New Fla. Law Makes Exotic Pet Ownership More Expensive

Avatar BCR | July 15, 2007 5 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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New Fla. Law Makes Exotic Pet Ownership More Expensive


Good video and photos at the link below


UPDATED: 5:26 pm EDT July 2, 2007



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A new law makes it more expensive to keep exotic animals as pets, leaving some South Florida animal lovers outraged over the legislation.


Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill in May that requires Class I animal owners to buy a $10,000 bond or carry a $2 million insurance policy. The new law went into effect on July 1.


According to Florida regulations, Class I wildlife are considered to be dangerous species such as lions, tigers, bears and chimpanzees.  


Former actor and Loxahatchee resident Steve Sipek, who has played the role of Tarzan in multiple films, said the four big cats he keeps on his property are like his kids.


"When I was making Tarzan movies, I was in a fire and a lion saved my life. It changed my life completely," Sipek told WPBF News 25.


Sipek has owned the cats for years, including two Siberian Bengal tigers.


"There are no words. I’d do anything for them," Sipek said.


Sipek told WPBF he has already dished out hundreds of thousands of dollars in food, shelter and medical bills for the cats, but now he will have to pay even more due to the new legislation.


Sipek said he thought the law was too excessive and unnecessary.


"For what reason? We don’t take the animals out — they are here. They are here for life. They don’t go out of here, so there is no reason for them to carry that kind of insurance," Sipek said.


Keith Lovett, with the Palm Beach Zoo, said the new law will help control the large pets and pet owners.


"It’s very important legislation because, unfortunately, down here in South Florida, a lot of people have these types of animals which can be very dangerous living in their back yard," Lovett told WPBF.


Three years ago, Sipek’s tiger "Bobo" escaped from his cage and was on the loose for a day before being shot and killed by local authorities.


Lovett said the bill protects animals and people from those who can not care for the creatures properly.


"Having this law makes it more difficult for people to acquire these animals in the first place. It is very important, and it helps not only the animals, but the people who live around these animals because safety is definitely a concern," Lovett said.


Sipek, however, said the price tag of the new law is too much.


"The bottom line is that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. They’d have to come here and shoot them all, including me, because we’re not going to be separated, no way," Sipek told WPBF.


Cost Of Owning Exotic Reptiles Increases


The legislation also applies to people who own pythons and several other types of reptiles.


Now owners of Burmese pythons and other nonnative reptiles will have to pay a $100 annual fee to own one of the animals under a new law that just went into effect July 1.


Previously, there was no fee. The purpose of the law is to encourage responsible ownership.


State spokeswoman Carol Pratt said too many people are buying pythons when they are cute and small and then releasing them into the wild when they become unmanageable.


Pythons can grow to 20 feet or longer.


Pratt said the big snakes are thriving in some parts of Florida and preying on a lot of native animals. The legislation also applies to people who own pythons and several other types of reptiles.

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