Invasive pet reptile restrictions take effect this week

Invasive pet reptile restrictions take effect this week
A black and white Tegu lizard (Source: Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB) - Owners of certain nonnative reptiles will have to follow new rules which take effect Thursday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

The FWC if offering to help pet owners come into compliance with the new invasive reptile rules, designed to protect Florida from high-risk, nonnative reptiles, including pet green iguanas and tegus.

Pet owners will have 90 days from the effective date to apply for a no-cost permit and mark their pets with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag, also known as a microchip. Working with a variety of partners, the FWC is holding Tag Your Reptile Day events throughout the state to offer pet owners an opportunity to have their pet green iguanas or tegus microchipped for free. Staff will also be on hand to address questions about the permit application process.

“Just as with cats and dogs, microchipping your green iguana or tegu is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep them safe while also protecting Florida’s native wildlife,” said Kristen Sommers, leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impacts Management Section.

To date, the FWC has scheduled events across Florida; currently, the closest one to the Suncoast is set for June 19 at Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa.

More details including possible additional dates will be added to the FWC website at MyFWC.com/ReptileRule.

The rule changes to Chapter 68-5, F.A.C. take effect April 29 and specifically address 16 high-risk invasive reptiles including pythons, tegus and green iguanas that pose a threat to Florida’s ecology, economy, and human health and safety.

The new rules also include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial sales or as pets.

The 90-day grace period ends July 28 and by that time all pet green iguanas and tegus must be permanently microchipped and owners must have applied for a permit. All other entities must come into compliance with the new rules by July 28 as well, including entities possessing the regulated species for research, educational exhibition or commercial sale. Additionally, entities with these species will have 180 days to come into compliance with the new outdoor caging requirements. The 180-day grace period for upgrading outdoor caging ends Oct. 26.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Approximately 80% of these species have been introduced via the live animal trade with more than 130 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida’s habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

Additional information about nonnative species in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.

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