This is South Florida, the capital of all things weird and wacky. So, it's not usual for people to have tigers in the back yard or pythons in the bedroom.
Unfortunately though, many people underestimate the effort that goes into caring for an exotic pet, and all too often they end up released into the wild. To combat this ongoing issue, Zoo Miami and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are hosting an exotic animal amnesty day this Saturday.
So if you're in possession of a ball python that you can't care for, give it up to the Zoo instead of releasing it into the Everglades. (Please never do that!)
But what defines an exotic animal, exactly? Anything that isn't domestic, says Ashley Taylor, exotic pet amnesty program coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"Most commonly we see animal surrendered that people can buy at their local pet store: ball pythons, aquatic turtles, bearded dragons, and iguanas," says Taylor. "We also often see sulcata tortoises, boa constrictors, tegu lizards, sugar gliders, and hedgehogs. On occasion people will surrender exotic mammals that require a permit from FWC: skunks, prairie dogs, and kinkajous."
And the amnesty program means people can surrender pretty much anything, no questions asked -- domestic pets excluded.
"Even if people do have hold the permit required to possess an animal they will not be penalized in any way when they bring the animal to surrender it," Taylor explains.
If a tiger shows up, for example, FWC law enforcement would assist.
"We do have quite a few adopters that have a Class I licenses and do own tigers, so I would contact one of them and law enforcement would transfer it into their possession," says Taylor.
As far as the fate of the surrendered animals, they're offered up for adoption.
"When the animals are surrendered they will all be looked over by veterinarians on staff. All healthy animals will be made available to adopt at 2 p.m. by registered adopters of the program," says Taylor.
"All registered adopters filled out documents explaining the detailed care of the these exotic animals. They also all had a background check verifying they do not have any captive wildlife violations."
For people who want to become adopters, applications are available online at myfwc.com/nonnatives. They can be filled out online, scanned, and emailed to
firstname.lastname@example.org or physically mailed in.
"In order to adopt animals on Saturday you have to be pre-registered with the program and have your acceptance letter in hand," Taylor says.
Oh, and if you surrender an animal on Saturday, you score a free ticket to the zoo. Just don't get any ideas about those giraffes.
The amnesty event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at Zoo Miami, 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami. There is no cost or penalty associated with surrendering an animal.
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