The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area will hold an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day on Saturday, March 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Fort Myers. This event enables people to surrender their nonnative pets free of charge and with no penalties.
The goal is to reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild by pet owners who can no longer care for their pets or no longer wish to keep them.
“Often, pet owners don’t understand the possible negative impacts that may result from releasing a nonnative species,” said Jenny Novak, who coordinates the FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program. “Pet amnesty events foster responsible pet ownership while providing exotic pet owners a legal alternative to releasing nonnative animals.”
Exotic Pet Amnesty Days have had great success in other areas of the state, such as Miami.
“We’d like to expand the program by encouraging other agencies and organizations to participate,” said Novak. “For example, this amnesty day would not be possible without our partnership with the Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.”
To date, more than 500 nonnative species have been observed in the wild in Florida, and more than 130 have reproducing populations. It is illegal to release any animal not native to Florida.
At each pet amnesty day, every attempt is made to place all healthy animals with qualified adopters. Pet adopters must be pre-qualified to receive surrendered animals. Anyone interested in adopting exotic pets can download the application forms at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives. Adoption applications must be received by Feb. 28 to be processed in time for this event.
Exotic Pet Amnesty Day is a free, family event. Live animals will be on display, and experts will be on hand to talk about proper care of exotic pets.
Additional information about Exotic Pet Amnesty Day and exotic animals in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.
Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium is at 3450 Ortiz Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33905.
Logo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission