Specimen Shipments

Do you and your staff ever ship specimens for lab testing via air? If so, do you all have the proper training required by the U.S. Department of Transportation?

We’ve recently heard of a few instances where improperly packaged veterinary specimens prompted audits of veterinary shipping practices by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA performs the audits in situations where the external appearance of the package does not appear to meet shipping standards, or worse, the specimens have leaked due to improper packaging, creating the potential for human and environmental exposure to the contents.

The FAA takes these instances very seriously, as should you. When a package leaks, it puts handlers, transport vehicles and the environment at risk. It also ruins your sample and delays test results for animals that may be quite sick. And the fines associated with noncompliance of packaging or training can be substantial, running into the thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, the audits don’t seem to be widespread, but many veterinarians may not be aware of the training requirements involved with shipping specimens. In an effort to remind our members about the shipping and training requirements, our Membership and Field Services and Scientific Activities divisions recently put together a helpful document outlining the required training and packaging for shipping lab specimens. The Department of Transportation also has information available to guide you through the entire process.

Please take the time to review the documents and ensure that you and your staff are properly trained. The AVMA has had a policy on the Shipment of Diagnostic Specimens since 1969, so this isn’t a new issue. But it certainly is one that deserves our attention.

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