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17 April 2018

Inside or Outside…Think About the Box!

When it comes to shipping live animals, the box you use plays a critical role for a variety of different reasons.  

1.) The absolute Number One reason why your box is critical is for the safety and well-being of the animal inside. Will your animal be cushioned against being knocked around during rough handling? Will the box withstand being dropped or having other, heavier, boxes stacked on top of it? Will the animal inside be protected from extreme temperatures that could cause permanent injury or death?

2.) The box you use also has an impact on our community as a whole. Does it contribute to the general public feeling safe and secure about live animals zipping through their package distribution infrastructure? Or does it scare them and make them want to stop everyone from shipping because one harmless snake might escape or a box of water might leak? 

3.) The box you use has an impact on your own business success. Does the condition of your box tell your customer that you are a conscientious and thoughtful person that cares about the well-being of the animals you are selling? Does it make you look professional and competent?  

Our guidelines for a minimum quality box are stated very clearly on our site. If you follow at least this minimum baseline, you set yourself up for positive results in all three of those key situations. 

  • Sturdy cardboard box is new, or like new, with no markings that indicate a dangerous or illegal item (no alcohol boxes). If you use your own box, it must have a minimum 275 lb burst strength.
  • All packaging purchased from SYR/SYA is specifically approved and certified by FedEx for live reptile, amphibian, and aquatic shipping. 
  • Box must not have any kind of warning or hazardous material markings or stickers. 
  • Foam insulation lining must be tight fitting and 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.
  • Boxes from the US Postal service, "Priority Mail" or "Express Mail" boxes, as well as many boxes, are too thin and flimsy.  They do not meet the FedEx box standard and are NOT ALLOWED to be used for live reptile shipments.
  • You must seal the box adequately. All shipping labels must be fully legible.
  • Box should be labeled in accordance with the Lacey Act. See more on that here.

The following images are actual shipments made with live animals involved. All of them are examples of what NOT to do. 

This is a flimsy USPS box that did not hold up well to the rigors of shipping.


This box is covered with foreign labels that are distracting and may call negative attention (ie: possible customs inspections). It certainly doesn't look professional. If you look closely, you'll also notice that this box has dozens of holes punched into it. This practice is detrimental to the well-being of the animals inside and goes far beyond our recommended total of 4 holes (two at each end of the box) that are 1/4" in diameter.


This box was labeled with all good intentions. However, this kind of labeling is extremely counter-productive, greatly increasing the risk that the box will receive negative attention. A snake-phobic person could see that and assume it's filled with baby cobras. First glance at that purple label seems to declare it a "Poisonous Animal". Even if the "non" part of that description were better situated, it is often overlooked by anyone with an irrational fear of snakes or reptiles. OR, a well-meaning animal lover might think the box needs to be placed in a "cool" place or a "warm" place and it gets pulled out of the normal handling process and potentially misplaced, refrigerated, or left in the sun to "keep warm."


It's easy to see how entirely inadequate this packaging is. The box has no insulation at all. No structural integrity. No protection against dangerous temperature changes. No real cushioning to protect the animal from getting slammed around in the box as it goes through the handling process. Escape from this box is a real possibility for many snakes and lizards. Also, even if the box were sturdy enough and properly insulated...that many air holes is still a big problem. They reduce the structural integrity of the box, negate the benefits of the insulation by allowing cold/hot air to flow too easily into the box, and it alerts anyone handling the box that there is something alive in there, and that will either freak people out or cause them to treat the box differently, as mentioned above. Our standard is 4 holes total, each 1/4" in diameter. 


A shoe box. Really? Yes. Someone really did this, and this was the result. 


Please, please, please! If you are at all unsure about how to properly package your animal for shipment, LET US HELP YOU!

  • We have all the SUPPLIES you need.
  • We have an awesome FAQ page with detailed answers.
  • And we have an amazing CUSTOMER SERVICE staff that want nothing more than to take the best care of your animals and  help you be successful!

PLEASE REMEMBER -- the moment you step outside of your private home with your business, you are representing the entire community and your actions can affect us all!

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