When I recently had to send my 32-year-old tortoise, Ms. Take, to Key West, I learned that shipping live animals is serious business. Owners trust shippers to deliver their animals safely, with the well-being of the animals paramount. The shipper I chose used a Chevy Suburban especially outfitted with custom accessories to transport animals humanely and safely. I only considered shipping companies that could demonstrate the proper transport of animals.
Freight shipping is not to be confused with pet transport. The latter pertains to dogs, cats and alike that are relocating, either temporarily or permanently, to new digs. Pets require a high level of attention and care, including veterinary services, boarding and possible quarantining. The animals I’m discussing here tend to travel via commercial shipments, even though some may also be pets. The list includes:
- Beneficial insects
Poisonous or dangerous animals are not accepted for private freight shipment, nor are:
- Non-beneficial insects
- Any endangered species
Of course, zoos, labs and other qualified institutions can make special shipping arrangements for just about any living creature.
Needless to say, packaging animals for freight shipment must be done carefully according to the shipper’s specifications. All packaging must provide access to oxygen and keep the animals safe. From the shipper’s viewpoint, these packages contain a perishable commodity, not a pet. Insurance liabilities reflect this viewpoint.
Live animals should be placed in a new box. A corrugated box must pass either of two tests:
- bursting strength of 275 pounds, or
- edge crush strength of 44 pounds.
If the animal requires water during transport, the box must be constructed of water-resistant material (wax impregnated, wax coated or plastic corrugated). Ventilation holes are required. You will probably include internal packaging in your shipping box consistent with the animal’s needs. The internal packaging should support the humane care of the animals. For example, you should individually place geckos and lizards inside bags that allow air to permeate, such as burlap. Put insects into plastic jars that provide some kind of ventilation. Double-bag fish in strong plastic bags containing at least one third water by volume, the remainder being air. The plastic must be at least four mils thick.
To be safe, use packaging that has been certified by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA). If you are a company and develop your own packaging, have it pre-certified by the ISTA laboratories. You should add food and moisture to your packaging if required by the shipped animals. Also take into account any requirements for temperature control. Add filler to prevent inner containers from moving around within the outer box.
Ms. Take was packed in a large box placed inside a larger box. She had plenty of room, a drip bottle and some delicious greens. I’m pleased to report that she is now living happily, and certainly not wasting away, in Margaritaville.