Law on Shipping Live Invertebrates

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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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).

What are the laws when it comes to shipping such things? It is very sketchy, as some people say you can't ship across state lines, however that must not be true because a lot of larger businesses ship Live insects. I know shipping something like queen ants across state lines is illegal, but how does a person know what they can and can't legally ship?
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.

Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail: 525 Nonmailable Live Animals

525.3 Reptiles

All snakes, turtles, and poisonous reptiles are nonmailable.

525.4 Poisonous Insects and Spiders

All poisonous insects and all spiders, except scorpions under limited circumstances (see 526.5), are nonmailable. Other nonpoisonous and non-disease-conveying insects are permitted as stated in Exhibit 526.6.
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:

Although Appellant intends to mail nonpoisonous tarantulas, there are tarantulas found primarily in South America, which are highly poisonous. There is also one report of a poisonous form of tarantula in the United States. Information concerning poisonous tarantulas is limited and even trained persons might experience difficulty in differentiating between the nonpoisonous varieties of tarantulas which Appellant intends to mail and poisonous tarantulas. While it is Appellant's intent to ship only nonpoisonous tarantulas, Appellant has not established that it has the capability to assure that it is in fact shipping only nonpoisonous tarantulas. Absent such assurance, it is proper to treat tarantulas as falling within the cited statutory and regulatory prohibitions.

While the foregoing discussion is dispositive of the appeal, it is appropriate to address Appellant's additional arguments since in the future it may be able to establish the procedures and the capability to assure that the tarantulas presented for mailing are nonpoisonous. Appellant's additional arguments are that the discharge of tarantula hairs, and the possibility that the tarantulas could get loose in transit, are not a proper basis for a finding of nonmailability.

The evidence establishes that tarantulas discharge hairs from their body when agitated and that these hairs can cause some itching and minor inflammation and swelling. The effect of these hairs varies depending on the number which come in contact with the skin. Several of the witnesses have handled tarantulas. None reported any significant adverse reaction from contact with tarantula hairs. Although there is some evidence that tarantula hairs can have an effect on the respiratory system, the personal experience of the witnesses who testified did not support this position. Overall, the effect of coming into contact with tarantula hairs was described, by a Postal Service witness, as being essentially the same as an individual might experience in installing household insulation. On the basis of the evidence presented, it is concluded that contact with tarantula hairs would generally result in, at worst, only a minor skin irritation.

With regard to injuries that might occur if a tarantula got loose in transit, Appellant, in effect, argues that its tarantulas are no different than other animals or insects which the Postal Service allows to be transported through the mails. The Postal Service contends that many postal workers are afraid of tarantulas on sight and, if a tarantula being transported in the mails were to get loose in the vicinity of machinery, the fear experienced by Postal Service employees could result in personal injury. A fact finding to this effect is contained in the Initial Decision.
Additionally, the following animals and plants are nonmailable:

Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail: 57 Nonmailable Plant Pests, Injurious Animals, and Illegally Taken Fish or Wildlife

571 General

Under the respective provisions in 39 U.S.C. 3015(a), (b), or (d), the following items are nonmailable:
a. Any injurious animal, the importation or interstate shipment of which is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. 42.
b. Any plant pest, the movement of which is prohibited under section 103 or 104 of the Federal Plant Pest Act (7 U.S.C. 150bb or 150cc).
c. Any fish or wildlife, the conveyance of which is prohibited under section 3 of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (16 U.S.C. 3372).

For more information, see Publication 14, Prohibitions and Restrictions on Mailing Animals, Plants, and Related Matter.

Company Policies of Private Carriers

UPS

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

UPS: Prohibited Live Animals

Prohibited Live Animals

Live Animals that are prohibited from being shipped and are not accepted for transportation include, but are not limited to:
  • Any poisonous, venomous or threatening animal
  • Any Threatened or Endangered species
  • Arachnids (All): Examples: mites, scorpions, spiders, ticks
  • Birds (All)
  • Crocodiles (All): Examples: alligators, caimans, gavials
  • Mammals (All)
  • Obnoxious Insects: Examples: flies, locusts, mosquitoes, roaches, termites, weevils
  • Snakes (All): venomous and non-venomous
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

FedEx: Live Animals and Ornamental Marine Life (Including Live Fish)

Animals, Ornamental Marine Life (Including Live Fish) and Animal Carcasses

A. FedEx Express does not accept live-animal shipments as part of its regular-scheduled service and does not transport household pets such as dogs, cats, birds and hamsters. FedEx Express may accept certain shipments of live animals such as horses, livestock and zoo animals (to and from zoo locations only) on an exception basis if approved and coordinated by the FedEx Animal Desk (call 1.800.405.9052).

If approved by FedEx, we may accept non-venomous reptiles, amphibians, live/tropical fish and beneficial insects on an exception basis under the following conditions:
  1. Shipments must be from a business to a business (from a breeder to a pet store, for example).
  2. The shipper must have its packaging tested and pre-approved by FedEx Packaging Design and Development for the type of animal being shipped. Call 1.800.633.7019 for assistance. It is the responsibility of the shipper to adequately package shipments for all temperature extremes and handling conditions.

Contact your FedEx account executive for details and additional requirements.
 

viper69

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

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.
 

HybridReplicate

Spectrostatic
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Jan 26, 2017
Messages
107
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?
 

Andrea82

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Jan 12, 2016
Messages
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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
I agree this should be a sticky. Very useful info, and great referral post for people asking about it. :)
 

Red Eunice

Arachnodemon
Joined
Mar 2, 2014
Messages
667
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:
 

EulersK

Arachnonomicon
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Messages
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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:
Agreed, especially since someone brought up Brown Boxing within two posts of the thread opening.
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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Messages
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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.

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

(1) Whoever knowingly deposits for mailing or delivery, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail, according to the direction thereon, or at any place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, anything declared nonmailable by this section, unless in accordance with the rules and regulations authorized to be prescribed by the Postal Service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
(2) Whoever knowingly deposits for mailing or delivery, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail, according to the direction thereon or at any place to which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, anything declared nonmailable by this section, whether or not transmitted in accordance with the rules and regulations authorized to be prescribed by the Postal Service, with intent to kill or injure another, or injure the mails or other property, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

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?
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.)


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?
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.)


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.

Why give them more ammunition to totally ban "all invertabrate" keeping.
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?)
 

HybridReplicate

Spectrostatic
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Messages
107
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.
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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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.

Are millipedes considered poisonous insects?
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.

Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail: 525 Nonmailable Live Animals

525.4 Poisonous Insects and Spiders

All poisonous insects and all spiders, except scorpions under limited circumstances (see 526.5), are nonmailable. Other nonpoisonous and non-disease-conveying insects are permitted as stated in Exhibit 526.6.
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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Messages
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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.

So millipedes could be classified as nonvenomous, and therefore mailable?
That's how I interpret it.
 

SonsofArachne

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Messages
957
By "poisonous," they seem to mean venomous (injects venom via a bite or sting). Millipedes are nonvenomous.
Ironically, some millipedes secrete (fairly mild) cyanide, so they would actually be poisonous.

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).
They REALLY don't follow their own rules, from what I can tell.
 
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