By Hannah Winston, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH — With a tissue in hand, Dena Marshall said a tearful goodbye to Bobo. The Fort Lauderdale resident said she drove up to Palm Beach County on Saturday to drop off her parrot of more than 10 years because she can’t give him all the attention he needs.
“He needs a lot of one-on-one,” she said.
Bobo was one of 96 pets brought in to Exotic Pet Amnesty Day hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. Animals included a fennec fox named Freddy, an albino Burmese python named Peaches and several turtles and birds. Owners were able to hand over their pets without penalties or questions so FWC can make sure these animals aren’t released into the wild and have a safe home.
Liz Barraco, the coordinator with FWC for the event at Dreher Park, said this is the second time it has been held in Palm Beach County. The program has been around since 2006 and has placed more than 2,000 animals in homes across the state.
While many owners don’t want to give up their animals, she said they bring them in because they know they can’t care from them. She pointed to a hedgehog burrowing in his plastic pink igloo and a note his owners left.
The note says Sonic, aka Tank, likes “to be taken out in the yard on warming evenings to walk around in the grass and explore.”
Although Elizabeth Andersen , an associate curator with the zoo, has worked with animals around the country for more than a decade, she said the amnesty event was “jaw-dropping” at the number alone.
“It’s one thing to hear about the problem,” she said. “But to see them brought in … it’s bittersweet.”
Some of the animals are malnourished or very combative, but she said more often than not the owners just can’t provide for them anymore. Whether they’re moving from a large home to an apartment or starting a new job or college, Andersen said, some people don’t realize how much attention the animals need.
Many of the exotic animals can live up to 30 years, and those who buy the animals may not anticipate where they will be 10 years down the road.
Between balancing classes at Florida Atlantic University and his job, Kevin Costa, 21, said he had to turn over his two skunks, Squirt and Bubbles, because he couldn’t care for them like they needed anymore. While he was worried no one may want to take skunks home, he said he knew this was the best option they had for happy, healthy lives.
COULDN’T MAKE IT TO AMNESTY DAY?
Call the FWC hotline at 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (483-4681.)