Proposal to redefine and allow the shipping of tarantulas, including theraphosid spiders and other harmless pet arthropods and similar animals used for research in general from section 8.5 (Harmful Matter—General), of the USPS Domestic Mail Manual currently categorized as “harmful” in section: 601 Mailability, part “b”.
I’d like to propose slight changes or at least some consideration thereof regarding the “mailability” of tarantulas in USPS regulations. In short (and upon request I can provide citations, references and scientific literature supportive that) tarantulas are not harmful, nor medically significant to people. In a general sense, tarantulas (as per USPS guidelines and biological definition) are initially covered as “mailable” under the category “small, harmless cold-blooded animal”.
However, current USPS guidelines section 8.5 item “b” further defines tarantulas as not safe to ship, or as they word it, harmful, quoted as follows:
Except as provided in this document, any article, composition, or material is nonmailable if it can kill or injure another or injure the mail or other property. Harmful matter includes, but is not limited to:
a. All types and classes of poisons, including controlled substances.
b. All poisonous animals except scorpions mailed for medical research purposes or for the manufacture of anti-venom; all poisonous insects; all poisonous reptiles; and all types of snakes, turtles, and spiders.
c. All disease germs or scabs.
d. All explosives, flammable material, infernal machines, and mechanical, chemical, or other devices or compositions that may ignite or explode.”
Item “b”, although not technically accurate excludes tarantulas from USPS shipping because they are “poisonous” in the same sense we refer to such animals that are “venomous”. Semantics aside, tarantula venom is not considered harmful to humans and thus any live tarantula should be considered a "harmless arthropod".
It should be noted here that the shipping of scorpions and bees are allowed under regulations for specific reasons. Despite any exceptions made by USPS to allow their shipping, bees and scorpions are certainly medically significant to humans, a fact no one can dispute. Scorpions and bees cause significant recorded numbers of human deaths annually. There are no recorded human deaths attributed to the bite of a tarantula.
It may be noted here that tarantula venom is currently the subject of a wide variety of scientific research. Live specimens are needed at research centers. Recent studies reveal that peptides in the venom may provide the key to discovering long-range cures or treatments for MS and heart disease in humans. Tarantula venom varies widely in chemical composition and their effects on people. Other than routine concerns over a small puncture wound, bite symptoms range from none to mild swelling and pain depending upon the individual. The most important distinction for tarantulas is they do not cause human deaths. Scorpion and bee stings are accountable for many deaths, thus are more worthy of special handling procedures and earning the label “hazardous”.
Another point to consider in these troubled economic times is the exotic pet trade. Although a small percentage of pet sales overall, the tarantula hobby as we know it depends on the ability of the pet trade and our favorite exotic animal dealers to ship animals to us safely and inexpensively on demand. Those of us participating in arthropod breeding projects, educational endeavors, and private research rely upon the postal system to ship male and female specimens of rare species. If there were no means to transport our animals safely and cheaply around the country the entire infrastructure of the hobby would collapse, bringing down small business owners as well. So, a part of this proposal to change existing regulations in favor of shipping tarantulas is meant to ensure that small businesses can continue to operate, educational/research projects can proceed, and captive breeding of livestock may continue unobstructed as well.