What about Maggie?

n 2008 my husband and I, along with Maggie, my Timneh African grey began our retirement dream of cruising America’s Great Loop on our 30-foot boat. We cruised up the east coast of the US and into Canada at Kingston, Ontario, where my husband cleared customs via phone from the dock. No one questioned us about the presence of a parrot on board, and even though I had checked the internet before we left as to regulations about traveling with parrots, I had found no info about the CITES treaty. I had taken Maggie to the vet and had her wings clipped and she was given her polyomavirus vaccine. I had the receipt with me just in case. We traveled through the Trent-Severn Waterway system in Canada and checked back into the US at Drummond Island, MI, where the customs official commented on Maggie’s presence with a shrug.

The following year we drove across the US with a camper trailer with Maggie sitting atop her travel cage in the back seat of our truck for most of the trip. We crossed the border into Canada somewhere in Montana. No mention was made of Maggie, sitting in plain sight atop her cage. In fact, the Canadian customs official barely even looked at us when he checked our passports.

We drove across Canada and passed into AK at the tiny outpost of Beaver Creek, where the young customs agent talked to Maggie and laughed at her whistling. But then, a few weeks later, when we crossed back into Canada I heard the first mention of the CITES treaty. The Canadian customs official told me that, while she could legally confiscate my bird, this time she would not. I was flabbergasted! I told her I had checked the internet and the only regulation I could find was that the bird be a pet and have been in my possession for more than 90 days. We thanked her and went on our merry way until we came to the border crossing near Seattle.

The official told us to park and go into the office, where our passports would be returned to us. We were mystified, to say the least. I stayed in the truck with Maggie, thinking, in my naivete, that my husband could walk in, retrieve our passports and away we’d go. NOT! An officer walked by and asked why I was in the truck. I explained to him and he told me to go into the office also. I put the windows down in the truck, thankful for the breeze, and obeyed. (Inside, I found out I could not even go to the restroom without a hassle.) We waited for quite awhile until a vet came, looked at Maggie, commented on her toys, and said he’d have to call Fish and Wildlife.

We also had to write him a check, the amount of which, I have forgotten. After another wait, the F&W man arrived and proceeded to explain the CITES treaty and my criminal negligence. As he was busy writing I explained again that all I had found on the internet was a notice that the bird would have to have been a pet and in my possession for 90 days. He seemed surprised and asked if I had actually attempted to do the right thing. “Of course! I knew there might be some sort of restrictions, but if it’s on the internet I couldn’t find it. I found nothing about parrot passports!” (Apparently the info had been posted after I had already done a search, since I had wanted to be prepared well ahead of time.) He was very nice and tore up the ticket since I had at least made an attempt and he really seemed to sympathize. By the time we finally got to the truck and on our way, we felt a little less criminal, but wonder how in the world we have all these illegal aliens among us.

Ninety days later a vet from the NC state office came by to check on Maggie’s health. She was quite pleasant and we enjoyed a chat with her before she went on her way. Now we are contemplating another trip with the camper, but when I looked at the gov’t website I see the forms need to be processed 60 days before the trip and we don’t have that much time. It might be easier to board Maggie for three weeks than to go through the hassles. Easier for me, but what about Maggie?

Comments are closed.