LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Shippers need to be cognizant of inclement weather before mailing live animals, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman said on Monday.
Approximately 1,000 baby chicks were found dead in their mailing crates at Louisville's Main Post Office on Saturday. The chicks were part of a 5,000 chick Express Mail shipment from an Iowa hatchery to destinations throughout Kentucky.
At 106 degrees, Louisville recorded the second-highest temperature in the city's history on Saturday.
"When you're unloading the chicks from the trucks usually you can hear chirping," said USPS spokesman David Walton, "and unfortunately in this situation a lot of the crates there was just silence."
"There weren't any significant delays in this shipment," Walton said. "It's just unfortunate they arrived to us - dead on arrival."
"It's just common sense not to send vulnerable animals on a trip like that when you're going to have extreme temperatures," said Pamela Rogers, Kentucky State Director of The Humane Society of the United States.
Walton said the postal service does not check on the condition of live animals that are being shipped.
"Once we take receipt of them, we ship them when we deliver them to their destinating address," Walton told WHAS11. "We're not allowed to open up the containers. No. That's the security and sanctity of the mail. We're not allowed to open any mail."
"Even if it's a living animal."
Though the animal crates are treated as any other mail, Rogers said a different standard should apply when shipping something that is alive.
"You want to make sure that it's alive when it gets to its destination and that requires some due diligence on the part of the shipper," Rogers said, "And in this case, I don't think the shipper took the due diligence that they needed."
"We would like to very much remind shippers to be cognizant of inclement weather," Walton said, "and you know try to get their shipment to us in the week as early as possible because sometimes we get them late in the week and they have to remain on our docks and... the docks are hot."
At Fresh Start Growers Supply, owner Steve Paradis said newborn chicks are like "living yolks" that have enough sustinence to survive for several days without food or water.
Though he said the postal service has always been reliable, anyone who has accepted responsibilty for the care of such animals needs to remember the basics.
"Are they getting proper water and food? Is it clean and fresh? Is it cool? Are they in shade?" Paradis said.
When Paradis sells chickens to his customers, he said he requires pre-payment and immediate delivery.
"That keeps the bird from being at the store in an unnatural environment which creates stress which is not healthy for the bird or the eggs its producing," Paradis said.
Paradis said he is not surprised by huge shipments of chicks into Louisville. His four year old business is booming as the demand rises for quality chicken feed for urban chicken coops.
"It's kind of the 'new black' in terms of urban farming," Paradis said. "It's very en vogue and it's very rewarding. People love raising them. It's great for their kids. It shows them where food comes from."
The postal service says any fowl being mailed - such as chickens and turkeys - must be by Express Mail. Live crickets, worms and bees can be sent by Priority Mail.