The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may decide this week to stop people from keeping cougars, cheetahs, hyenas and other wild animals as pets.
Florida's "Class I" list of banned pets already includes 22 species, including chimpanzees, hippopotamuses, lions and elephants. Exhibiting or selling Class I wildlife requires a permit; keeping Class I animals as pets is prohibited unless the animal was already in possession on Aug. 1, 1980.
The state wildlife commission, which meets today and tomorrow in Crystal River, will vote on whether to expand the Class I list to include cougars; panthers; cheetahs; hyenas; aardwolfs; gaurs, an ox-like animal; and Siamangs, a species of gibbon.
Additionally, the commissioners may ban people from taking fox, skunks, bats, raccoons, and white-tailed deer from the wild in order to keep them as pets.
Nick Atwood, campaigns coordinator of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, applauded the proposed measures as a step toward his group's goal of eliminating the exotic animal trade in Florida.
But some pet owners are protesting, Atwood said.
"There has been a lot of controversy over adding cougars and cheetahs to Class I," he said. "A lot of people who own them don't want them" to be restricted.
On the flip side, the proposed rule would lift a blanket prohibition on keeping American alligators at home. It would establish new regulations for keeping the animals, setting strict cage and handling-experience requirements.
The new rule increases requirements for keeping a range of other animals, including giraffes, jackals, wolves, wildebeest and several primate species. Keeping these animals would require a permit.
"In recent years in Florida there have been several tragic reminders why exotic and wild animals don't make good pets," Atwood said.
"The rule changes under consideration by the FWC will help to ensure the humane treatment of captive wildlife and protect the public from potentially dangerous animals."