FWC Commissioners Discuss Potential Changes To Venomous Reptile Classification
By Space Coast Daily // April 17, 2016
At a recent meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved further action by FWC staff to work with a Technical Advisory Group, industry experts and others to refine proposed changes to existing rules, including a possible venomous reptile classification system, then return at a future meeting with a draft rule for the Commission to consider.
FWC Captive Wildlife staff was directed by the Commission in November 2015 to evaluate existing regulations and develop a range of regulatory options for the Commission’s consideration, including evaluating the penalties associated with permit violations.
Prior to receiving this direction, FWC staff had already held a series of eight statewide meetings from December 2014 through March 2015 to meet with stakeholders and gather public input on all captive wildlife rules. A number of recommendations regarding venomous reptiles were submitted during those meetings.
Staff also created and distributed a survey to help gauge stakeholder opinions on venomous reptile regulations regarding classifications, bio-security and training.
Based on reviews of existing regulations and recommendations received, proposed changes to the existing rules include modified training, caging and handling requirements to increase bio-security, and minimizing the risk to licensees and the general public because of escapes and/or bites from venomous reptiles.
“The Commission is pleased with the progress that the Captive Wildlife section has made so far, and we look forward to their recommendations at a meeting in the future,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.
“With freedom comes responsibility, and our primary concerns are public safety and the native habitat.”
Maj. Brian Smith, leader of the Captive Wildlife section, also recommended creating a classification system for venomous reptiles (native or nonnative) and establishing a Technical Assistance Group to provide guidance on categories (or tiers) within the nonnative classification. These tiers may range from continued possession to potential prohibitions of possession for some species.
In addition to working with the TAG for assistance, staff also proposed to garner input from industry experts to develop this tier system. Additional workshops with stakeholders, permit holders and the public will be necessary to refine proposals and options for modified regulations.
Staff will present a draft rule regarding venomous reptile ownership at a future meeting for Commissioners to consider.
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