Alejandra Prado | May 4, 2022 | Florida Law
Florida wildlife law divides non-domestic animals into three classes. Florida prohibits individuals from owning and possessing Class I animals as pets. But the state allows people to have Class II and III animals as pets.
Sloths fall into Class III. As long as you obtain a license, you can own and possess a sloth in your home.
Below are some laws and regulations that govern exotic pet ownership in Florida and who bears liability for exotic pet attacks.
Florida’s Animal Classification System
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) determines which animals you can or cannot possess based on a three-class system. Class I includes dangerous or endangered animals.
Florida law prohibits personal possession of Class I animals, but it permits possession of these animals by exhibitors like zoos and animal parks.
Class I includes animals such as:
- Great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees
- Big cats such as lions, tigers, and jaguars
- Large carnivorous reptiles like crocodiles and komodo dragons
Florida allows personal possession of Class II and III animals. Class II animals cover several dangerous species. But Florida has determined that both their danger and less-than-endangered status make them candidates for personal possession.
As a result, Florida allows possession of Class II animals if you obtain a license and pay a fee.
Class II includes animals such as:
- Small wild cats like bobcats, ocelots, and lynx
- Wild canids like wolves, coyotes, and jackals
- Large birds such as ostriches and cassowaries
Class III covers all other wildlife and wildlife hybrids. Florida allows possession of Class III animals with a license. But the FWCC does not charge a fee for a Class III license.
Sloths fall into Class III. This means you can own and possess a pet sloth in your home if you apply for a no-fee license and receive it. The license also allows you to travel with the sloth and take the sloth to the veterinarian.
The license does not allow you to take the sloth to a public place or exhibit it. If you take the sloth to a park or exhibit the sloth at a school, Florida considers you an exhibitor. You must apply for and receive a wildlife exhibitor’s license even if you show off your sloth in public for free.
How to Obtain a Class III Wildlife Application
To obtain the permit to keep a sloth, you need to fill out an application. The FWCC licenses you and your location. If you move the animal to a new place, you need to update the FWCC.
The application requires you to describe the sloth’s “habits, requirements, diet, health care, and exercise needs.” You also need to prepare an emergency plan. Your plan must describe what you will do with the animal during a natural disaster, including how you will evacuate the animal from the location.
The FWCC will investigate you and the location. If you or the site fail to meet the FWCC’s requirements for keeping the animal safe and healthy, the commission will deny the application.
What is Your Liability for Injuries Caused By a Pet Sloth in Florida?
Although sloths have a reputation as docile, they are not domesticated. As wildlife, they can carry diseases dangerous to people. They can also act unpredictably and even attack.
If your sloth causes a personal injury, Florida will impose strict liability on you. This means you will be financially liable for losses that result from the injury.
The accident victim does not need to prove that you acted negligently in handling or restraining the animal. Instead, the only defense you can generally raise is that the victim was trespassing when the attack occurred.
While the doctrine of strict liability might seem harsh, it encourages exotic pet owners to take extra caution in handling their animals. So although you can legally own a pet sloth in Florida, you will have the extra responsibilities of obtaining a license and protecting the public from the sloth.
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