Pet owners can surrender their nonnative pets — free of charge and no penalties — during an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day in Miami.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding the event on Friday and Saturday at Zoo Miami.
"We give pet owners the legal alternative to setting things loose," said Jenny Novak, a wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The commission says in a statement that such events help reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild by pet owners who can no longer care for their pets or no longer wish to keep them. Such events are held throughout the state. Wildlife officials will place healthy animals with qualified adopters.
"Even if it's illegally held and not licensed, you can bring it to us. There's no penalties. We'll have it looked at by a vet and we'll place it with one of our pre-qualified adopters," said Novak.
More than 500 nonnative species have been observed in Florida, and more than 130 have reproducing populations.
"Because of Florida's climate, a lot of these exotic animals that could be let go in this state have the opportunity to live and possibly reproduce," said Novak.
"They are really competing against our native species and putting our native species out," said Ron Magill with Zoo Miami. "This could be a huge problem in the future for wild Florida."
It is illegal to release any animal not native to Florida.