SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Floridians with exotic animals, both legal and illegal, are being offered pet ‘amnesty’ to turn in animals they can no longer care for.
By calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Exotic Species hotline at 888-Ive-Got-1 (888-483-4681), residents can be connected with organizations who can properly care for animals that have become too tough to take care of.
FWC spokesperson Jamie Rager feels many exotic pets have expensive and time-consuming needs that many people don't think of when buying an animal. She says the ultimate goal is making sure people don't release non-native wildlife into nature.
"Those spread diseases to our native wildlife, they take valuable resources from our native wildlife, and they just generally disrupt the very important ecosystems here in the state of Florida."
Exotic pets, like Burmese pythons, have become well-established in certain portions of the state and have few to no natural predators.
"Learn about the animal. Look up how big it's going to get. Look up what it eats, how much that food is going to cost, what size tank it is going to need, if you need to buy an expensive lighting and heating system," said Rager. "Know how long it's going to live. Really consider that, and whatever you do, no matter the circumstances, don't let it loose."
In addition to the hotline, FWC also hosts several pet amnesty events annually throughout the state. The next will be held later this year at the Naples Zoo.
"Make sure that you are ready for that animal, you are prepared for it, you know what it eats, how big it's going to get and you know how long it's going to live. Really consider that, and whatever you do, no matter the circumstances, don't let it loose."