Reptiles of concern in Florida may soon be reclassified as conditional species as a result of draft rules approved at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s meeting in Tallahassee on Wednesday.
By reclassifying reptiles of concern, which include the Burmese python, the FWC will no longer allow future personal possession of these animals as pets. Current owners of these species as pets may continue to possess the animals as long as the licensed pet lives. Commercial reptile breeders will be allowed to possess these reptiles for export out of Florida.
The FWC also approved draft rules for the regulation of reptiles of concern held by dealers for the purpose of export. The proposed rules provide regulations for housing the animals, set standards for FWC inspections, require a critical incident plan to be filed and set up record-keeping and reporting procedures. In addition, the Commissioners approved new draft rules that address containment of the species during transport, to ensure the safety of anyone involved in handling the species during exportation out of Florida.
They also approved new draft rules for relinquishing nonnative pets. The proposed rules allow for amnesty when a reptile of concern is turned over to a reptile of concern license holder or a conditional species permit holder, but the acceptance of these animals must be reported to the FWC within 72 hours. The FWC wants to ensure that all current owners of reptiles of concern have an option to surrender pets if they can no longer keep them.
Two representatives from the reptile industry and The Nature Conservancy addressed the Commission and gave their approval to the draft rules. The Humane Society of the United States also supported the rules but urged the Commission to go further by banning all breeding and sale of the reptiles for export.
“This is not an end to the process,” said Scott Hardin, the FWC’s exotic species leader. “We will continue to gather biological information, including threats to the environment and human safety, and we will continue working with stakeholders.”
The Commission directed staff to bring back final rules to the June 23 meeting in Lake Mary. For more information on reptiles of concern, go to MyFWC.com/ROC.