JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is getting ready for pet amnesty day, but this isn't a day for dogs and cats. It is strictly for exotic animal owners.
"A lot of times they (owners) see these animals in the pet shops and they are little babies and are cute. They don't realize that the babies will become a 13 or 14 foot animal and be much more than they wanted," tells Dino Ferri the curator of Herpetology at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Instead of turning in exotic animals safely, some owners choose to release their pets into the wild, which is a violation of state law.
"We realized we needed to give owners a safe and reasonable alternative to releasing these animals," says Jenny Novak the exotic species special projects leader for FWC.
So began Pet Amnesty Day. It has been going on for six years in Florida and so far the FWC says it has taken in around 6,000 animals. The FWC does it with several zoos in Florida and on Saturday morning, residents in north Florida will have the chance to turn over exotic pets at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
No questions asked.
"There are certain species you have to have special permits, special licenses through FWC. So this is a chance to wash your hands of it and it (the animal) will be left in good hands," tells Ferri.
All of the animals will be checked out by veterinarian.
Ferri says the majority of animals that come in are reptiles, like snakes, but the zoo also gets birds, other mammals and one year even Tamarin monkeys were brought in.
Other parts of the state have also had some interesting drop-offs on Pet Amnesty Day.
"We've even had a Serval cat which is a medium-sized African cat," tells Novak.
So if your precious pet isn't fitting into your family anymore, Saturday's Pet Amnesty Day is a safe way to say goodbye. It will be from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. for owners to drop off exotic animals in the parking lot at the zoo near the picnic area. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. accredited and licensed adopters may look at the animals dropped off. There will also be education displays and booths for zoo visitors.
If you can't make Saturday's event, but would like to drop off an exotic pet, find out how to do that at this link: http://myfwc.org/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives
First Coast News