Shipping Warning

Fellow Keepers and Breeders,

I want to warn you about the current state of shipping. I’m guessing that most, if not all, will ignore this warning, because to heed it may cost you sales. Nevertheless, the experience I had this week, along with some insight I received while working through it with the support folks at the shipping service, should at least make you pause before placing another living creature in a box and sending through FedEx.

I want to start by acknowledging that I sent out two snake shipments on Tuesday following Memorial Day. I figured there would be some additional volume due to the Monday holiday, yet worse case scenario in my mind was an extra day and a Thursday delivery.

Right off the bat, I knew it would not be smooth sailing, as I awoke on Wednesday to see that my packages were still in Phoenix. This brings me to one of my big complaints; there is no mechanism to recall your packages once they are out. None. Even if I had driven to the Phoenix airport, I could not have stopped the week of hell that my baby boas were about to endure.

Finally, the packages arrived at the Memphis Hub at 11:41 A.M., an hour and ten minutes after it was supposed to have been delivered in Minnesota. Having paid obviously for OVERNIGHT delivery, I chalked it up to experience and planned for a Thursday delivery. Thursday came and went, and the snakes didn’t move. Friday was nearly over before the Minnesota package finally left Memphis. Again, this is now 2 1/2 days into an OVERNIGHT delivery.

Despite leaving Memphis at 3:43 P.M., apparently, it is a nearly 16 hour flight to Minneapolis, because the package did not arrive in MN until 8:00 A.M. on Saturday. Customer Support at the shipping service requested an expedited Saturday delivery, not apparently knowing that the MN hub would be closed on Saturday. It will now be (supposedly) a Monday delivery. That’s right. It will have been seven days on an OVERNIGHT delivery. At this point, I can only hope that the little guy makes it.

Now, you’re probably saying “yeah, but you shipped on a Tuesday after a holiday,” or “yeah, but this is really rare.” Wrong. During the course of the week from hell, I have exchanged many many emails with the support team at the shipping service, and have learned some things that make me very skeptical of live shipping, at all. the shipping service constantly claimed to have contacts at FedEx, and to be “closely monitoring your packages,” both of which I am now very skeptical. They also constantly told me that they would get back to me with any updates, which they never did, unless I initiated the communication with them.

On Thursday, the shipping service told me that severe volume was the culprit. They again claimed to have multiple agents watching out for my packages at every stop. If that’s true, they are completely useless and overpaid, because it still took a week to get the packages through! More likely, it’s nonsense designed to give people confidence to continue giving them business.

On Thursday evening, the shipping service told me that “Covid and the resulting e-commerce boom has turned the shipping world on it’s head.” FedEx, et al, have seen “holiday volume every day for over a year straight. The systems were never designed to be able to manage this typos of volume over any sustained period of time… there was no time to make the infrastructure more robust to handle this volume.”

Does this sound like a system into which we should be placing our valuable animals? Remember also, once they are picked up or dropped off at a hub, you have no way of retrieving them or recalling them; they are stuck and must proceed through the system no matter how jammed up it is. Speaking of which, if the volume is so crazy, why do they accept OVERNIGHT packages of live animals without batting an eye? Wouldn’t the ethical thing to do be to temporarily suspend live shipments? With the technology available to them to tell you where any package is anywhere in the world at any given time, they can’t look at you and tell you that it likely would face delays? Nope. Just take their money and shove the box into the system. And the shipping service goes right along with this bologna.

the shipping service also told me that FedEx tracking info “can be irritatingly optimistic with their Expected Delivery Date info. I’ve seen packages stuck in Memphis still show anticipated delivery that day at 10 P.M.”

the shipping service also told me that there were still three planes going to MN on Thursday, so there was a decent chance for the package to get there that night. Again, an OVERNIGHT delivery sat in Memphis while three more planes went to MN. In an email on Friday, the shipping service told me the confirmed that the ship station in MN would be open on Saturday, yet on Saturday, they told me that the FedEx hub in MN was closed. So did they just make up stuff when they told me that they had confirmed it would be open?

This story isn’t over yet, but I wanted to get this out there. I’m more than acknowledging my part in this mess. I should not have shipped on Tuesday after a holiday (although on that, the shipping service told me that 10-15% of shipments are delayed, most of those are for 24-48 hours, not a week). This situation has me questioning whether to take part in live shipments anymore. I assume that most (if not all) will ignore this warning, so as not to lose sales. Most of us would rather hear a comforting lie than an uncomfortable truth. For my part, I have pulled my remaining boas for sale as I think long and hard about my role in the lives of these animals under our control. We owe them more than a fair shake at a good life. They are not just ours to profit off of. If you’re still with me, thank you for reading, and I sincerely hope that we all will do what is in the best interest of our animals, not our wallets.



Going back through my emails, it does look like there were one or two updates from the shipping service that I did not initiate. I am not trying to be unfair to them and wanted to acknowledge that.

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I wouldn’t have shipped a day after holiday in a time that shipping is a little slower due work shortages and above normal shipping volume.


I’ve pondered the idea of what it would take to open a courier-type service specifically for live shipment of animals, as I’ve had delays with FedEx myself, as well as FedEx straight up sending a package back to the seller because it apparently didn’t get on the shipment it was supposed to go get to me?? I don’t know honestly.


Start-up costs alone would inhibit anyone from entering that business, I would think. My real question is are we as shippers, believing it’s safe simply because we want to keep doing it? Are we wearing the rose colored glasses without regard for the real, if only potential, harm it could do to the animals? I enjoy breeding boas, but what SYR told me about FedEX has shaken me.

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Yikes, what a nightmare! I’m sorry you, your customers, and the animals are going through that. I hope they survive the delays.

I’ve only ever shipped animals a handful of times (and all pre-covid) and never had an issue. And all the animals I’ve received also arrived exactly when they should have and alive. Shipping always stresses me out, but I figure it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to sell 100% locally? If shipping isn’t an option, does that mean you will stop breeding or only breed what you know you’ll be able to sell locally?


It’d probably have to start locally-based, then expand as more and more people start using the service.

Though then you have the issue of pricing, which would likely make a courier company more expensive than going through SYR or one of the other FedEx based third party companies.


Crowdfunding, there’s so many breeders, sellers, and shippers that they would love to have this. We know that there are a ton of reptile breeders and sellers, but many bird and livestock breeders/sellers would also use it.


I’m sorry to hear that. I can understand where you’re coming from it’s tough to be in that situation. I actually had my first DOA this year. It was on time but the package had been badly abused. The situation with FedEx is not news to most of us that ship a lot. Your experience with this shipment is definitely worse than the new normal, but I’ve been packing everything for an extra day in Memphis since the lockdowns started last year. I’ve also been more on top of conditioning the animals to ship insofar as I can. I stop feeding 10-14 days before, give fresh water daily the week of, and soak them the day before for a few minutes to be sure they’re well hydrated.

I’ve had several packages both incoming and outgoing spend an extra night in either Memphis or Sacramento. I had one animal with a 40 hour heat pack held in Memphis for two days, but it arrived healthy and only a bit on the cool side despite the pack running out. They must be storing them inside at least. I did cut off shipping for the last couple of cold months this season to avoid using any heat packs that could run out under delays like that. All of my customers were completely fine with it.

According to both my shipper and the people I’ve spoken with at FedEx the volume is only part of the issue. They’re using a lot of temp labor to meet staffing needs since a lot of their normal (properly trained) employees are still drawing unemployment.

We are experiencing a unique event in our history and it may drive further change to our materials and methods. All we can do is our best. One thing I do differently now is write “live animal” on every side of the box so that if any employee sees it, it’s clear what it is. If the labels on the box are stacked the wrong way for all they know it’s non perishable. They have a protocol for live animals that are late but they have to know there is one in the box. I don’t write any warnings, just the two words on every side.

While it feels terrible when these things happen, they’re definitely the exception and not the rule. Despite all of FedEx’s crap, they’re still getting most animals where they need to be on time. I shipped a box of 5 neonates to Maryland last Wednesday and they arrived well before I expected them to. A friend who breeds colubrids had had no DOAs and only a few late arrivals in over 200 shipments in the last year. Is FedEx the best solution we could come up with? Surely not, but considering the odds involved, they’re actually pretty reliable until we do.


Seems like it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to look into after all. The only problem I could foresee is actually getting the word spread enough to get people’s attention — I’m not a very well-known breeder as it is and I’m not sure people would trust me as a result.

Unless we’d be able to use the sheer size/traffic MorphMarket gets in particular to spread the word.

Though I’d also need to figure out what all would be needed to successfully start such a business. Hmm…


It would be very interesting to shippers so it would spread very quickly by word of mouth and posting on many forums. I think there is quite a large community in your area so it should be easy to start locally. The trick would be not limiting it to reptiles. Include reptiles, amphibians, birds, inverts, small mammals, etc. That would be a major business that could become very popular, especially with states (like New York) banning live animal shipping from non-specialists. If you do decide to proceed with this I’d be happy to help you work out the legalities and technical details of this.


That’s very true. I am pretty interested in looking into it, so I’d be more than happy to receive any help I can from others. If such a service would better the hobby here in the US, I don’t see why we can’t make it happen!


Something like this would be amazing. Hopefully you proceed with this and if you want help feel free to message me, I’d be more than happy to help.

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Will do! I’ll be working on writing up an outline of what the business would encompass first, then I’ll probably reach out on here for feedback and ideas from the community. Once I have a solid outline I’ll probably reach out to you so we can figure out legal stuff!


I can’t wait!

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I hope your little boa will be okay. I also had a boa shipped last week. Pugsley was shipped on Wednesday from Pennsylvania and arrived in Mobile Alabama at 8:30 on Thursday morning.

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Luckily I’m the UK we have reptile couriers. I couldn’t ever imagine putting or receiving a box through mail :flushed:


Any news about your snake?

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I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. Perhaps only ship to hubs. I’m going to ask some more questions to ShipYourReptiles and get their thoughts.

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After my rant on Saturday, I had a long Sunday and Monday morning of watching my phone for hopeful updates. Lo-and-behold, he made it! ShipYourReptiles was able to contact the FedEx location in Minneapolis and have them hold the package so my buyer could pick him up at the hub, eliminating any chance of yet another day of delays. I got a text from my buyer about 9-is my time (West) with a picture of the little guy doing just fine. Wow! What an emotional roller coaster.

I’m still spooked though and need to look into my shipping options before resuming sales. I don’t want to ever feel that I put a higher priority on a sale than the well-being of an animal.

Thank you to all the constructive replies. I will employ some of your tips for sure if/when I ship again.