Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 2 of Today I Learned – Exotic Pet Amnesty Day

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: This is an old post from Arch Stanton that I forgot to post.  Slightly out of order.  And here, we, go:

Did you know Florida has an “Exotic Pet Amnesty Day” program? WELL YOU DO NOW, AND GUESS WHAT, WE’RE DIVING INTO IT.

So I recently learned Florida has the most Florida of programs, in which residents (and non-residents, looking at you GEORGIA) can, “find a new home for the exotic pet you can no longer care for”.  If you know anything about me, you immediately understand this is a topic worth of extensive digging and research.

The program was started in order to curb the release of top predators into the Florida wilds were they will inevitably topple local native species and, because this is Florida, OF COURSE you have some super weird pets capable of doing this! Golden retrievers? FUCK NO! Let’s get some tegu lizards, because this is America’s butthole and you gotta outdo your neighbor Linda May and her fuckin’ python that was the hit of the trailer park soiree last summer. LINDA MAY YOU BITCH! The program specifically targets exotic species, defined as “animals living outside captivity that did not historically occur in Florida” (one page noted an estimated 26% of all fish/reptile/bird/mammal species in Florida are non-native – again, WHAT THE FUCK is this state). The program also takes pains to specifically note you can surrender pets kept legally or illegally, because (again) this is Florida and everything everyone is doing might as well be presumed illegal until otherwise validated with two forms of identification and a permission slip from the appropriate governmental agency. Because this is America, and why-the-fuck-wouldn’t-you, every page makes note to ‘bring the whole family so they kids can see whatever your moron neighbors dumped here’! I am dead serious when I say, “KIDS ENCOURAGED” is part of the program. Make your own joke.

Many articles note that people surrendering their pets come in with mixed emotions, some excited to get rid of the animal they didn’t realize was nocturnal when they originally bought it or was destined to far outgrow the available space for such an animal. Florida holds these events throughout the year because (this is a theme) Florida, and where else could this possibly happen (besides uhh… Ohio, where 56 exotic animals escaped from a farm one time in Zanesville), but regularly sees citizens of other states show up to turn over whatever animal they attempted to defy God by attempting to domesticate. For instance, “Connor” (you’re not going to believe this, but EVERYONE chooses to withhold their names during the subsequent local news reports), came from ILLINOIS to dump his blue and gold macaws who, surprisingly to him, happened to be very loud creatures that his neighbors did not share his fondness for. If you can’t make it to one of the drop-offs, you can call (I swear this real) 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 instead of releasing your pet into the wild, like Duck Phillips did with Chauncey on “Mad Men” (OBVIOUSLY I AM NOT OVER THIS HOW COULD HE DO SUCH A THING).

The drop-off event is immediately followed by a pick-up event where other people show up to see what kinda of weird pets they can pick up to add to their collection. Again, this all Florida as shit. The pets are dropped off, no questions asked, and picked-up, nominal questions asked (it’s like a police auction, except you could be strangled by a python!). “Pets” that are not adopted tend to end up on “panhandleexotics.com” – your one-stop shop for online exotic enthusiasts (financing available!) One volunteer went on the record as saying (paraphrasing) ‘Miami is surprisingly the Mecca of exotic animals’, because this person doesn’t have internet access and has never seen “Scarface” or “Miami Vice”. Most articles include many pictures with everyone surrendering looking EXACTLY how you imagined they would – cargo shorts, handle-bar mustaches, Oakley sunglasses with tons of exposed tattoos due to the cut-off sleeves).

Before I begin to lose you – you already left? that’s understandable – let’s look at some numbers and species involved. The first year of the program (2006), there were six total surrendered animals – these were the only ones brave enough to test the  “no questions asked” thing – but the most recent figures (from 2015), 356 animals were surrendered for a total of 2,530 over the course of the whole program. Part of me wonders how many of these people have dropped off multiple pets — “yeah… I know I got this python previously, but I really thought this one would be different. Anyway, here’s another python.” Anyway – some specifically noted species, and some exciting facts:

– Sulcata tortoises (can grow up to 200 pounds and can live up to 150 years from Sahara. Can you imagine being the third-generation of some redneck taking care of his fucking turtle?)

– Ball pythons (originally from the Saraha, but considered “quasi-local” because – say it with me – Florida)

– Capuchin monkeys

– Kangaroos

– Peach-faced Lovebirds (I have no idea what this could possibly be)

– Silver fox

– Kinkajou (If you thought it required an enormous metal robot to fight in “Pacific Rim”, you are wrong — it’s more like a monkey fucked a raccoon in Thailand)

– Burmese pythons (Obviously, they prey on wildlife,  as well as cats, dogs, and sub par golfers trying find their balls in the rough)

– Nile monitor lizards

– Gambian-pouched rats

– Monk parakeets

– Baby camel (WHAT)

– Green iguanas (They don’t necessarily do a ton of ecological damage, but they fuck up peoples’ landscapes which, let’s be real, is a far greater crime)

– Black-spinytail iguanas

– African-spurred tortoise

– Nutria (A large rat from South America, because who wanted to sleep tonight anyway?)

– Cuban treefrogs

– Gopher tortoises

– Lionfish (With no natural predators and highly-spontaneous reproduction, people are encouraged to “Be the Predator!” and capture them with one site providing instructs on HOW TO FILLET AND COOK THEM)

– Sun conure (A parakeet)

– Caique (A parrot)

– Zebra (The zebra in question is supposedly responsible for biting off **part** of a man’s nipple in Oklahoma. This surely resulted in the weirdest Merle Haggard B-side)

– Boa constrictor

– Hedgehogs

– Crested geckos (Previously thought to be extinct!)

– Blue-winged Macaw (South American parrots)

– Mixed cats (An Asian leopard crossed with domestic cat with the intention of looking like a wild cat with the personality of a domestic cat, but likely ending up with a panther who shits on your pillow while absolutely annihilating your couch. You could have got a labradoodle, but noooo, you thought you were better than that)

– Sugar gliders (From Australia) (Disillusioned Dilettante: can we sell this name to Trojan Condoms?)

– African Grey Parrot

– Albino pythons

– Red-Eared Slider Turtle

– Corn snake

– Madagascar Giant Chameleon

– Macac

– Fennec Fox (North Africa)

– Ferrets (New Zealand)

– Coatimundi (South American raccoon)

So if you need a pet, remember to call 1-888-IVE-GOT-1, or as I like to think of it, the same number I call whenever I get laid solely for the purpose of humble bragging.

Disillusioned Dilettante Addition: The following is a real list of the funniest bird names to say out loud:

– Dickcissel

– Bushtit

– Great Tit

– Masked Booby

– Himalayan Snowcock (my favorite)

– Titmouse

– Hoary Puffleg

– Woodcock

– Common Shag

– Red-billed Oxpecker

Th-Th-The, Th-Th-The, Th-Th… That’s all, folks!

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