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19 June 2018

Perfectly Packed Packages

When shipping live animals, your packaging not only reflects the professionalism of your business, but it is a matter of life and death for the animals involved. 

If you’re already an accomplished shipper, the following summary may seem a bit academic to you, but it can be valuable information to pass on to those looking to ship for the first time, so please keep this one handy and be willing to share it with those in need! 


  • Everything you use in the packing process should be clean and new, or in like-new condition. 
  • The easiest way to meet the packaging requirement is to order your supplies/shipping kits from SYR-SYA. Our packaging is specifically approved and certified by FedEx for Overnight shipping of live reptiles and aquatics.
  • Make sure you have everything you need before you need it. It can take 5-7 business days to have supplies shipped out if you order them online. 

Review the following checklist to make sure you have everything you need: 

  • Sturdy cardboard box. NOT boxes from the US Postal service, "Priority Mail" or "Express Mail". Also, most boxes are too thin and flimsy. These boxes do not meet the FedEx box standard and are NOT ALLOWED to be used for live shipments.
  • If you are using your own cardboard box, FedEx requires 275lb burst strength.
  • Minimum 3/4" foam insulation that fits snugly against all six sides of the box interior.
  • Deli cup, snake bag, or fish bag.
  • Packing material. (IE: newspaper, quilt batting, newsprint, or paper towels.)
  • Temperature regulators if necessary. Cold packs or Phase 22 packs must be frozen or chilled ahead of time. Heat packs must be activated an hour before use. NOT ALL SHIPMENTS REQUIRE THESE ITEMS. Please review our guidelines for Regulating Temperature inside a box. The misuse of heat packs is the #1 cause of death in shipping.


Prepping to Pack

  • Insert the foam panels and make sure they are intact and fitting snugly.
  • Ventilate the box before you put any animals inside. Two 1/4" holes at each end (for a total of four holes) through the cardboard and insulation is all that is necessary. Anything more than that defeats the purpose of the insulation and threatens the structural integrity of the box. A simple Philips-head screwdriver will easily punch perfectly sized holes. 
  • Place some of your packing material at the bottom of the box to make a “nest.”
  • If using a deli cup(s), inspect for any cracks and make sure the lid fits securely. Unless the cup is for an aquatic creature, make sure it has small air holes punched around the perimeter. 
  • If using a bag(s), inspect the seams and reinforce with a few stitches if necessary. A clean pillowcase can be used as a bag—turn it inside out to inspect those seams and also to keep the animal inside from getting tangled in loose threads.
  • Inspect your animals and make sure they are healthy and fit for the stressful journey ahead. Most animals should be shipped with an empty stomach to avoid the risk of regurgitation along the way.

Packing Time

  • Make sure the animal(s) is completely secured in its container, whether a cup or a bag. (ONE animal per container, even if shipping multiple animals in the same box.)
  • If shipping in a cup, make sure there is not too much “free space” inside the cup. The ride is going to get bumpy and you don’t want the poor critter to be bounced around in there. Fill up extra space with some soft paper towels.
  • Place the animal in the middle of the box and fill in all the empty space around it with your packing material. Make it nice and snug so the container can’t shift around at all. 
  • Imagine you’re shipping yourself in a closed box that may be flipped upside down or tossed short distances…how securely would you want to be packed inside? Nice and snug! 
  • If using a heat pack or cold pack, tape it to the inside of the insulation lid, but make sure it is NOT touching the animal inside the box. (Please review directions on the proper use of heat packs!)
  • Enclose all relevant paperwork on top of the insulation lid, including a sheet that includes all the current shipping info (sender and receiver) in case the outer label gets damaged or lost. 

Shipping Time

  • Tape the box securely using proper packing tape. NOT duct tape, scotch tape, or masking tape.
  • Measure and weigh the box accurately before ordering your label, rounding up to the next inch and pound. Use that information when ordering your label. 
  • Order and print your shipping label. Tape it securely to the box or use a clear adhesive pouch found at any FedEx location.
  • Attach a Lacey Act/IATA label. These 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.
  • Fill in your Lacey/IATA label with a complete list of animal(s) inside, using both the common and scientific names.
  • Drop off at your local FedEx Ship Center (aka local hub...NOT a FedEx Office or other retail outlet.)
  • OR call our office and arrange to have FedEx pick up directly from your home or office. ($5 FedEx fee for this service.)

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.

As always, if you ever have any questions or doubts about how to properly pack your critter, you can reach out to us!

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