News Releases

Nonnative Pet Amnesty Day offers options to pet owners

News Release

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-867-0516

If you have an exotic pet you can't care for anymore, please don't open the door and set it free. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offers a better solution for you.

To help keep unwanted exotic pets out of Florida's native ecosystems, the FWC and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will host a Nonnative Pet Amnesty Day Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Jacksonville. Exotic reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals will be accepted; domestic pets (dogs, cats, rabbits) will not be accepted.

"The main purpose is to give pet owners an alternative to releasing their exotic pets into the wild," said Scott Hardin, Exotic Species Section leader with the FWC.  "Many of the 133 species of nonnative fish and wildlife established in the wild in Florida resulted from releases by pet owners."

It is illegal to release any nonnative species in Florida, but many pet owners are not aware of this or that most captive species will not survive in the wild.  Just as important, it is not ecologically responsible to introduce a species without a scientific study to confirm it will not harm native wildlife.

Some nonnative species have restrictions on possession, while personal possession of animals that pose severe ecological, economic or human health risks are not allowed in Florida.  These species, along with unrestricted pets, will be accepted at Nonnative Pet Amnesty Day.

"We will not penalize those who choose the responsible option of not releasing their pets into the wild," Hardin said.  "This is about curbing our ongoing problem of exotic fish and wildlife."

Nonnative pet amnesty events help increase awareness of nonnative species' prob­lems.  The event is free and open to the public.  Animal experts will be on hand to answer questions and help teach people how to be responsible pet owners.  Kids can get close to live animals on display. 

For more information on amnesty day events and nonnative species in Florida, visit

FWC Facts:
Although black bears in western states may have several color phases, all black bears in the eastern United States, including Florida black bears, are black.

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