Choose wisely: Contact a licensed veterinary professional
Florida recently made national headlines with a hotly debated decision to restrict or ban more than a dozen non-native reptiles like Burmese pythons and green iguanas, many of which are popular pets but also are now running, slithering, and rapidly reproducing around the state following escape or outright release.
This new reptile regulation is just the Sunshine State’s most recent foray into controlling invasive, non-native pet animals: Florida is finally reporting real progress in its decades-long, revenue-sucking, multi-agency fight against highly destructive and disease-spreading giant African snails, which had been brought to Florida as novelty pets and were later let loose in the wild.
But that state isn’t alone in its efforts to stop non-native, undomesticated, or potentially deadly and destructive creatures being imported and kept as pets: California has its own specific regulations as to what animals may be kept domestically, and—if allowed—under what conditions. These regulations are upheld by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Department of Health Care Services, and, especially in relation to potentially invasive or undomesticated animals, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
‘WHY CAN’T I HAVE A HEDGEHOG?’
CDFW frequently fields questions from Californians asking why certain animals—sometimes allowed in other states—are not allowed here except under very specific circumstances that must go through a rigorous vetting and permitting process. CDFW cites two simple but major reasons why certain animals are restricted in California:
- Because the animal’s numbers are threatened or endangered in the wild.
- Because the animal poses a threat to native fish and wildlife, agriculture, or public health and safety.
Some of CDFW’s most asked-about pet animals include:
Emotional arguments that these and other non-native and possibly invasive pet animals are adorable, are allowed elsewhere, or are no trouble just don’t fly (or crawl): CDFW says that it “does not support any changes to existing laws and regulations without solid scientific evidence demonstrating no risk to our native wildlife and their habitats.”
CONTACT A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL
The California Veterinary Medical Association notes it has never been illegal for licensed professionals to provide veterinary care to all animals, regardless of whether they were here legally or not. The organization also cites key 2003 legislation, which clarified that veterinary professionals can neither be cited for possession of an illegal species under their medical care, nor are they required to report knowledge of animals possessed illegally by owners to the authorities.
California’s licensed veterinary professionals are committed to caring for all animals in need. However, to help care for California’s native animals, ecosystems, and economy, consider a legal domestic pet. Contact a veterinarian or registered veterinary technician licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board for insights on how to choose and care for the best pet for you, and check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.