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Florida to Require RFID Tagging for Some Exotic Pets

In an effort to curtail the growing number of non-native reptiles in the wild, the state will require owners to implant low-frequency tags in their animals.
By Jill Gambon
Feb 12, 2007The state of Florida will require pet pythons and certain other reptiles have low-frequency radio frequency identification chips implanted in them in an effort to crack down on the number of non-native snakes proliferating in the wild. The chips are intended to help wildlife enforcement officers identify the snakes and track down their owners.

Under new rules adopted last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), several species of pythons, as well as green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards, will have to have integrated transponders (PITs)—passive low-frequency RFID tags—injected under their skin once the animals reach a diameter of 2 inches.

Many other wildlife agencies and researchers have already begun using PIT tags to track a variety of animals, including crustaceans, birds, mammals, amphibians and fish (see RFID Antenna to Catch Fish). The microchip implant is among a series of new regulations approved by the FWC, including mandatory permits, bite-response plans and specific cage requirements for the reptiles. The rules go into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

"We are trying to foster responsible ownership," says Linda Harrison, a captain in the FWC's law enforcement division. At present, there are no licenses or permits required for reptile ownership. "We are trying to reduce the number of people who are buying these pets on a whim."

The new regulations come as Florida's wildlife and animal control officials are dealing with a growing number of non-native pets that have been released or escaped into the wild. Pythons can grow up to 20 feet in length. Reports of the animals preying on alligators, bobcats and other native wildlife have heightened concerns about the snakes' impacts.

According to Harrison, the regulations do not specify any RFID standards regarding the tags that must be implanted in the reptiles. "We left that to the discretion of the owner," she says. "For people who have already had their animals tagged, we didn't want them to have to retag." The price of the PIT tags is about $3 to $7 apiece, and the cost of the implant is about $40—the rate of a routine veterinarian visit, Harrison says. It is not known how many snakes and lizards will require tagging, though she adds that "conservative estimates" peg the number of Burmese pythons alone in the state of Florida at 3,000.

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