FWC News Release

Contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed new rules on Wednesday that will provide options for non-licensed owners of nonnative species if they can no longer keep their pet.

“Release of exotic animals by pet owners remains a significant pathway for the introduction of nonnative species,” said the FWC’s Scott Hardin. “As a result, the FWC initiated a series of pet amnesty events to provide an option for owners of exotic pets to surrender their unwanted pets to responsible agencies or individuals instead of illegally releasing them.”

Although the FWC requires a captive wildlife permit for owners of many nonnatives, some owners do not follow the legal guidelines. When these pets become too much for the owners to handle, the FWC wants to ensure the animals don’t wind up in the wild where they may endanger Florida’s native fish and wildlife.

The proposed rule would allow, at FWC-sponsored amnesty events, owners of unlicensed fish and wildlife to surrender their animals, and for adopters to accept nonnative fish and wildlife from unlicensed individuals, without penalty. Allowing adopters to accept these fish and wildlife will be an exception to the current rule that prohibits transfers of unpermitted wildlife of any kind.

Another exception to the rule would allow state and county animal control agencies to accept unlicensed nonnative animals with the owners allowed to surrender those animals to the agencies without penalty.

The FWC has sponsored three amnesty day events, with the most recent one in February at the Miami MetroZoo, where 148 animals were surrendered to the FWC.

The new rule and exceptions, if passed by the FWC at the September meeting in Jacksonville, will help prevent further releases of nonnative fish and wildlife into Florida’s diverse and fragile environment.