Dr. Dara Johns explains Exotic Pet Amnesty Day scheduled for Oct. 12 at the Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island.

Dear Readers,

This year’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Day is Saturday, Oct. 12. If you are not familiar with this program, it is a time set aside for the surrender of exotic pets with no questions asked and no penalty to the one surrendering the pet.

Many times pet owners get in over their heads when they get an exotic pet. This includes reptiles, birds and wildlife. They may no longer be able to care for the pet financially. They may have obtained the pet without having the proper permits and are concerned about the legal issues. Reptiles can outgrow their habitats and may become too large or too aggressive for the owner to care for. Birds can outlive their owners, and then the family members who are forced to adopt them are not comfortable taking care of them.

On Exotic Pet Amnesty Day, if you are one of those owners, you can bring the pet to the Gulfarium at 1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach, and surrender it with no questions asked.

In addition to it being a great time to unburden yourself of a pet you can no longer care for, it is also a great opportunity for those who would like to adopt an exotic pet and give one a home.

If you are interested in adopting, you must fill out the paperwork and be approved before the day of the event. No one can be approved at the amnesty event. There is an adopter information form and an animal information form that have to be filled out and submitted to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They must be received by midnight the Wednesday before the Amnesty event. Information about Exotic Amnesty Day and the forms are available at MyFWC.com/nonnatives.

If you are an owner who is dropping off a pet, no forms are required. Just show up at the event. People will be there to help you.

Speaking of adoptions, it always does my heart good to see pet owners adopting dogs and cats from area animal shelters. There are many puppies and kittens out there looking for homes. The next time you want a pet, consider visiting a shelter. Many of the dog and cat rescues also have websites these days to help with your search.

And let’s do our part to reduce the number of animals in a shelter. If you have a female dog or cat, get it spayed. A spayed cat or dog will not produce any kittens or puppies. If you have a male dog or cat, get it neutered. Neutered males are less likely to roam. Neutered male cats are less likely to participate in the behavior that leads to serious viruses such as feline leukemia or feline AIDS.

It all gets back to the fact that pets rely on us to make the proper decisions concerning their health and well being. A sobering thought.

Have a question for Dr. Johns? E-mail her at JohnsDVM@aol.com. Write to Pet Peeves, P.O. Box 2949, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549. Johns is a Niceville veterinarian.