Reptile Courier Service for Breeders in the US

(Not sure what category this would have been appropriate for, please relocate if needed!)
Shipping Warning

After the thread above re-sparked my interest in looking into it, I have finished writing up my basic outline for a potential new service that would make it so people in the hobby no longer have to use FedEx to ship their animals.

Here is the doc:

The link should have commenting enabled, so feel free to add feedback there as well as here.

My main questions for you guys would be:

  • What do you think about my current outline? Is there anything you would add or change?
  • What do you want to see in a service like this?
  • What would encourage you to use this service over the standard services currently being provided in the US?

Any help, advice, or even just sharing this would help immensely. I’m still young (22 years old!) and this project is a huge task to take on, but I’m more than willing to put in the work!
If there is enough interest, I will start setting up a basic website and/or Facebook page.

Also… any ideas for a potential name for the business?


It looks great, the main thing I would add are numbers. Are you trying to raise $10,000 or $500,000. If someone is going to want to help then they are going to want to know specifics. Where are the location[s] that you are planning to build hubs at, what are some of the more specific services you have, etc. You should also add a portion on the document (or a link to another one) about a complete list of what is and isn’t allowed in different states, and then some local laws (this is something that I could help with). I would suggest looking into having the option to have the animals shipped in enclosures. The decorations would be mounted on the enclosure and be made of something easy to clean and they would be cleaned in between each animal but they would provide a larger area for the animal and it would be a possible option to have later on. I would also suggest having different areas that are different temperatures. Maybe you have a certain area that has heat tape that is 87-90* for warmer animals like ball pythons, leopard geckos, etc. However the entire area would be kept cooler so you don’t overheat lower temperature animals like amphibians or crested geckos. Add details that show that you care about the animals and company. Once you get started describe modifications you made on the transport vehicles. Modified suspension, better air filtration, better air conditioning, etc. When you go to name the business be careful about limiting it to only reptiles. There is a huge market of shipping live animals, only a portion of it is reptiles. Don’t forget about the amphibian, tarantula, invert, fish, small mammal, and bird breeders. One of the best ways to advertise this is to share it on different forums. Some people might be on bird and small mammal forums that could share this. I can share it on Arachnoboards (tarantulas and inverts). A lot of people could share it on other reptile forums.

You also mention scanning packages. It would be great to have a website that can predict how long packages take to get through different hubs so people know the likelihood of delays. It would also be extremely useful to be able to recall packages. This would majorly set you apart from anyone else trying to do this. It’s a major problem when an animal gets stuck at a hub and if there is a threat of it getting stuck for days people would like to recall it and not risk their animals health. In the future you should also look at expanding into shipping to Canada. There is a huge market for shipping between these two countries and if you were able to figure out a system to quickly and effectively do this then this would explode in popularity.


Numbers are the next thing I am gonna look into!

For hubs, of course the first one will be in Evansville, IN.
As we expand, I would want there to be hubs in most major cities in each state.
So for Indiana as an example, we’d want a hub in Indianapolis, Terra Haute, Bloomington, Fort Wayne, etc.

Help with all the legal allowances for certain species would also be helpful! I will likely make a separate document for this and work with multiple people to add in all the states + any species restrictions they might have.

I think moving away from using just boxes and instead shipping in special enclosures installed in the shipping vehicles is actually a great idea, and would likely put a little less stress on the animal, not to mention save on shipping costs entirely. Not something I would have thought of myself!

Then I’d need to figure out a “floor plan” for each vehicle. I wonder if there could be different vehicles for different animal types, or make it more modular so the enclosures can be taken out/swapped as needed?
I’m also not sure what make/model would be the best standard for said vehicles.

And yes! I am trying to decide on a name that would not just limit us to reptiles (I realize I made that mistake in my topic title, oops) since this would also be open for all other species.
It’d definitely be great if we can standardize live feeder rodent shipments, since as far as I know you can’t ship live rodents at all!

For tracking I did plan to have a website set up for that, and I definitely agree there being options for shipments being recalled in case of major delays. Estimated times might need some data collected to be accurate, but would likely be based on the normal drive time from hub to hub and the time it takes for shipments to be passed on from one driver to the next.

I was actually thinking about how we could add shipping to Canada to the mix, so it is something I will definitely consider.

Once I have a more solid plan laid out, I will start encouraging more people to share.

Thanks for your input, it really helps!

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How are you planning to ship these? Are you going to ship them to the hubs and have the receiver pick them up (which the hubs would need to be very close together), only ship them to the receiver’s house, or likely a mix?

I’ve actually started researching this because I’ve been working on the Laws, legislation, and selling by location thread.

This is also something I could look into, the different products and how they work together inside the vehicle and what vehicle would be best. Most shippers (FedEx, UPS, etc.) us a custom vehicle from companies like Mack and Lexus if I remember correctly. I would think at first using a van would be best. You are going to want a reliable vehicle, you can’t afford the vehicle to break down in the middle of the shipments.

I would recommend doing this later. When you do it would be best to talk to breeders who offer shipping to Canada and track the shipper and figure out the best way to do it.

Once you decide on a name it would be best to immediately start a website so you can organize the crowdfunding and have a good website to share to people (a document will work for a while but eventually having something more professional will increase your chances of sourcing funding and will work better).

I’m glad to help with virtually any part of this. I can’t wait to see how this comes along and develops.


A mix – this is something I specified in the document. When a seller prints their label, there will be additional options to allow for the company to pickup the shipment(s) from their business location, and for the buyer to either have home delivery or hub pickup. That’s why I’d like to start with having hubs in major cities, and add more if there’s a substantial gap that needs to be filled between two different hubs.

Oh okay! I think I had seen that before, and it had just slipped my mind. We will definitely be adhering to all local and state laws, and will require buyers and sellers to provide necessary permits where applicable. Something that I don’t think is quite enforced with the current shipping setups.

Of course, gotta get established in the US first as planned. I will keep that in mind though!

For sure! I will work on brainstorming that, while also fleshing out the other ideas we discussed before. Professionalism is definitely key here.

Let’s hope we get more people to support the project as well – I’m sure a lot of people are likely gonna wait to see if I actually manage to get anywhere with it. I’m gonna try my best though!

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Another question I just thought of — how would we manage shipment of venomous reptiles, if we offer the service for them at all?

We wouldn’t be able to use the regular enclosure idea, they would likely need to be put in secure containers by the seller if anything.

I feel like there could be a lot of legal issues there, so might be something to consider thinking more of later on when things are more established.

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I’m assuming you mean medically significant venom, there likely isn’t anything special you will need to do for a hognose. Venomous snake keepers use things called trap/lock boxes. They would likely need shipped in one of those outside of their normal container. Again, this is likely where you would contact hot snake breeders and ask them how they do this. You would also need to add a clause in the employer contract about how it is the driver’s liability if something escapes or causes harm so it’s not your fault if, for example, the driver forgets to close the trap box.

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Oh yeah, definitely meant the more medically significant ones.

I’ve been bit by my hognoses, I know they usually aren’t anything to worry about for most people :rofl:

I suppose so, yeah. I’ll definitely have to get in contact with venomous keepers to see how they would do it, and I suppose legal paperwork will save my ass if some driver or employee decides to be stupid about it — of course special procedures would be put in place for shipping the more dangerous venomous animals

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I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t make sense logistically to me. How are you going to have overnight shipping without planes? People are just going to be driving cross country every day? I can’t imagine there would be much interest in a local delivery service. People could just meet up if they’re that close together…


Okay, well maybe overnight wouldn’t necessarily work for some shipments, at least not at first. I don’t know if we’d ever get big enough to have planes as part of the service, but it’s a possibility.

Yes, it would start out locally. There’s no way I’d be able to open every location needed to complete a nationwide network in one go. It would need to start somewhere and slowly expand out as more and more people use the service.

Of course this isn’t meant for people who live 30 minutes away from each other, that’s ridiculous. I’m talking anything more than 3-4+ hours one way. I’d rather pay someone to drive the 4 hours to deliver a snake in Fort Wayne, IN than to make the drive myself or pay to ship the animal in question through FedEx. I’ve had someone want to ship an animal even though they were only 4-5 hours away. I had even offered to meet halfway — they didn’t want that.

The idea is that once we have enough hubs to create a solid network, there would be some drivers assigned to local delivery and other drivers assigned to hub transfers.

Hub drivers would travel hopefully no more than 3-4 hours to the next closest hub to drop off shipment(s) for the next driver.

If anything, super long distances (like California to Florida for example) would be maybe 2, 3 days at most. But the animals, if set up in these enclosures instead of boxes, would be offered water and given welfare checks at each hub. If most animals do fine even with one day delays while crammed in a box, then I don’t see why this would be an issue either.

If you have concerns, please actually offer feedback and suggestions instead of just trying to shoot the whole idea down. This is supposed to be a community effort, after all.


This is the important part, if they’re in enclosures then it’s possible for it to take days. I think these kinds of concerns are valid and important and help you plan better and be prepared for any issues that could occur. Luckily you’re located in a very large area (midwest) of the reptile community. I think it’s very dense in this area and there are tons of breeders (according to the morphmap) where I’m located (SE MI area). You would be just fine without expanding by sticking to the midwest region. Though eventually you’ll likely expand, you don’t have to.


I think the idea has some potential, if you build hubs around an existing infrastructure, like airports, so your hubs accept deliveries from sellers, or drivers operating out of there do pick-ups, all the animals are booked on delta dash shipments to other airports, where they are picked up, and then the buyers either pick up from the receiving hub or get delivery to their home. Probably the best way to do this is by forming some sort of partnership with independent drivers located around the US, near airports so instead of buying trucks and hiring employees, you’d arrange a fee structure with them and set your prices accordingly.
Your main barrier will be cost. Currently people are able to FedEx animals overnight for less than $100, and can ship 7 days a week. FedEx hubs are all over the country so there is a lot of convenience and very little cost. Operating an animal specific courier system like you are intending on doing, I don’t see how you’ll be able to do the volume to offer that. Looking at it from a sellers perspective, if I could send an animal to a buyer overnight, and drop it off a half hour away and it costs me $50, and I can do that tomorrow, why would I go with a service that also offers overnight delivery, but I have to drive 4 hours to my nearest city where the hub is, or have to wait longer than a week for pick up, or the service would cost like $200. Building an infrastructure like this will not be cheap, especially when you are covering a region as large as the lower 48 states. If you only use 2 trucks per hub, and hubs in or near the 20 largest cities by population, and trucks are $25k each, that’s a million dollars minimum. Then gas, wages, insurance, rent, utilities and taxes on top of that just to name a few other expenses on top of that.
There is a reason that reptile couriers like you want to have are successful in the UK. It’s a much smaller land area with a much higher population density, you can get from one end of the country to the other by car and back in under a day, and they also don’t have the option of live animal shipping by a general deliveries company, so a once a month option for $100 or so is reasonable. This isn’t the case in the US, where there is a lot more ground to cover, the population is spread thinner, and there already exists an affordable, convenient option. However, it could be worth looking at what it could cost and how it could potentially work, if there ever came a time that FedEx decided on a no live animals policy.


The only issue with this is that I wouldn’t be able to use the specially-modified vehicles specifically planned out for shipping animals in enclosures. That and I’m not sure I can truly enforce a procedure/policies on how shipments are handled through these independent drivers.

I am aware that the cost of this would make it harder to compete with FedEx, though I will mention that companies like SYR and Reptiles2You as of right now are recommending people ship on only Tuesdays and Wednesdays due to the pandemic.
Shipping on Mondays and Thursdays are at risk of delays, and you aren’t supposed to ship on any other days for the same reasons as far as I can remember.
I would like to see our service be able to offer shipping 6-7 days a week if possible.

The other consideration is if people want to choose convenience and cheaper price over the safety of their animals. Especially if FedEx keeps going downhill. Seems like more and more people are running into issues as of late.

There’s definitely a lot that will have to go into it, but I guess we won’t know unless we try.
We’d probably be able to reduce costs in some way when we start out, and as we have more shipments come through the service, we’d be able to afford to “upgrade” our services to the full planned ideas we’ve had.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated and I thank you for them.


It sounds like an interesting idea. I personally have a hard time trusting people, so the less time my animal shipment is in someone else’s hands, the better. So the idea of a shipment taking several days and having the truck driver open enclosures to give water or check on the animal makes me feel very uneasy. When I package shipments for FedEx, they’re packaged as best I can so that even if it’s being handled roughly or not in perfect temperatures, the animal inside should still be okay. And with the prevalence of crypto or other reptile diseases, sharing enclosures between possibly hundreds of animals, even if cleaned in between each use, is a big red flag to me. Some of those diseases are really hard to kill and again, I wouldn’t necessarily trust some random person to do a good enough job cleaning. Plus, they would need to thoroughly clean their hands in between each animal.

The idea of having an animal specific shipment service is an idea I really like! So I don’t mean to sound super negative, but just wanted to voice some of my personal concerns. I’m not educated on what it takes to ship animals other than corn snakes, but with corns, they can easily go many days without water, so even a several day shipment (provided they were kept in proper temperatures) would be fine without anyone needing to hydrate them or feed them.


That’s fair, and honestly maybe the enclosure idea wouldn’t work well after all with those kinds of risks involved.

I don’t trust FedEx much either with my packages, to be honest, so I can understand that!


I will be honest and say that I’m starting to second guess myself, and my optimism about this is fading… but I think I just need to take a break and see what else others have to say about it, and see if we can all come up with a solid solution and plan for this.

Maybe I’m not the best person to be attempting this, as I’m inexperienced and honestly a bit stressed with all the considerations we’d have to keep in mind. I’m not great with high-stress situations :sweat_smile:

Even if I don’t necessarily take on the project, at least we can come up with a solid foundation for someone who has the means to do so.


I think there’s some awesome ideas here. I didn’t mean to come off crass or shoot down the idea. I think there’s an idea here, but initially I had some questions. Which is why I brought them up :slight_smile:


Fair enough, again I think we can just take this one step at a time and see what we can come up with. :grin:


One other thought I had is that maybe if you really want to attempt this to first try offering courier service only in your state to start with. And you can personally drive animals around. And in that way, you can start figuring out how much gas will cost you, plus your time, wear and tear on your vehicle, etc. Obviously moving one animal won’t be particularly cost effective, but if you could pick up a number of animals in one trip, then it would be more profitable.

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I feel like this whole project would be more suited to one of the large established breeders. Maybe get in contact with one of them and see if they would be willing to work on this and get the word out.

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