Gulfarium teamed up with The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the event, which had a steady stream of animals surrendered.
FORT WALTON BEACH — The good results of events like Exotic Pet Amnesty Day were easily accessible on Saturday.
You just needed to know where to look. In this case, that was wrapped around the lower right arm of the Emerald Coast Science Center’s Harley Peters. That’s where a rather large ball python, Avi, which is short for Avogadro, was curled up.
“We adopted him a few years ago at Amnesty Day,” Peters said. “He’s great … he’s really snuggled up right now and he loves to cuddle. In that way, he’s definitely puppy-like.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed up with host Gulfarium on Saturday for the event, where people could surrender their legally or illegally kept exotic pets without penalty or cost.
Emerald Coast Science Center was one of several exhibits set up across from the check-in area. Those exhibits featured, along with Avi, an American boa and a blue-tongued skink, which is essentially a snake with legs and feet that kept trying to crawl out of its crate to be held like a puppy … just like Avi.
“The majority of the animals we’ve gotten have been ones you can buy in a pet store,” said Stephanie Krug, FWC Nonnative Species Outreach and Education Coordinator. “That’s because they’re easily accessible and not as expensive, but there are animals we get that are outside of that classification and you need a special, Class One permit for those animals, and those are usually issued to places like Gulfarium.”
The FWC sent up a group from Homestead to Fort Walton Beach with a specially-equipped trailer for the animals that the group picked up in Fort Lauderdale.
Any surrendered animals were examined by Dr. Rebecca Wells, a veterinarian at Gulfarium, and Tracy Baldwin, a veterinary technician at Bayside Hospital for Animals.
Krug was up until early Saturday morning approving adoption applications for the surrendered pets – those needed to be submitted four days in advance. Once animals were cleared medically, a lottery would determine which approved applications got first choice.
In the first 90 minutes of Saturday’s event, three ball pythons, one western hognose snake, three hermit crabs, one hedgehog, one gopher tortoise and one very large, very (at first) unhappy African spur thigh tortoise had been surrendered.
Krug said that while there’s nothing “crazy” that gets turned in – slow your roll if you think someone is walking up with a tiger cub – they have received, recently, a lemur and a Capuchin monkey. In the past, several crocodilian species have been turned in.
The FWC will also take birds – macaws, which cost upwards of $1,500 each, have also been surrendered.