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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
Harrison expects many pet owners to choose microchips from Avid Identification Systems, popular among pet owners who have the tags implanted to help track their pets if they get lost. The Avid tags, about the size of a grain of rice and enclosed in glass, operate at 125 kHz. The chips are injected into the animal's muscle tissue with a hypodermic needle.

RFID interrogators read the chips’ unique identification numbers, which Avid stores in a database it maintains. If a shelter or animal control officer finds a pet, scans it and finds an Avid chip, he or she contacts the company, which can track down the veterinarian who implanted the chip. Pet owners can also pay a fee to register with PETrac, Avid's global database for tracking animals equipped with the tags. In those case, if a pet with an Avid chip is recovered and identified, PETrac contacts the owner directly.

The FWC's 16 enforcement officers will be equipped with RFID interrogators designed to read the tags. No decision has yet been made as to the type of equipment that will be used, says Harrison, though she expects it to be a model able to read multiple frequencies and tags from different vendors.

The Florida Animal Control Association (FACA), whose primary membership consists of individuals who carry out animal control and protection, supports the microchip requirement to help better track snakes and other non-native animals and reptiles that end up in the wild, according to Bill Armstrong, a board member of the group.

"It's a step in the right direction," he says. Still, Armstrong would like to see the tagging requirements go even further to include all carnivorous pets in Florida. He'd also like to see the mandatory tagging of all pet dogs and cats in Hillsborough County, on the west coast of Florida, where he is director of animal services. There are an estimated 500,000 pet dogs and cats in the county, which includes the city of Tampa. Many of the pets end up lost or as strays, Armstrong says, but the identification chips would help cut down on the number of pets euthanized because owners cannot be tracked down.

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