FWC helps pet owners prepare for new invasive reptile rules taking effect April 29

Green iguana. FWC photo by Carol Lyn Parrish

New rules designed to protect Florida from high-risk, nonnative reptiles take effect April 29 and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is helping people who have pet green iguanas and tegus come into compliance.

As part of the new rules, pet owners will have 90 days from the effective date to apply for a no-cost permit and mark their pets with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag, also known as a microchip. Working with a variety of partners, the FWC is holding Tag Your Reptile Day events throughout the state to offer pet owners an opportunity to have their pet green iguanas or tegus microchipped for free. Staff will also be on hand to address questions about the permit application process.

“Just as with cats and dogs, microchipping your green iguana or tegu is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep them safe while also protecting Florida’s native wildlife,” said Kristen Sommers, leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impacts Management Section. “We are holding Tag Your Reptile Days throughout the state to help pet owners offset costs for microchipping.”

To date, the FWC has scheduled the following events, all taking place from 10 a.m. to 4p.m.:

May 22 at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, 1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach
June 5 at Brevard Zoo, 8225 N Wickham Road, Melbourne
June 12 at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, 015 SW 16th Ave., Gainesville
June 19 at Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa
June 26 at South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach
More details including possible additional dates will be added to the FWC website at MyFWC.com/ReptileRule.

The rule changes to Chapter 68-5, F.A.C. take effect April 29 and specifically address 16 high-risk invasive reptiles including pythons, tegus and green iguanas that pose a threat to Florida’s ecology, economy and human health and safety.

The new rules also include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial sales or as pets.

The 90-day grace period ends July 28, 2021 and by that time all pet green iguanas and tegus must be permanently microchipped and owners must have applied for a permit. All other entities must come into compliance with the new rules by July 28 as well, including entities possessing the regulated species for research, educational exhibition or commercial sale. Additionally, entities with these species will have 180 days to come into compliance with the new outdoor caging requirements. The 180-day grace period for upgrading outdoor caging ends October 26, 2021.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Approximately 80% of these species have been introduced via the live animal trade with more than 130 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida’s habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

For detailed information on how these new rules will impact pet owners, commercial sellers, exhibitors, trappers and other groups, or to learn more about upcoming Tag Your Reptile Day events, visit MyFWC.com/ReptileRule.

Additional information about nonnative species in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.