113 exotic pets given up during Tampa amnesty day
TAMPA - Owners of exotic pets streamed into the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's amnesty day Saturday, turning over animals that have gotten too large, unruly or were just unwanted. The program was established so owners could give pets to the state rather than turn them loose in Florida's woods and swamps. Biologists point to the Everglades, where a growing population of Burmese pythons and other exotic snakes has taken hold. Wildlife officials say the population began when python owners let loose their pets after they got too big to handle. Commission spokeswoman Jenny Tinnell this morning said 113 exotic animals were brought to the four-hour event Saturday near Busch Gardens. That was more pets than were turned in at a Miami amnesty day this year. "Mostly they were reptiles," she said. "Snakes, lizards and turtles."The unwanted pets were coupled with people who wanted to adopt them, she said. Adopters had state permits for some of the animals and were preapproved after registering with the state. All of the animals that were turned in got homes, Tinnell said. "We had a steady flow of people all day long," she said. "I was surprised to see how many showed up." The program is offered a few times a year in cities across the state and offers a chance for owners to get rid of their exotic pets with no fees or penalties imposed. At the amnesty day in Miami eight months ago, 500 people showed up and 100 animals were turned in, including 21 snakes, 22 lizards, 40 turtles and tortoises, seven birds, eight mammals and two fish.