Exotic pet amnesty
Pet owners who no longer want to care for their exotic pets were able to surrender them at the Calusa Nature Center, no questions asked. It's all part of the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program. Video by fox4now.comvideo
"I turned in a turtle, a red-eared turtle." Margaret Jellison had that turtle for about 15 years, but decided that today, it was time to say good-bye.
"It had a partner, but we lost that one," she says. "It was just really lonely so we decided to bring it in."
Luckily it was Exotic Pet Amnesty day at the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers, a much better option than releasing it in the wild.
"They're not good for the environment," says Margaret's father Charles. "So it's tough to find a home for them."
"This is the Burmese python that's in the Everglades that has been released and is breeding and causing a lot of destruction of our native ecosystems." Erin Myers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says releasing any non-native species can cause unintended habitat destruction. The Burmese python that was turned in Saturday is one less predator competing with the others already in the Everglades.
"Burmese pythons can get up to 23 feet," says Myers. "That's why they're not the best of pets."
"My daughters named him Snuggles," jokes one pet owner, handing a snake over to wildlife officials. "Why? I don't know."
"A lot of these people get these pets because they're unique, and at some point they get too big or they get aggressive," says Myers. "They change their behavior, and people don't feel like they want to take care of them any longer."
But this event was about more than surrendering unwanted pets. It was also about finding new homes for these animals.
"An event like this, where you can get a rescued pet instead of purchasing one at a pet store, is the way to go," says Carrie Nameth of the Imaginarium in Fort Myers. She says they have a collection of amphibians, reptiles and other animals at the Imaginarium, but came here hoping to get the only mammal turned in: a hedgehog.
"And I think it's ready to adopt, so, I'm going!" she laughs as she rushes off to claim her animal.
"A lot of these people have facilities where they can care for these bigger animals, or these animals where the current pet owner can't take care of them," says Myers. "So it's a better life for them and the owner can take care of them correctly."