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Keeping Venomous Reptiles In Florida May Get More Difficult

The Florida FWC is considering amending and making additions to the rules governing venomous reptiles, like cobras.

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Monocled cobras are popular with venomous reptile keepers. Via Thomas Jaehnel/Wikipedia
John Virata

Do you live in the state of Florida and keep cobra snakes or other venomous reptiles? If you do, or are considering it, keeping these reptiles may get a little harder, thanks in part to the escape of two venomous snakes from their enclosures last year.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is taking a look at the state’s rules and permitting process regarding the keeping of venomous reptiles, and this week just might recommend some rule changes and additions, according to Florida Today.

The FWC decided to revisit the rules regarding the keeping of venomous snakes such as cobras, black mambas and rattlesnakes after two separate incidents of snakes on the loose: the escape of a king cobra in September 2015 and the escape of a monocled cobra in November 2015. Nobody was injured in these incidents and the snakes were located and captured.

A subsequent inspection, dubbed “Operation Slither,” was conducted by the FWC’s Captive Wildlife Section after the escapes. It led to a pair of citations for not following the rules and 71 warnings for license, caging or administrative issues.
 

The escape of a king cobra in Florida has led the FWC to consider new rules regarding the keeping of venomous snakes. Via Hari Prasad/Wikipedia

The escape of a king cobra in Florida has led the FWC to consider new rules regarding the keeping of venomous snakes. Via Hari Prasad/Wikipedia

Some of the proposed rule changes include modifying the training, caging and handling rules in an effort to increase biosecurity and to reduce the risk of escapes and bites from venomous snakes.

Currently, all that is required is 1,000 hours of experience working with these animals, but the venomous reptile industry is working with the FWC to develop training courses that could be completed to obtain a venomous reptile license in lieu of the 1,000 hours experience. There are 281 venomous reptile licenses in the state.

The proposed caging rules would require venomous-reptile keepers to keep their animals in locked enclosures in escape-proof rooms, according to Florida Today, which cited FWC documents. Another proposed rule would ban handling of venomous reptiles outside an escape-proof room.

A proposal to require Passive Integrated Transponder tags for all non-native species in an effort to easily identify ownership if an escaped snake is captured will be also considered.

The first meeting that will discuss the proposed rule changes and additions will be held April 13-14 in Jupiter, Florida, at the Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place, 122 Soundings Ave. For information about the current rules in place in Florida, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

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