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Packaging Live Shipments

17. Do you have a how-to video showing the packing process?

We do! Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

NOTE: This video includes the use of a heat pack in the demonstration. Not all shipments need a heat pack! In fact, most do not. Please refer to our Temperature Guidelines to determine whether or not your package needs one.


See the ShipYourReptiles Get Help section for complete guidelines on packing and shipping, Terms of Service, and information on our SYR Live Arrival Insurance.

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18. The RIGHT way to pack a reptile

  1. Gather your shipping supplies.

    ShipYourReptiles.com shipping kits contain everything you need:

    • Insulated box of the appropriate size
    • Zip tie
    • Deli cup and/or cloth reptile bag, matched to type and size of animal
    • Heat pack
    • Cold pack
    • Self adhering label envelope
    • ShipYourReptiles.com Shipping Tips and Quick Referral sheet Download it now
    • Harmless LIVE REPTILE label for the interior of your box (included in above link)

    You provide the packing material (usually crumpled newspaper).

    You may use your own supplies, but they must meet or exceed ShipYourReptiles.com Shipping Standards.

    Start your heat pack two hours before shipping. More info

    Freeze your cold pack overnight. More info

  2. Prepare the shipping box

    Insert the insulating foam panels on the bottom and sides of your box if necessary.

    Ventilate the box by punching four 1/4" holes with a Philips screwdriver. Punch them from the outside in, going through the box and the insulating foam. Do this before you put anything else (especially your reptile) in the box.

  3. Create a nest with packing material

    Crumpled newspaper works well. Line the bottom and sides of the box so the deli cup or reptile bag will rest securely in the nest.

    Not all shipments require a heat pack! In fact, most do not need them. Please refer to our Temperature Guidelines to determine whether or not your package needs one. If you do use a heat pack, please read the following carefully: Tape the heat pack to the underside of your lid, red line visible. Do not tape over the red line. Don’t use a heat pack that feels hard or stiff. The red line should face the interior of the box.
     

    5 Critical Points for Heat Pack Use

    A. Heat packs should never come into direct contact with the animal bag/container. 

    B. There should always be crumpled newspaper or other packaging material between the heat pack and animal bag/container.

    C. Heat pack should never be placed under an animal bag/container, as it will result in high likelihood of DOA.

    D. Heat pack should be taped securely to underside of the styrofoam lid. 

    E. We do not recommend heat pack use in any box smaller than the 12x9x6. If you need a heat pack with your shipment, you should use the 12x9x6 box or larger. 

     

  4. Prepare the deli cup or cloth bag

    Inspect the cup or bag to make sure there are no cracks, holes or weak spots.

    Using a Sharpie pen, label the cup or bag with species and sex.

  5. Inspect the animal

    Absolutely NO VENOMOUS or DANGEROUS REPTILES are to be shipped through FedEx or ShipYourReptiles.com. Absolutely no mammals.

    Only ship a healthy animal, with good weight. We prefer not to ship when an animal is in shed. We prefer not to feed a reptile the week before shipping, to prevent regurgitation during shipping.

    Be 100% confident in the animal you’re shipping. Go over it in detail, so you know exactly what your customer will see when opening the package.

  6. Put the animal into the container

    Leave the animal room to move. Use packing material as a cushion, and to absorb any waste.

    Bag—Inspect the bag to be sure there are no holes or broken seams. We prefer to use a zip tie to seal the bag for total security (one is included with each shipping kit). Some shippers tie their bags, others use tape and some use a combination of methods. The main thing is you want the bag to be closed securely.

    Cup—Tape completely around the rim. Be sure not cover the air holes. Re-punch air holes if necessary.

  7. Put the container in the box

    Nestle the cup or bag into the nesting material. The container should not have room to jostle inside the box.

    Put on the top insulating foam panel/lid, with the heat pack or cold pack (if needed) facing down.

    Put your receipt, caresheet and other paperwork on top of the insulating foam lid. Place your harmless LIVE REPTILE label—the one that comes with your shipping kit—on top, with the duplicate shipping address in the space provided. This harmless LIVE REPTILE note should be the first thing a person sees when opening the box. If your harmless LIVE REPTILE label has been lost or damaged, you can download another here

  8. Label your package in accordance with the federal Lacey Act

    You are required to mark the outside of the package with a complete list of the animal(s) inside, including quantities, common names and scientific names. A Lacey Act/IATA label must also be included. These can be ordered from SYR/SYA as stickers, or you can print your own on plain paper and tape it to the box. More info on the Lacey Act here.

  9. Fasten the label and ship

    If you haven’t already done so, enter your package and shipping info into ShipYourReptiles.com and purchase your shipping label. 

    You can print your shipping label from the ShipYourReptiles.com site or from your confirmation email.

    If you are using a thermal label printer, the label will be self-adhesive. If you print your label on regular paper, place your label inside the provided label pouch and affix the self adhesive pouch to the top of your shipping box.

    We recommend dropping your package off at the actual FedEx facility. FedEx Office locations are not recommended, as many of those locations do not accept live or perishable shipments for drop off or pickup.

    Find a FedEx Facility location here. Use the Filter and select the "Dangerous Goods" filter to weed out everything except the actual FedEx facilities. 

    You can track your package progress using your FedEx tracking number on the home page of ShipYourReptiles.com.

    If you have any questions or issues with your shipment, please contact us directly. You are a ShipYourReptiles.com client, not a direct FedEx client, and we will help you answer questions, clarify tracking or process claims. You can call us at 303 730-2125 or email us at Info@ShipYourReptiles.com.

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19. Can you give me a quick list of guidelines for packing?

For specific rules regarding the packaging of live reptiles, see the ShipYourReptiles.com Shipping Standards.

Always follow these general packaging guidelines:

  • Use a rigid box with flaps intact.
  • Remove any labels, hazardous materials indicators, and other previous and now irrelevant shipment markings from the box.
  • Use adequate cushioning material. Crumpled newspaper works well.
  • Use strong tape designed for shipping. DO NOT USE DUCT TAPE, SCOTCH TAPE OR MASKING TAPE to seal your package.
  • Do not use string or paper over-wrap.
  • Use a single address label with clear, complete delivery and return information.
  • Place a duplicate address label inside the package. 
  • Fasten the Lacey Act/IATA label to your box where it can be clearly seen but does not obstruct the shipping label.

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20. Which shipping kit should I order?

Here are some guidelines based on species and age. If you have any questions, contact us at Info@ShipYourReptiles.com or 303-730-2125.

Animal Kit #
   
Lizard - small species baby 2
Lizard - small species juvenile 2
Lizard - small species adult 3
Lizard - medium species baby 2
Lizard - medium species juvenile 3
Lizard - medium species adult 5
Lizard - large species baby 3
Lizard - large species juvenile 5
   
Snake - small species baby 2
Snake - small species juvenile 2
Snake - small species adult 3
Snake - medium species baby 2
Snake - medium species juvenile 2
Snake - medium species adult 3
Snake - large species baby 2
Snake - large species juvenile 3
Snake - large species large juvenile 4
Snake - large species adult 5
   
Gecko - small species baby 2
Gecko - small species juvenile 2
Gecko - small species adult 2
Gecko - medium species baby 2
Gecko - medium species juvenile 2
Gecko - medium species adult 3
Gecko - large species baby 2
Gecko - large species juvenile 2
Gecko - large species adult 3

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21. Choosing a deli cup vs. cloth reptile bag

Use a deli cup for small, delicate animals. The more delicate the animal, the more it needs the structure of the deli cup. Use a deli cup for small reptiles including geckos and lizards (less than 1" x 16") as well as for frogs and other delicate creatures.

Use a cloth reptile bag for larger reptiles that have more size and weight.

When shipping a large and small animal in the same box, we recommend placing the smaller animal in a deli cup, as the structural support can help prevent accidental crushing by the larger animal.

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22. Using ShipYourReptiles.com shipping supplies

All shipping supplies and shipping kits sold on ShipYourReptiles.com meet the reptile-shipping standards developed by ShipYourReptiles.com and have been specifically certified by the FedEx Packaging Lab. If you use a ShipYourReptiles shipping kit according to our directions, you can feel secure that you’re shipping your reptile safely and reliably.

Shipping Kits (best for one-time or very infrequent shipments)

Bulk Supplies (best for folks planning to ship more than once or twice)

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23. Using your own shipping supplies

You may use your own shipping supplies, but they must meet or exceed the standards developed by ShipYourReptiles.com:

  • Cardboard box is new, or like new, with no markings that indicate a dangerous or illegal item (no alcohol boxes). Box must have a 275lb burst strength rating. Box must not have any kind of warning or hazardous material markings or stickers. Box should be labeled in accordance with the Lacey Act. See more on that here.
  • Insulation lining must be at least ¾ inch thick. The insulating lining must cover all four sides of the inside of the cardboard box, as well as the top and bottom.
  • Heat or cold packs must be used according to ShipYourReptiles.com Shipping Standards.
  • You must use a “triple container.”
    1. The deli cup or cloth reptile bag.
    2. The insulating foam container.
    3. The cardboard box.
  • You must seal the box adequately. All shipping labels must be fully legible.

Boxes from the US Postal service, "Priority Mail" or "Express Mail" boxes, as well as many Amazon.com boxes, do not meet the FedEx box standard and are NOT ALLOWED to be used for live reptile shipments. They are too thin, too flimsy, and do not protect the live reptile sufficiently. Using a thin cardboard box, or one of the boxes mentioned, nullifies any SYR Live Arrival Insurance coverage. 

If you have any doubts, use the supplies available on ShipYourReptiles.com.

Remember: What you do affects the entire reptile hobby and industry. The general public has a right to live their lives without encountering a reptile that’s escaped from improper packaging. Every time someone ships a reptile with substandard packaging, and that reptile escapes, dies, scares or harms someone, that reflects poorly on all reptile hobbyists. It also furthers legislative efforts to ban reptiles entirely.

Take responsibility. Do your part. Pack your reptile properly. Make sure it reaches its destination safely. It’s good for the reptile, it’s good for the recipient, and it’s good for you.

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24. Provide accurate information

It's critical that you enter accurate information on every part of the label-ordering process.  If you use inaccurate data, FedEx charges us an additional fee—then we charge you that fee. You'll see it on your credit card statement. This isn’t fun for any of us, and it’s worth avoiding.

Incorrect address charges

When ordering your shipping label, do NOT put a PO Box in the address fields. Only US postal trucks can deliver to a PO Box and FedEx will not be able to complete that delivery without an address correction.

When FedEx attempts to deliver your package, but it turns out to be the wrong address, or the address doesn’t exist, they get annoyed. And they charge extra.

Please double-check your addresses and enter them accurately. 3911 Norwood Drive is not the same as 391 Norwood Drive, nor 3913 Norwood Drive, nor 3911 Norwood Avenue. The 80123 zip code is not the same as the 80128 zip code.

Each of those variations will incur an address correction fee of $14.00, which we will charge to your credit card. Please double check your address info for 100% accuracy.

If you realize you have entered the wrong address after the package has been handed over to FedEx, it's critical that you contact us at 303-730-2125 or info@ShipYourReptiles.com. There may still be a fee charged to make the change, but if caught early enough, we can facilitate a change of address on the label before the package goes off in the wrong direction or gets lost.

Dimensional weight charges

FedEx measures your package with lasers, and if they determine your package is bigger than you said—bam!—additional fee.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The measurements shown on your box, say 12x9x6 inches, indicate the internal size of the box. This is the standard used by the packaging industry. However, FedEx measures the external size of the box, and they round up to the nearest inch. FedEx may measure our popular 12x9x6 box as 12x9x7 inches—and that's what they charge for.

Measure the outside of your sealed box accurately. Round up to the nearest inch. Enter your information correctly. Measure twice. Double-check your work. Seriously.

Incorrect Weight charges

Incorrect Weight shipping charge corrections occur when the weight of a package is greater than the weight indicated at the time of shipping, or it's greater than the dimensional weight (see above).

To avoid Incorrect Weight shipping charge corrections, use any standard scale and round up any fraction of a pound to the next full pound. Enter that number into the ShipYourReptiles.com interface—accurately, please.

If you estimate the size or weight of your package as larger/heavier than it really is, there will not be any penalty fees added, but you will have paid more for that shipment than you needed to. 

Accurate measurements are always best for your bottom line.

Contact Info

Provide accurate email and phone numbers so ShipYourReptiles and/or FedEx can reach you in the event that something goes awry with your shipment. Critical tracking updates are sent to the emails you provide, so make sure they work!

Double and triple check all your details for the smoothest shipping process possible!

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25. How should I label the outside of the box?

The FedEx shipping label is first and foremost. It should be placed in an easily visible location.

When ordering the shipping label, do NOT put a PO Box in the address fields. Only US postal trucks can deliver to a PO Box and FedEx will not be able to complete that delivery without an address correction.

In addition to your FedEx shipping label, it's important you mark your package to indicate its contents.

The Federal Lacey Act and various state regulations require specific labeling. You are required to mark the outside of the package with a complete list of the animal(s) inside, including quantities, common names and scientific names. An IATA label must also be included. These can be ordered from SYR/SYA as stickers, or you can print your own on plain paper and tape it to the box where it can be clearly seen. Different states may have different requirements. This labeling direction meets all state requirements on these points. Contact individual state Fish & Wildlife offices for any additional requirements regarding labeling, health certificates, permits or restrictions. 

It is IMPORTANT that you clearly indicate quantity and species and label your live package appropriately, according to both Federal and State laws. This includes meeting the IATA labeling requirement and the Lacey Act labeling requirement. Failure to label your live shipments accurately and/or completely may result in delays, inspection, confiscation, and/or monetary fines. Florida and California are especially vigilant about inspections and citations. It is YOUR responsibility, and it only takes a moment!

To assist you in compliance we can provided you with a Lacey Act/IATA label that includes our FedEx Reference Note and space for listing the contents of the box. Complete it and place it on the side of any live reptile/aquatics package where it can be clearly seen.

Lacey Act/IATA label stickers

Printable Lacey Act/IATA labels - 4 per page

To meet the IATA labeling requirement you must check/circle the appropriate Live Animal Indicator- Aquatics or Reptiles.

To meet the Lacey Act labeling requirement you must list your species by quantity, and both scientific and common name. Florida is requiring BOTH scientific and common name listings, complying with the Florida requirement will ensure that you are labeled appropriately throughout the country. Failure to label completely may result in delays, confiscation, and/or fines.

If you use plain paper to print the Lacey Act/IATA label, be sure to cover it with tape to prevent tears or weather wear (or use a label-envelope).

The FedEx Reference Note on this label is provided for those rare moments when a FedEx employee balks at accepting a live shipment. It is intended to alleviate concerns and instructs the employee to contact the FedEx Live Animal Desk through their internal system for clarification if they need it.

Be sure to include your paperwork* inside the top flap of the box, on top of the foam insulation.

*Sales receipt or packing list, as well as the species and quantities of live harmless reptiles contained in the package.

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26. How can I download the Lacey Act/IATA label?

It's important that you print the LaceyAct/IATA label and fasten it to your box where it can be clearly seen but does not obstruct the shipping label in any way. Our FedEx reference note has been included on the Lacey Act/IATA label. That note will answer FedEx employees' questions about your shipment with ShipYourReptiles.com.

Lacey Act/IATA label stickers

Printable Lacey Act/IATA labels - 4 per page

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*****USING HEAT PACKS AND COLD PACKS*****

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27. Regulating the temperature of the package

You might need to use a heat pack or cold pack inside your package. This decision depends on the type of animal you’re shipping and the daytime high temperature at your location and at the destination.

These are guidelines. Be aware of the temperature requirements and safe temperature range for the species you are shipping. If you have questions about a specific species or weather condition, consult a reputable breeder of your species for more detailed guidelines and parameters.

It is the responsibility of the shipper to adequately package shipments for all temperature extremes and handling conditions. DO NOT OVERUSE HEAT PACKS!

5 Critical Points for Heat Pack Use

  1. Heat packs should never come into direct contact with the animal bag/container. 
  2. There should always be crumpled newspaper or other packaging material between the heat pack and animal bag/container.
  3. Heat pack should never be placed under an animal bag/container, as it will result in high likelihood of DOA.
  4. Heat pack should be taped securely to underside of the styrofoam lid. 
  5. We do not recommend heat pack use in any box smaller than the 12x9x6. If you need a heat pack with your shipment, you should use the 12x9x6 box or larger. 

Reptiles - These guidelines are according to the daytime HIGH temps. If either the ORIGIN or DESTINATION temperature is 70F or higher, do NOT use a heat pack. Shipping outside of these temperature guidelines nullifies any SYR Live Arrival Insurance. If your daytime high temps straddle two categories, please contact us directly for heat pack instructions that remain within insurance parameters, qualifications and guidelines. Heat pack use in temps above 70F can kill reptiles! 

Below 38°F: Don’t ship. Wait for warmer weather.

38-69°F: Use a heat pack per our directions.

70-91°F: DO NOT use heat pack.

92-100°F: Ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recipient picks it up. Search for a Fedex staffed facility near you. Read the IMPORTANT NOTE below.*

Over 100°F: Don’t ship. Wait for cooler weather.


Amphibians and other species from cooler moist climates.

Below 38°F: Don’t ship. Wait for warmer weather.

38-60°F: Use a heat pack per our directions.

60-80°F: DO NOT use a heat pack. No cold pack required.

80-92°F: Use a cold pack per our directions. 

Over 92°F: Don’t ship. Wait for cooler weather.

 

*IMPORTANT NOTE: When the daytime high temperature at your destination is between 92 and 100 degrees, you should not ship to typical residential or business locations (and you should not ship amphibians at all). Any time spent on a delivery truck during the heat of the day can be detrimental to the health of your reptile. However, you can ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recepient picks it up.

If you want to have your package held for pickup at a FedEx facility, be sure to enter "FedEx Ship Center" in the Organization field and "HOLD AT FACILITY" in the second address field, like this:

When the daytime high temperature at your location is between 92 and 100 degrees, live shipments must be dropped off at a FedEx counter very late in the day, after 5 p.m. You will not beat the heat if you give your package to a FedEx driver at 1 p.m. and it spends the afternoon making the rounds in a hot truck. A hot weather shipment (over 92F, but under 100F, at either origin or destination) will be covered under our ShipYourReptiles Insurance policy only if the parameters mentioned here (post 5 p.m. drop off, shipping to FedEx staffed facility, hold for pickup) are followed.

Search for a FedEx staffed facility near you.

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28. Using a Heat Pack

ShipYourReptiles.com offers 40- and 72-hour heat packs. 40-hour heat packs are most often used for reptile shipping. Reptiles must be shipped Priority Overnight, and the 40-hour heat pack is appropriate. Heat packs of less than 40 hour duration do NOT meet the SYR Shipping Standards.

To ship live reptiles, do not use the 12- or 24-hour packs available at your local BigBox store or ski shop. Those packs are hand warmers, not shipping tools. The 12-24 hour packs don’t provide the necessary heat nor duration for a successful live shipment. 12 and 24 hour hand warmers also peak at a much higher temperature than shipping heat packs (180F), endangering the life of your live shipment. Hand warmers do NOT meet the SYR Shipping Standards. Heat packs of less than 40 hour duration do NOT meet the SYR Shipping Standards.

Heat packs work through a chemical reaction between the contents of the heat pack and oxygen in the surrounding air. Oxygen flow is regulated through the perforated red line. Never cover the red line with tape or anything else.

Pre-start your heat pack two hours before shipping. Shake it up well, and place it in a folded towel so it can generate a quick, solid heat. The heat pack will not heat up properly if you leave it in open air.

The heat pack must be well started before you tape it to the underside of the top insulation panel and seal your box. Remember not to tape over the perforated red line. The red line should face the interior of the box.

Note: Do not overuse heat packs! Use only one heat pack per box unless you are using our largest box, the 30"x16"x10", where two heat packs can be used if needed. Two heat packs in a box 16x16x8 or smaller will cause the box to get too hot and can kill the animal.

We have seen shipments where folks have put multiple heat packs in box, using the "if one is good, two is better!" philosophy. This has resulted in the loss of the animals.

In a small or medium sized box, multiple heat packs will increase the ambient temp of the box into very dangerous territory. Check out the chart below for the temps that a single heat pack puts out. More is absolutely not better, just much, much hotter. Hand warmers in particular peak at 180F!

The purpose of a heat pack is NOT to warm or heat the box, it is to prevent it from getting cold. You want a temperate box, NOT a hot box!

If the temperatures are near the lower end of the SYR guidelines then doubling the insulation and/or having the shipment held at a FedEx facility will minimize the chances for a DOA.

DOAs are often caused by improper use of heat packs during the winter. Using too many heat packs in a box can cause the inside of the box to overheat. Be aware that heat packs use oxygen and using more than needed may consume all the oxygen in the box and have fatal consequences for the animal. Following these guidelines will increase your chances of having successful shipments.

5 Critical Points for Heat Pack Use

  1. Heat packs should never come into direct contact with the animal bag/container. 
  2. There should always be crumpled newspaper or other packaging material between the heat pack and animal bag/container.
  3. Heat pack should never be placed under an animal bag/container, as it will result in high likelihood of DOA.
  4. Heat pack should be taped securely to underside of the styrofoam lid. 
  5. We do not recommend heat pack use in any box smaller than the 12x9x6. If you need a heat pack with your shipment, you should use the 12x9x6 box or larger. 

Note: New heat packs are soft and feel like loose powder. Used heat packs are hard. If your heat pack is hard, it has been compromised. Use a different one.

Here is a chart of heat pack surface temperatures for the various heat pack sizes-

heat pack profiles

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29. Using a Cold Pack

Put the cold pack in your freezer overnight. It should be fully frozen.

Pack your animal, but don’t place the cold pack until you’re ready for pickup or dropoff. This keeps the cold pack frozen longer.

When you’re ready to seal the package, wrap the cold pack in newspaper to absorb condensation. Tape the pack to the underside of the top insulation panel. Make sure there is packing material (usually crumpled newspaper) between the cold pack and the deli cup or cloth reptile bag.

Note: Using this site, you may not ship a package containing dry ice.

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