2008 Rule Changes: Captive Wildlife

Since January 1, 2008, there have been  many changes to Florida Statutes and FWC rules governing captive wildlife activities. Owners and dealers should be aware of these changes, which are summarized on this page.

The links on the upper right will take you to specific areas of this page.

Captive Wildlife - General

Class I Captive Wildlife Facility - Zoning Requirement

Facilities housing Class I captive wildlife may not be located on property within an area zoned solely for residential use.  Subsequent changes to property zoning shall not disqualify an existing license or permit holder. 

Class I and II Captive Wildlife Facility - Land Area Requirement

Anyone possessing Class I or II wildlife now must have at least 5 acres of property for any Class I wildlife and at least 2½ acres of property for any Class II wildlife.  This is an increase from the previous requirement of ¼ acre, which remains the minimum requirement for certain exemptions.  The exemptions generally include infants and smaller sized specimens or species of Class I and II wildlife. 

Class III Captive Wildlife Facility - Safety Doors

Anyone possessing Class III capuchin, spider, and woolly monkeys now must have safety doors and entrances to cages as is currently required for Class I and II wildlife.  Safety doors must be designed to allow owners or keepers to have access to the cage while preventing escape of the wildlife. 

Class I Captive Wildlife - Escape Notification

Anyone licensed to possess Class I wildlife must report any escape of Class I wildlife to the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement immediately upon discovery.  

Anyone licensed to possess Class I wildlife also must maintain a contact list - including names, addresses and phone numbers -of their contiguous landowners or neighbors in their Captive Wildlife Critical Incident and Disaster Plan.

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Critical Incident/Disaster Plans

Captive Wildlife, Venomous Reptiles, and Conditional Reptiles - Critical Incident/Disaster Plan 

Applicants for permits to possess wildlife in captivity, venomous reptiles or conditional reptiles must provide a Critical Incident/Disaster Plan on a form provided by the FWC  (227KB).  The plan will include a course of action to be taken in preparation for natural disasters or critical incidents. 

"Part A" of the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan is to be returned to the FWC with initial and any renewal application.  "Part B" of the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan is to be retained at the location where wildlife is kept and must be made available for inspection upon request of Commission personnel.

Exhibition of Wildlife

Venomous Reptile Exhibitors - Surety Bond  

The amount of the bond required to exhibit venomous reptiles to the public has increased from $1,000 to $10,000, and it is now payable to the FWC instead of the governor.  This bond is due upon application for a Venomous Reptile License or at the time of renewal of a previous license.

Class I Captive Wildlife Exhibitors - Financial Responsibility Guarantee; General Comprehensive Liability Insurance 

Persons or businesses exhibiting Class I Captive Wildlife must now either

  • provide a surety bond or a financial responsibility guarantee of $10,000; or
  • maintain $2 million of general comprehensive liability insurance with $2 million per occurrence. 

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Reptiles

Reptiles of Concern

There are currently no species designated as Reptiles of Concern

Venomous Reptiles - Cage Enclosure ID System

Anyone possessing venomous reptiles must clearly mark each cage or enclosure with a card or sign stating "Danger Venomous Reptile."  The card or sign must also include the identification of the species inside by both common and scientific name.  The card or sign must be clearly visible at all times and accompany the venomous reptile when removed from the cage for cleaning or transport. 

Venomous Reptiles - Bite or Exposure Protocol

Facilities or premises where venomous reptiles are housed and maintained shall have a Bite or Exposure Protocol clearly posted on the premises in proximity to where the venomous reptiles are housed or maintained.  This protocol shall include the common and scientific names of the specimen(s) housed and maintained within the facility, antivenin procedures required for treatment of each species and the location of the antivenin, emergency contact information, and a plan of action in case of a venomous reptile bite or venom exposure. 

Nonnative Venomous Reptiles and Conditional Reptiles - Identification and Tagging Requirements

Live Nonnative Venomous Reptiles and conditional reptiles possessed for personal or commercial use must be permanently identified.

Each specimen of Nonnative Venomous Reptiles must be permanently identified by photograph or by implantation of a passive integrated transponder (PIT tag, also referred to as a microchip).  Each specimen of conditional reptiles must be permanently identified by implantation of a PIT tag.

PIT tags must be implanted in the last 1/3 of the snake's body forward of the anal plate.  PIT tagging is required when the snake is 2 inches or greater in diameter for venomous reptiles; tagging is required when the reptile is 1 inch or greater in diameter for conditional snakes and lizards.  Nonnative venomous lizards and Nile monitor lizards of any size must be implanted in the body cavity forward of the hind leg, or in the hind leg.  Owners of venomous reptiles must keep a record of the PIT tag number and specimen information; owners of conditional reptiles must report the PIT tag number to the FWC within 72 hours of acquisition of the specimen.

Owners of any Nonnative Venomous Reptiles or Reptiles of Concern acquired prior to January 1, 2008 have until July 1, 2008 to meet the PIT-tagging requirement.  Specimens acquired after January 1, 2008, must be permanently identified on acquisition.

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Nonnative Venomous Reptiles and Conditional Reptiles - Escape

Anyone licensed or permitted to possess Nonnative Venomous Reptiles or Conditional Reptiles must report any escape to the FWC immediately upon discovery. 

Record Keeping and Reporting Requirements - Venomous Reptiles (all) or Conditional Reptiles

Anyone licensed to possess live venomous reptiles or conditional reptiles now must maintain accurate records of all changes in inventory (e.g., births, deaths, acquisition, sales and transfers) on forms provided by the FWC.  Records must be open to inspection on request by FWC personnel.

Anyone who exhibits or sells live venomous reptiles or Reptiles of Concern must submit the inventory records twice a year: once upon renewal of their license and again 6 months later.  Anyone possessing live venomous reptiles or Reptiles of Concern for personal use must submit the inventory records upon renewal of their license and on any instance of inventory change.

Red-eared Sliders

As of July 1, 2007, red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) are listed as conditional species.

Anyone possessing red-eared sliders acquired before July 1, 2007, may keep them without a permit until legally transferred or disposed of.  New rule changes that go into effect in August, 2010, will allow private individuals to apply for a permit to personally possess red-eared sliders.  This will provide more outlets for unwanted pet turtles.  Individuals who apply to personally acquire red-eared sliders and want to keep them outdoors must have an area enclosed by a barrier secured at least 6" below ground and constructed out of solid material, and all eggs must be destroyed daily.

Turtle farmers should be certified through the Division of Aquaculture.  Turtle farmers that want to culture red-eared sliders must obtain the restricted species authorization from the Division of Aquaculture, in addition to the Aquaculture Certificate.

Color morphs such as albino and amelanistic colored specimens may be legally possessed or sold without a permit. 

It is unlawful to release red-eared slider turtles or any other conditional, prohibited or unapproved nonnative species. 

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FWC Facts:
The home range of a male Florida panther is about 200 square miles. That's about 5 times as large as Disney World.

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