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5 Concerns & Considerations for Buying and Shipping an Exotic Pet

Published on: November 2, 2017  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

macaw bird 

When we write in our blog about shipping your pets, we usually talk about dogs and cats. They are by far the most common household pets. But a pet can be virtually any animal, from a mouse to a horse, and for a few people, at least, the more exotic the better. While it may seem fun to choose an unusual pet, there are several things to think about before you make that decision.

Zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, aquariums, and similar institutions regularly ship animals internationally in the course of doing business. Those animals can range from tiny crustaceans to elephants, from benign to highly dangerous. But the acquisition and shipping rules that apply to private pet owners are different from those that apply to these organizations. 

1. Does the exotic pet you’re considering pass the “what if” test?

Before acquiring any potential family pet, but especially an unusual one, you should consider all these factors:

  • How big it will get
  • How long it will live
  • Personality
  • Safety (physical and health)
  • Kid-appropriateness
  • Availability of pet-sitters or other care
  • “Housing” requirements
  • Activity level/exercise requirements
  • Dietary requirements
  • Availability of appropriate veterinary care
  • Cost of ownership over the animal’s likely lifespan 

If your life changes, will you still be able to care for the animal?

2. Does the country you’re moving to allow your particular type of exotic pet to be imported?

Exotic can have a rather broad definition. While many of us immediately think of boa constrictors and tigers or other wild animals, exotics can include birds and fish. And in some countries, ferrets or rabbits or your child’s guinea pig may be considered “exotic” – at least when it comes to pet import laws. Furthermore, many countries will not allow you to import hybrid pets – for example, a dog that is part wolf or coyote, or a cat that has Bengal in their recent ancestry. 

Every country has different rules (and airline rules vary as well). So if you’re planning to ship an exotic, or potentially “exotic,” pet, the first step is learning what is allowed. 

3. Not every pet shipper can handle exotic pets

It takes greater knowledge and experience to ship exotic animals than it does to transport only dogs and cats. Not only are the regulations and resulting paperwork far more complex, but the logistics are also far more complicated. Exotic animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Some require water, others require highly specialized crating. 

A pet transport company that focuses on family pets can probably handle your kid’s rabbit or ferret, too, but they simply are not equipped with the knowledge or physical capabilities required to ship exotic animals. 

4. The worldwide exotic animal trade has a terrible reputation

Tens of thousands of animals from baby snakes and turtles to monkeys and macaws are essentially kidnapped from their homes in the wild and sold to would-be “pet” owners around the world (though mostly in the US). Because it is illegal to buy or own many of these animals, they are smuggled instead of being shipped humanely. The vast majority die. Many species carry diseases that are easily communicable to humans and/or other pets. 

5. Why be “cool,” when you can be a hero instead?

Why do you even want an exotic pet? For most people, it’s the desire to be different. However, when you honestly consider the pros and cons of long-term exotic pet ownership, it’s not a good idea. If you want to be really “cool,” consider adopting a shelter pet. Shelters and rescue groups offer every conceivable type and size of dog and cat, not to mention a variety of small, kid-friendly animals. The one thing they all have in common is the need for a permanent, loving home.  

When you rescue a pet, you get an animal that’s entirely appropriate for your family and lifestyle. One that’s in good health and socialized, perhaps even already trained in obedience or dog sports skills. You’re saving a life and gaining years’ worth of immeasurable affection and loyalty. Non-domesticated species of animals, by nature, couldn’t care less about you. 

And if you’re still leaning toward the exotic, adopt a pet with a weird trait or talent and go “social” with them. You could both become famous.

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