By Editor Barbara Crown, in collaboration with Fabian Conde of Global Hunters CHB
At The Hunting Report
, we've been asked numerous times, "Do I really need a customs broker to clear my trophies through US Customs and US Fish and Wildlife? Can't I do that myself?" We know that some hunters will bring home a trophy from Mexico, Canada, and even overseas as part of their checked baggage. But can you clear a separate shipment of numerous trophies? To get an answer and some guidance, we turned to Fabian Conde of Global Hunters.
"There is no legal requirement for you to hire a customs broker to clear your trophies," he says. "However, you need to be aware that the importer -- meaning you, the hunter -- is ultimately responsible for knowing and ensuring that the importation complies with all federal rules and regulations. Using a customs broker can save you from making costly mistakes."
According to a study by Vanderbilt University (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/
) "nonfood animal products," which includes hunting trophies, are at the top of a list of 15 items considered the most difficult to import into the US. In fact, nonfood animal products are number three on the list. Drugs are number eight. Explosives are number nine. Why is that? For one thing, hunting trophies need to clear several government agencies before officially entering the country. Those agencies are:
· US Department of Agriculture
(USDA) will perform an inspection at the port of entry where the trophies arrive. In general, the importer, or his agent, must be present for this inspection to take place.
· Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) and US Public Health Service
(USPHS) may become involved as well. For some particular trophies, such as primates (baboon, Vervet monkey) and porcupines, you will need clearance from both divisions in order to proceed with the clearing process through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In some cases you may even need to apply for import permits prior to arrival of shipment. This is true with ostrich feathers, for example.
· US Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) will inspect items to ensure they meet requirements of the Endangered Species Act and CITES. Depending on the species, they will require specific export/import documentation that must be completed to their exact specifications or the items may be seized. The Hunting Report
reports often on such seizures, as does John J. Jackson, III, of Conservation Force. See the Conservation Force Bulletin
delivered with each issue of your newsletter for this kind of news.
· Customs and Border Protection
A customs clearing broker who specializes clearing hunting trophies will know the requirements of each agency and walk the gauntlet for you. Should you choose to clear a shipment on your own, you'll need to check on the requirements of each agency before sending your trophies home. Conde promises to help us give you a more comprehensive explanation of the process involved with each of these agencies in future articles.
Other things to consider are logistics and coordination. Once you are notified by the airline or maritime shipper that your trophy shipment has arrived, the clock begins to tick on storage charges and continues until you ultimately clear your trophies through all government agencies. Depending on your trophies, you will have to coordinate delivery to an approved taxidermy establishment as well. These are taxidermists or tanneries approved by USDA and required by law to re-process non-mounted trophies. (More on this in a future article.) You'll have to use a bonded transport company for your delivery too. FedEx and UPS are bonded for example, but may not be your best choices due to the expense. (Although a broker would likely have better negotiated rates with these companies.)
Conde has these final words: "Clearing your trophies yourself is not impossible, but may not be as easy as you'd expect and for sure will demand time and patience. Whatever expense you saved by not using a customs broker, you could easily exceed in just storage fees that the airline or port will charge you for holding your trophies while you go through the entire clearing process. Depending on how long the process takes, those fees could be anywhere from $100 to over $1,000. Of course, you also need to consider the value of the time you have to spend, and whether it will take multiple trips to clear each agency.
"Consider also that a customs broker undergoes extensive examinations to be licensed by the Treasury Department and is up-to-date on all the new rules and laws applicable to hunting trophies, which can change monthly. Also, customs brokers are audited every year by the FBI, reviewing their transactions with CBP and all other government agencies while representing both individuals and companies.
"If you choose to use a customs broker, it is of utmost importance that you select one that specializes in hunting trophies. Not all brokers are familiar with the requirements of trophy importations."