trip to Port of Export in Chicago, Illinois
- On-site Insurance
As you can see, there are lots of fees and lots of paperwork involved. This means it’s only infrequently worth going through all the hassle. It typically only makes sense if you don’t have any breeders whatsoever in your country.
Shipping Internationally during Summer
One thing to note is that breeders don’t typically ship chinchillas over the summer months. That’s because the conditions during transit and shipping wouldn’t be favorable for chinchillas.
Chinchillas are from high up in the mountains, and prefer cold weather. That’s why they have thick coats of fur. If you’ve ever owned a chinchilla, you’ll know they aren’t supposed to sit in direct sunlight or overexert themselves as they can overheat. This same issue applies to shipping.
Shipping a chinchilla during colder months is much safer. A chinchilla can survive temperatures of below freezing, so even in the unlikely event that the animal is left somewhere it shouldn’t be for a long time, it should be safe. But even ten minutes of hot conditions can be too much for a chinchilla.
As such, many breeders ship only in the fall/autumn and winter months. Chinchillas.com, for example, ship between the months of October through May. Other sellers specify that they will only ship when they can guarantee that the temperature will stay between 32 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which rules out warmer seasons and harsh winters.
Legal and Regulatory Issues
Some countries and some U.S. states have made it illegal to import or export pets. In the U.S., Hawaii is the best example: you can’t import anything, even much more common pets than chinchillas. The only exception is for scientific research, and even then any animals being imported are under strict control.
Most countries and most U.S. states don’t have rules that are anywhere near as strict as that. But things you might encounter include:
- Import fees
- Mandatory vet visits
- Lots of paperwork!
As such, you should check with the relevant authorities in your country to see whether it’s legal to import chinchillas and what regulations may apply. Otherwise, your chinchilla may be confiscated when it gets to the country, or you may be faced with a large unexpected fee.
To find out whether you can legally import chinchillas to your country, talk to the Department of Agriculture or equivalent body. You can likely find information online, but it’s better to be certain by doing the research yourself.
Cost of Shipping a Chinchilla
The cost of shipping a chinchilla is high. That’s because of the crates you have to use to ship them. These crates are big and bulky, and add significantly to the weight of the overall shipment. So, whether your shipping company calculates cost using weight, size, or a combination of both, it’s going to cost you.
The exact price depends on the carrier you’re using. But it will likely cost you more than $1000.
Cost of Shipping Chinchillas Internationally
The cost of shipping internationally is more than shipping nationally. That’s because there’s so much more time and effort involved in doing so, and because chinchillas are exotic animals that take a long time to breed.
ChinchillaAngora.com, for example, have a $5000 minimum fee for shipping chinchillas out of Canada (where they’re based). These costs must be paid in full before shipping.
This is one of the core reasons why you should consider buying or rescuing locally. The only instances that this might be worth it is if your country has no breeders, or if you need exceptional breeding stock for your own ranch.
Is Shipping Chinchillas Cruel?
This is a difficult question to answer because shipping chinchillas in the mail is a point of controversy among owners and breeders. But at the same time, some countries don’t have breeders, or only have very few, meaning that there’s no other way to have a chinchilla but to import one.
Shipping is at least not the optimal way to transport a chinchilla from A to B. Ideally, you would go and pick up the chinchilla yourself, and transport it in a carrier. That way, you could check on it, tend to it and feed it. Even then it would be stressed by the journey, but this is far better than leaving the chinchilla unattended for long periods of time as it’s shipped. It’s an animal, not a thing, after all.
We would recommend exhausting every possible avenue before shipping a chinchilla nationally or internationally. That means:
- Check that there are no reputable breeders local to you
- Check that there are no rescues local to you
- Check that there are no random people advertising chinchillas for sale near you (it’s best not to encourage backyard breeding, but it’s also bad to ship animals long distance, so this is a big decision to make)
- Check if either the shipper or the recipient can pick up the chinchilla in person
- Check if there isn’t at least a breeder in the same country you can ship from, rather than internationally (this will save on paperwork, too)
However, we also recognize that people are going to do what they’re going to do regardless of what others think, or that sometimes you have no choice. If either of those points apply to you, take as much care and precaution before you ship a chinchilla as possible.