Does Shipping Insurance Cover Live Animals?

Learn why major carriers and third-party insurance companies exclude live animal shipments from coverage, even though you're allowed to ship them
does shipping insurance cover live animals
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Did you know that USPS allows you to send live animals? Most people don’t know that you can animals like day-old live chicks with USPS, as well as live honeybees (as long as you use the proper service and take a lot of time to package it all up properly). UPS also allows you to ship live animals and plants (with some pretty hefty restrictions, nonetheless). However, just because these carriers allow you to send live animals doesn’t mean that their built-in shipping insurance will cover them in the event that you need to file an insurance claim.

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Major Carriers Don’t Insure Live Animal Shipments

Here’s where it can get kind of tricky. Major carriers like USPS and UPS provide built-in coverage up to a certain point when you purchase labels from them. For instance, all Priority Mail Services come with $50 of insurance at the Post Office and $100 when you buy labels with shipping software. UPS labels are covered for up to $100 in carrier liability. However, live animals are excluded from most shipping insurance coverage, including the built-in protection both USPS and UPS provide. This is because, from a general point of view, shipping carriers group live animals into the same category as perishable items. So, while your labels technically do come with coverage for those shipments, carriers like USPS and UPS may deny your claim if any animals perish during transit or if the package goes missing.

An Example from the UPS Website

In case you need an example, the following is a direct quote from the UPS website page on How to Ship Plants and Animals:

“Any package containing a live animal shall be considered a perishable commodity and will be accepted for transportation solely at the shipper´s risk for any damage or loss arising from the perishable nature of the item. UPS shall not be liable for any special, incidental, or consequential damages.”

Third-Party Insurance Companies Also Don’t Cover Live Animals

Unfortunately, purchasing insurance from a third-party provider isn’t the solution to protect your live animal shipments, either. Like USPS and UPS, third-party insurance companies group live animals into the same category as perishable items. No insurance company covers perishables because they can often spoil (or in the case of live animals, perish) if the shipment stays in transit too long due to unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, you’ll often see these companies explicitly excluding live animal shipments and perishables from coverage in their terms and conditions. One common example of a third-party insurance provider that excludes live animals from coverage is Shipsurance.

So…What Do I Do?

Since you can’t protect your live animal shipments with insurance, the best bet is to pay a premium for expedited service with guaranteed delivery. This way, you give your shipment the shortest amount of time in transit possible. When shipping with USPS, the fastest service you can pay for is Priority Mail Express, or “PME” for short. In fact, USPS requires you to ship with Priority Mail Express when sending birds and honeybees in the first place! PME features overnight delivery to most urban locations in the United States and 2-day delivery to most rural destinations. The fastest UPS service available is Next Day Air, which offers overnight delivery no matter where you’re shipping to within the United States.

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