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Law on Shipping Live Invertebrates

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by Ungoliant, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. Ungoliant

    Ungoliant Malleus Aranearum Staff Member

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    Below is a standalone version of a post I made in response to a question that was posted in The Watering Hole. It has been suggested that this post be a sticky, and this forum would be a more appropriate place (not to mention more accessible).

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be used as legal advice. The content of this post is offered for informational purposes only. This post should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a competent attorney regarding any specific legal matter.

    It helps to break this topic down:
    • laws: statutes (passed by Congress or state legislatures) and ordinances (passed by county or municipal governments) -- violation is a crime (felony or misdemeanor) and may result in jail or fines.
    • regulations: passed by federal or state agencies pursuant to statutory authority -- violation may be a crime and/or expose you to civil liability. The interplay between statute and regulation is often complicated. Although regulations generally do not prescribe criminal penalties, there may be criminal penalties if the regulations are incorporated into penal laws. The Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service (USPS) fall under this heading.
    • company policies: rules passed by private carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Violation of these rules is not a crime but may expose you to civil liability for breach of contract and/or result in your being prohibited from using their services in the future.


    Laws

    Knowingly transmitting hazardous materials defined as nonmailable in 18 U.S.C. 1716 may result in criminal penalties. This statutory definition includes "all poisonous animals, insects, [and] reptiles." Additionally, mailing any "hazardous material that has been declared by statute or Postal Service regulation to be nonmailable" may result in civil penalties and liability for cleanup costs and damages. 39 U.S. Code 3018.

    There are also treaties, laws, and regulations governing the import, export, transport, and possession of endangered species and potential pests.

    Many states also have their own laws governing the import of such species. For example, Florida prohibits the import of certain species of tropical roaches (presumably out of concern that escaped roaches may become established in its subtropical climate.) State codes can generally be found on each state's Web site.

    It is a good idea to consult these sources before ordering animals (especially feeder insects), as there is no guarantee that a seller knows the laws of all 50 states.


    Regulations

    I'm going to focus on postal regulations, as they are the most relevant to this discussion. The United States Postal Service expressly defines all spiders as nonmailable, regardless of whether they are dangerous to people.

    In 1980, someone appealed the Postal Service ruling that "tarantulas are poisonous and, therefore, nonmailable," arguing that his tarantulas were harmless and therefore mailable. The ruling was upheld, and a rationale was offered for this policy:

    Additionally, the following animals and plants are nonmailable:


    Company Policies of Private Carriers

    UPS

    UPS explicitly prohibits snakes, arachnids, and "obnoxious insects" like flies, locusts, mosquitoes, roaches, termites, and weevils.

    FedEx does not say anything specifically about spiders but only allows live animal shipments of certain nonvenomous animals from a business to a business in packaging tested and pre-approved by FedEx (each animal shipment to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis).

    FedEx

     
    • Informative Informative x 5
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  2. viper69

    viper69 ArachnoGod Old Timer

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    What a terrible lack of knowledge in that opinion on USPS. But for academics, mailing scorpions is fine.
     
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  3. crone

    crone Arachnoangel Active Member

    Yeah, and the post orifice says "poisonous", not venomous. Isn't that a loophole? Heehee
     
    • Funny Funny x 2
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  4. Rittdk01

    Rittdk01 Arachnoknight

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    ^^^ive read that shipping tarantulas is never technically legal. I suppose if you were a zoo and had permits and such, but not too many hobbyists would have that.
     
  5. HybridReplicate

    HybridReplicate Spectrostatic

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    Some follow up questions, because I am definitely not a lawyer & totes won't survive in prison.

    Is receipt of these goods a crime as well? That is, when receiving spiders via the USPS do I have the same criminal liability as the shipper? & does paying someone knowing they will ship them via USPS make me some sort of "accessory"?

    Furthermore, since private carriers are not government entities is it safe to assume that while violating "company policy" one is not violating the law? Specifically that the only legal way to ship is via private carrier? Are there legal repercussions for shipping via private carrier service while in violation of their company policy aside from civil liability should a spider get loose?

    Has anyone been cited for this? Does it happen often?
     
  6. Andrea82

    Andrea82 Arachnoking Active Member

    I agree this should be a sticky. Very useful info, and great referral post for people asking about it. :)
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Red Eunice

    Red Eunice Arachnolord

    Bottom line: Delta Dash, to the best of my knowledge, is the only legal shipper of venomous live specimens in the U.S.
    All other means are either breaking laws or a company policy.

    With all the entities watching, threads on shipping methods should be removed. They do more harm than good for the hobby. Same applies to the bite/sting section.

    We're already facing a government ban/restriction of Poecilotheria species in the U.S. :(

    Why give them more ammunition to totally ban "all invertabrate" keeping. :banghead::banghead::banghead:
     
    • Agree Agree x 4
  8. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Agreed, especially since someone brought up Brown Boxing within two posts of the thread opening.
     
  9. Red Eunice

    Red Eunice Arachnolord

    A very thin line between ignorance and stupidity. This one is the latter! IMO.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. Ungoliant

    Ungoliant Malleus Aranearum Staff Member

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be used as legal advice. The content of this post is offered for informational purposes only. This post should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a competent attorney regarding any legal matter.

    Criminal liability may attach to either party. 18 U.S.C. ยง 1716(j):


    We often chide people for not correctly using the terms the terms "venomous" and "poisonous." Yet the word "illegal" is widely misused as well. One of the reasons for writing this post was to encourage people to use more precise language.

    Unless what you are doing is prohibited by law, it is not illegal.

    Using the U.S. Postal Service to ship items that Congress and the Postal Service define as "hazardous" and nonmailable is illegal. Trafficking in animals that are protected under the Endangered Species Act is generally illegal. "Brown boxing" (having animals shipped to you internationally without the proper permit(s) and/or without declaring them to Customs and the Fish and Wildlife Service) is illegal.

    UPS and FedEx, however, are just private companies. Their terms and conditions are not law. Violating those terms of service may be a breach of contract, but is not illegal. (Of course, it's possible to violate the law while also violating a company's terms of service, such as by using FedEx to transport endangered species that you are illegally selling.)


    You could potentially be liable for any damages arising from breach of contract (for example, shipping a tarantula in violation of the company's terms of service). The term "damages" generally means an injury to person or property that is caused by your breach of contract. (Some damages may be specified contractually in the terms of service to which you agreed.) Additionally, the company may prohibit you from using their service in the future.

    So if you can find a private carrier that allows tarantulas, that would be legal unless it's not. (I know that sounds glib, but as I mentioned before, whether it's legal to ship will depend on all of relevant federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding the sale, transport, and possession of the species in question.)


    I am of the mind that more information is better, as it allows people to make informed decisions. If there are "entities watching," I am sure they are well aware of the shipping methods that people are using, since they are stated up front in people's ads. (The likelihood that "all invertebrate keeping" would be banned is effectively zero with or without threads about shipping methods.)

    If anything, statements to the effect of "we should remove threads about shipping methods so as not to draw attention to what hobbyists are doing" reflect worse on the hobby than an informational post about what different carriers allow or don't allow. (And if it's so detrimental to acknowledge what is not allowed, why does Arachnoboards have a warning about brown boxing?)
     
    • Informative Informative x 3
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  11. HybridReplicate

    HybridReplicate Spectrostatic

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    Thanks, @Ungoliant. I agree that more information is better & although it narrows my list of potential sources of specimens (& my favorite vendors!) moving forward I will make an informed decision to avoid vendors that utilize USPS.

    Seems this is well-known, at least by those people who have responded to these two threads. I have to wonder how saving a few dollars--very few, given the consequences--is preferable to engaging in patently illegal behavior & knowingly involving their less well-informed customers in the same. It's an unnecessary risk & at very least if the vendor accepts the risk it seems the responsible vendor would provide a choice of carriers allowing their customers to choose whether or not to engage in this behavior.

    The opinion that this incredibly pertinent information should be removed from the boards is symptomatic. Wouldn't the more appropriate action would be to prohibit the discussion & promotion of criminal activity by prohibiting any reference to shipping via USPS & prohibiting vendors from advertising criminal activity? The liability of providing a platform for sales without policies in place to prevent that platform being used for criminal activity seems unacceptable.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. Timc

    Timc Arachnopeon

    Actually it was a joke. That you didn't get. And I'm stupid. Gotcha.
     
  13. vespers

    vespers Arachnodemon

    "The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club..."
     
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  14. centipeedle

    centipeedle Arachnosquire

    Are millipedes considered poisonous insects?
     
  15. viper69

    viper69 ArachnoGod Old Timer

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    Great question, did you click the link above to find out?
     
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  16. Ungoliant

    Ungoliant Malleus Aranearum Staff Member

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be used as legal advice. The content of this post is offered for informational purposes only. This post should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a competent attorney regarding any legal matter.

    By "poisonous," they seem to mean venomous (injects venom via a bite or sting). Millipedes are nonvenomous. Technically they're not insects either, although it's likely that they're using the term "insects" in a sloppy, non-taxonomic sense to refer to all terrestrial arthropods.

     
  17. centipeedle

    centipeedle Arachnosquire

    So millipedes could be classified as nonvenomous, and therefore mailable?
     
  18. Ungoliant

    Ungoliant Malleus Aranearum Staff Member

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be used as legal advice. The content of this post is offered for informational purposes only. This post should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a competent attorney regarding any legal matter.

    That's how I interpret it.
     
  19. darkness975

    darkness975 will the Sun ever rise? Arachnosupporter

    Well great. So basically it all appears illegal.
     
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  20. SonsofArachne

    SonsofArachne Arachnoknight Active Member

    Ironically, some millipedes secrete (fairly mild) cyanide, so they would actually be poisonous.

    They REALLY don't follow their own rules, from what I can tell.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2018 at 10:10 AM