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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Pet snake outgrown your home? Options for exotics are available

TAMPA - Exotic pets, including large constrictor snakes such as pythons and boas, may hold an appeal for many as alternative types of pets, but these snakes can get big and unruly. Burmese pythons can grow to 20 feet, and present a danger to young family members or pets. The Nature Conservancy says owners of large snakes who can't handle the reptiles anymore should not grand them freedom and just allow them a pass out the back door. Instead, they should:
• Check with the pet store where they purchased it about taking it back. • Look for a certified adopter or consult with a veterinarian about a humane method of euthanasia. • Consider the exotic-pet amnesty day offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during which owners who can no longer handle their pets get a chance to surrender them for free, no questions asked. Commission spokeswoman Pat Behnke said that the amnesty program began in 2006 and is popular among those giving up exotic pets and those adopting them. There have been three such events this year and one is planned in the fall, although the details have not been finalized as to where and when it will be held, she said from her Tallahassee office this morning. "We advertize for adopters to sign up with us and to get certified, and we invite people who can't take care of their exotics anymore," she said. "We ask that they bring their pets to us and not release them into the wild. We want them to know that we will safely put them into someone's hands; someone who can care for them. "People become attached to their exotic pets, and when responsible owners realize they can't handle them anymore, they want to make sure they are well cared for." All kinds of exotic animals come in at the events. "We get a lot of snakes, iguanas, lots of reptiles and little mammals," she said. Seventy pythons were turned in at each of the past two events, she said. They are turned over to facilities that can care for them, such as zoos, or individual snake lovers who have the proper permits and can demonstrate experience in the care of large reptiles, she said. Adopters "have to fill out applications that are reviewed," she said. "They have to give information about their exotic, whether they can keep it and the site at which it will be kept. They have to give us caging information, names of veterinarians and know that we can come in at any time and inspect the caging." Locally, exotic pets, including large snakes, can find a home at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Seminole. The facility accepts any wildlife, including snakes and other reptiles, said director Vernon Yates. Pet owners can bring snakes to the center, which has all the required licenses to keep reptiles, no questions asked, he said. "We average two or three a month," Yates said. "We have a big white Burmese python right now. What we try to do with them, we try to find homes where they are used for education." That includes zoos or wildlife refuges, he said. "We would rather have them in our possession rather than turn them lose, or turn them over to Animal Control, where they will just get euthanized," he said. "It's not the animal's fault." Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation is at 9500 82nd Ave. N. The telephone number is (727) 399-1525.

Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.

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