FWC wants people to humanely kill the invasive green iguanas, but PETA says try to regulate them first, then kill, but do so to ‘avoid prolonged suffering.’
Florida is taking heat from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for encouraging homeowners to kill iguanas on their property “whenever possible” without instructions on how to do it humanely.
In a letter Friday to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, PETA asked the state to first take steps to more effectively regulate the possession of green iguanas and tell people how to dispatch them in the kindest manner possible if it continues to urge the use of “lethal measures.”
Green iguanas are an invasive species whose population has exploded following a mass die-off during a 2010 cold snap.
FWC’s website says homeowners are encouraged “to humanely kill green iguanas on their property whenever possible.” Iguanas are not protected except by anti-cruelty laws and no license is needed to kill them.
“If the commission insists on the slaughter of green iguanas and pythons by largely inexperienced and untrained members of the public, it has an ethical duty to inform them of the unique physiology of reptiles that requires immediate destruction of the brain in order to avoid prolonged survival and suffering,” PETA said in its letter.
A spokeswoman for FWC said earlier this month that people can’t violate anti-cruelty laws when killing iguanas, but “since there aren’t any additional regulations related to iguana removal, there really isn’t anything else for us to comment on further.”
“We suggest people wanting to remove iguanas seek guidance from legal resources and/or scientific literature,” she said.
William Kern, an associate professor in the entomology and nematology department at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, recommends homeowners hire a professional licensed trapper because humanely killing an iguana can be tricky.
A UF study last year for FWC tested different live traps for iguanas and whether trapping was more effective than catching by hand using a lasso or other manual device.
In three months, just 38 iguanas were caught using traps, while more than 800 were caught by hand. The methods used to kill them complied with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for the euthanasia of animals. Those include gunshot, captive bolt pistol, cerebral electrocution and blunt force trauma.
Iguanas cannot be drowned, frozen or decapitated (a reptile’s brain can remain active following decapitation).
Blunt force trauma to the head is allowed, but Kern cautions that one blow is euthanasia, while two blows is animal cruelty. An iguana can be shot in the head if it is an instantaneous death, but shooting iguanas in backyards where neighbors can be injured is dangerous, and likely illegal depending on the circumstances.
Kern prefers using a carbon dioxide chamber, which can be as simple as a cooler with a piece of dry ice in it that displaces the oxygen.
“With the commission’s directive to homeowners to kill iguanas whenever possible comes a duty to inform the public on the exact methods of doing this to avoid prolonged suffering,” PETA said in its letter. “If the commission insists on urging inexperienced and untrained homeowners to kill iguanas, it must first provide accurate and detailed explanations of the methods of killing them that are acceptable as well as those that are not.”