Post Office Handles Mail That Chirps, Clucks And Coos

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Mike McCleery walked into the Payson Post Office Tuesday afternoon and asked if he could mail 45 live pigeons.

Serenaded by the murmuring sounds of cooing pigeons, customers looked on with expressions of bewilderment.

But for postal workers, this little-known part of their job is routine.

"We ship a lot of birds," said Postmaster Kathleen Almendaraz. "Like pheasants, pigeons and baby chicks. Lots of baby chicks come through our office. People order them through the Internet and catalogues. There's one person in town who mails a lot of pheasants. When people ask him how they survive, he said he puts an apple inside the container."

But Almendaraz warned that you can't just mail any live animal. There are restrictions that dictate which living creatures can legally be mailed, and how they must be handled.

"They have to be shipped by Express Mail (overnight) in approved containers. The post office will ship adult fowl and small, harmless, cold-blooded animals that do not require food or water -- with the exception of snakes and turtles," Almendaraz said.

"Other than the birds, that means no warm-blooded animals. So no dogs, cats, pigs or animals like that."

Things that creep and crawl are also on the approved list of mailable items.

"We do a lot of live insects like bees, crickets and worms. But no poisonous or disease-carrying insects," Almendaraz said.

The question still remains, why did McCleery, a 53-year-old hospital employee, need to mail 45 pigeons?

"That's kind of an interesting story," McCleery explains. "I started raising pigeons when I was 11 or 12 years old. Then, when I moved to Payson last March, I decided to do it again.

McCleery said that pigeon breeders are more common than people might think. "It's a hobby that people really enjoy. Most of the birds I had were Birmingham Rollers. These are birds that fly up and spin as they come down. It's very entertaining."

But Tuesday, McCleery took all his birds to the post office and mailed them in three different packages to other breeders in the United States.

"The reason I shipped all these birds out is because I found out that I'm allergic to them. I've been sick since Halloween and it took me this long figure it out."

For more information about mailing live animals, call the post office at (928) 474-2972.

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