View Full Version : Invert shippers take notice.

05-14-2004, 12:41 AM
In the past this statement http://www.usps.com/judicial/1980deci/7-135.htm from the USPS has been the final word on shipping invertabrates through the mail.

Today I found out differently. the Domestic Mail Manual CO21.3.1.b dated 06/12/03 states:
Harmful matter includes, but is not limited to:
All posionous animals exept scorpions mailed for medical research purposes or the manufacture of antivenom (sic); all posionous insects; all posionous reptiles; and all types of snakes, turtles, or spiders.
It also states this little ditty:
Any Postmaster may decide whether articles and substances other than written, printed, or graphic matter are nonmailable and, where appropriate, is authorized to refuse to accept for mailing such matter determined to be nonmailable.

We all know shipping tarantulas and scorpions (exceptions as above) is not permitted by the usps. But we all know that it's done everyday, usually on the assumption that if you get caught, nothing will happen.


Today I had to go to the post office and pick up a package I had intended to ship yesterday. It did contain 3 harmless scorpions, and I was upfront when asked what it contained. They were also double boxed, and the words LIVE SCORPIONS were written on both boxes. The shipment was also going to Wilkes University, to a research student. This one would have been legal under the old law referenced above. Under the new law, apparently it wasn't. My postmaster informed me that any and all packages mailed by me or to me will now be opened and inspected prior to me receiving or mailing them. I was also informed anyone who mails a scorpion or other prohibited animal is in violation of Title 18 United States Code 1716 (18 U.S.C. 1716) which declares it a crime to mail anything that may kill or injure persons or harm property. Persons violating the statute may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or other severe penalties. This is a felony.

What in Gods name makes a 1" V. carolinianus scorpion, which possesses an insignificant type of venom dangerous when a 3' wild caught Nile Monitor isn't? Which box would you rather open and inspect?

My biggest problem.....FedEx does not ship any insects or arachnids as per a conversation with their animal shipping desk today. UPS does not ship live insects of any type according to a conservation with their main office today. Airborne/DHL does ship live insects or arachnids according to someone from their headquarters per a phone conversation today.

That leaves airport to airport shipping. Delta Dash starts at $68.00. Would you pay $68.00 shipping for a $35.00 animal? Especially if the next guy that hasn't got caught is shipping them for $8.00

Anyone have any ideas?

Clay Davenport
05-14-2004, 03:59 AM
I would probably just utilize the post office in the next town or another area of the county and have any inverts you order like that either sent to a friend or shipped via FedEx or whatever to avoid the postmaster at your post office ordering it opened.
I'd also keep tabs on the post office and once they get a change in post masters, just go back to business as usual.

Chances are if the postmaster was determined to be an ass and file charges against you, you could probably avoid any actual fines, particularly in this case, but it's really not worth the headache.
On a side note, you could always have some fun with it. Have someone send you a small sculpture of a bare bottom with the words "bite me postmaster Fred" written on the cheeks. Much more humorous and scathing possibilities exist, but I'll leave that to the imagination.
Really funny would be some of those spring loaded slinky snakes that fly everywhere when a box is opened. :D

Glenn Bartley
05-14-2004, 08:49 AM

These are the regulations currently found on the USPS web site. They have been in effect at least since 1999. I am a little confused as to why the USPS has a problem with you and or why you have a problem with them stopping your package. Was the person it was being mailed to going to perform valid medical research or to make antivenin with them. If so, then you have a valid appeal of the postmaster's decision. If not, well then I guess the regulation sucks but it is their pre-posted regulation.

These are the in depth regulations concerning the exception allowing shipment of live scorpions:

526.5 Live Scorpions
The mailing of scorpions is limited by the restrictions in 18 U.S.C. 1716. Under this limitation, scorpions are mailable only when sent for the purposes of medical research use or the manufacture of antivenin. Scorpions are nonmailable under any other circumstances. See Exhibit 526.5 and DMM C022.3.9 for mailing conditions that apply to permissible shipments.

Exhibit 526.5
Restrictions on Mailing Live Scorpions
Live scorpions are mailable only if EACH of the following conditions is met:
1. Must be for delivery only within the continental United States.
2. May be sent only by surface transportation.
3. Must be sent only for special purposes of either:
* Medical research use.
* Manufacture of antivenin.
4. Must be properly packaged prior to mailing as follows:
* Live scorpion is packed in a double container system, with each receptacle closed or fastened in such a way as to prevent escape.
* Inner receptacle is made of material that cannot be punctured by a scorpion.
* Inner receptacle is marked "Live Scorpion."
* Cushioning material is used to prevent shifting of the inner receptacle.
* Design of packaging is of sufficient strength, as required in DMM C022.3.10, to prevent crushing of the mailpiece or escape of the contents during normal postal handling and transport.
* Address side of mailpiece is clearly marked "Live Scorpion."

While a postmaster can deny shipment of a package, the postmaster probably can only do so under appropriate circumstances. If the postmaster does so in violation of postal regulations then my guess is that the postmaster's actions would be deemed inappropriate. If on the other hand they were not being shipped under the above research exception, then they should not have been shipped via the postal service period. I know plenty of people do it, but that does not make it any more right for you or I to do it. Since Wilkes University (at least the one whose web site I visited) does not offer a medical degree, I would imagine that the research student would have had to have been using the scorpions for making antivenin, probably for their pharmacological or biochemistry programs. If that is the case, then file an appeal with USPS.

As to this:

My postmaster informed me that any and all packages mailed by me or to me will now be opened and inspected prior to me receiving or mailing them. This sounds like it maybe illegal if the postmaster has no cause to open those packages; of course it may also be legal after 9/11. Yet, it sounds like a bit of harassment to me, since he is zeroing in on you by apparently threatening to open each and every package sent to you regardless of any suspicion relating to each of them. If you feel strongly about this, then you may want to call the office of the Inspector General for the US Postal Service. Of course, you may want to wait and see if they really carry through on this, and then contact the IG. If you do that though, bear in mind that someone in USPS may decide to file charges against you for violation of 18 USC 1716. Of course that could also be seen as harassment if only filed after the fact of your complaining to the Inspector General's office, but things like this happen now and then and the government wins. Do you have that apparent 'threat' in writing? If so hang onto it for use as evidence if you ever do file a complaint

An important consideration that should help shape your future actions on this is a legal one. If you are ever found to again be shipping live scorpions through the postal service, even through another post office, and that shipment is not well documented showing it to be under the scorpion exception and following every rule to the letter, then you may be prosecuted by the Postal Service under the provisions of 18 USC 1716. If someone at the post office did open one of those packages, and was careless enough to be stung by one of your scorpions and then had an allergic reaction and died - well just imagine the possible repercussions both criminally and civilly. Criminally they could be catastrophic to you as this is a death penalty statute (same one used for the Una-Bomber, Ted K.). I am not saying you would be so sentenced, but that there certainly would likely be a long drawn out prosecution if you pled not guilty; then if found guilty there could be a stiff sentence of many years in jail. Civilly the sky is the limit when you are sued. If you use a friend to ship or receive them for you (without following the exception for shipping scorpions), and he gets caught and then spills his guts, well now you could also be charged with conspiracy. Conspiracy charges are often an easily provable charge and I believe it has a 5 year prison term as possible penalty (maybe 10 years), and possibly longer if the conspiracy is linked to the 1716 charge.

Of course, if it is legal, and you really are shipping to someone who will use them to perform medical research and/or create antivenin then none of that bad stuff should happen and you possibly have a valid gripe against the postmaster. You may also want to contact your local congressperson and senators about this issue to try and have the law changed. If you could gather enough support among the animal industry you may succeed; but I believe that despite anything that you do on this issue, it will be unlikely that the regulations concerning shipment of live scorpions will change in the near future in this post 9/11 world. As for me, I would ship via Delta Dash if I wanted to stay on the safe side.

Best regards,
Glenn B;)