Floridians Hand Over 100 Exotic Pets on Amnesty Day
The frustrated owners of 102 exotic pets turned them in at Miami’s Metrozoo this weekend, taking advantage of a unique amnesty program aimed at preventing the release of more boas, birds and other animals into the wild. A howler monkey, turtles and snakes were handed in, no questions asked, even though the penalty for keeping such pets can be up to $1,000 and a year in jail.
“We’ve got problems with over 100 species of nonnative animals,” Gabriella Ferraro, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told PEOPLE Pets. Florida weather allows pets like iguanas and parrots to survive, breed and take over habitat from native animals. The most notorious nonnative feral pet is the Burmese python, which is near threatened back home but thriving in Florida, where the population is estimated at 30,000. The biggest one found wild in Florida was 152 pounds and 15 feet long.
Florida’s animal categories aren’t even that strict: prairie dogs, squirrels, hedgehogs, camels and (farming) bison don’t require a permit. People who have the required licenses filled out applications ahead of time and showed up at the event to take in some of the animals. Others may go to sanctuaries. “If they’re healthy, they’re placed,” says Ferraro.