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12 September 2017

Seven Steps for Perfect Packing


1. Collect Your Supplies

  • Use a clean, sturdy cardboard box with flaps intact.
  • 3/4” minimum insulating styrofoam for all sides - This acts not only to maintain consistent temperatures within the box, but also as critical structural support to prevent crushing and resist punctures.
  • Deli cup and/or snake bag
  • Packing material - IE: newspaper, quilt batting, newsprint, or paper towels
  • Heat pack or cold pack, if needed - These need to be prepped ahead of time. Cold packs or Phase 22 packs need to be chilled or frozen. Heat packs need to be activated and "rested" for two hours prior to closing up the package. Before using a heat pack, you MUST review our guidelines for Regulating Temperature inside a box. (The misuse of heat packs is the #1 cause of death in shipping!)
  • Camera - It's always wise to take pictures of your packing process just in case something goes awry and you need to provide proof that you did your job correctly. At the very least, you should take identifying pictures of the animal(s) shown in good health just before going into the box.


2. Prep the Box

  • Insert the foam insulation panels.
  • Ventilate the box. A phillips screwdriver works well for this. Before placing any animals in the box, punch four small holes (two at each end) through the cardboard and insulation. 
  • Tape the heat or cold pack to underside of top panel. If using a heat pack, make sure the red center line is visible and is NOT covered with tape. (Please review directions on the proper use of heat packs!)
  • Create a "nest". Using your packing material, crumple up paper or use batting material to line the bottom and sides of your box.


3. Prep the Deli Cup or Bag

  • Inspect the cup for cracks or weak spots and see that the lid first securely.
  • Make sure there are air holes around the perimeter.
  • Inspect the bag for weak seams and reinforce with new stitches if necessary.
  • If using a pillowcase for a bag, turn it inside-out so the seams are on the outside. This allows you to inspect the seams and also prevents the animal from getting tangled in loose threads.


4. Inspect the Animal

  • NO venomous or dangerous reptiles
  • NO mammals
  • NO birds
  • Do not feed the week prior to shipping to prevent regurge in box.
  • Ship only healthy animals with good weight.


5. Put the Animal in its Container

  • One animal per container, whether its a bag or a cup.
  • A wad of clean paper towel in a snake bag helps absorb liquids if/when the animal pees or poos.
  • Tie the bag securely, allowing a little room to shift for comfort. Best way to be sure it's secure is to tie the top of the bag into a solid knot and then wrap a zip-tie or cord just above or below the knot and pull it tight.
  • Line the floor of the deli cup with paper towel or other bedding to absorb moisture as needed. Wet it with water first if the animal needs extra moisture for health, such as frogs or water turtles.
  • Fill up the empty area of the cup with loosely wadded paper towel to prevent bumping around, but don't squish the animal. Leave it a little room to shift and move.
  • Tape the lid down but do not cover air holes.
  • Set the bag or cup in the "nest" you created earlier. Multiple animals can go into the same box, but do not stack bags on top of each other. If a smaller animal must go into a box with a larger animal, make sure the smaller one is in a sturdy container like a deli cup to prevent being crushed.


6. Closing it Up

  • Fill in all empty space with your packing material.
  • Double check your heat pack to make sure it's taped properly. ONE heat pack per box, unless it's a really big box. Make sure there is sufficient space and padding between the animal and the heat. If you have any doubt or questions about using heat, please call!
  • Place your paperwork in the box. This should include animal identification, feeding records (as needed) and an invoice for your customer
  • Also include a copy of the shipping label, just in case the one on the outside gets lost or damaged.
  • Tape the center seam securely with proper packing tape. NO duct tape. NO masking tape. NO scotch tape.


7. Label it Up

  • Place your shipping label in a FedEx shipping pouch (a clear adhesive pouch you can get at any FedEx location) and attach it securely to the box. It's fine to cover the center seam of the box with this. If you don't have a pouch, you can tape your label to the box using clear packing tape. Cover the entire label with the tape to protect it from water damage.
  • Attach a Lacey Act/IATA labelThese can be ordered from SYR/SYA as stickers, or you can print your own on plain paper and tape it to the box as described above. 
  • Be sure to check the appropriate icon on that label, either reptile or fish, according to what is in the box.
  • On the outside of the box, write a complete list of animal(s) inside, using both the common and scientific names.

While it might seem like a daunting amount of details to keep up with, once you've done it a time or two, it will become quite simple and straightforward. The simplest way to know you have all you need for a perfect shipping experience is to order a Reptile Shipping Kit or Aquatic Shipping Kit directly from us.

And as always, if you ever have any questions or doubts about how to properly pack your critter, you can call us at 303-730-2125 (M-F, 7am - 6pm MST) or write to us at or

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